August 18, 2023 | Child Sponsorship

Bright and Eager

A young girl in Rwanda reflects the love of learning instilled by her parents

By Larry Livingston

Bibeth has a system for deciding whether to read a book.

“I … read the first page,” she said. “If I see that it is so interesting, and I can find important things, I go there and see it and read that book.”

Apparently, she finds the first page interesting quite often because this bright, inquisitive 10-year-old sponsored child from Kigali, Rwanda, has become a voracious reader with a passion for learning.

Reading is an oasis for Bibeth. She loves stories with morals, like the one about Nyantagambirwa, the greedy man, and the one about Sarah, the little girl whose singing brought joy to her village. She enjoys telling visitors about books she’s read.

“[Reading] makes me so happy, and there are some books that give me lessons I must need in my life,” she said.


From left, 3-year-old Nolan, Bibeth and their mother, Chantal, share a happy moment in their home. Bibeth enjoys reading bedtime stories to her little brother. 

She's found her happy place

For a child who loves to read, a library is a special place. Bibeth is fortunate to have two that she can escape to. One is in her school.

“In break time, we go to ask our headmaster if we can go in the school library and read,” she said. “[He gives us] a key and we go there and read. When they ring [the bell], we go back in the class.”

The other is the Kigali Public Library, which Bibeth’s family discovered while they were looking for a bookstore. They were discouraged at how expensive books were and decided instead to use some of Bibeth’s sponsorship money to purchase an annual subscription to the library.

“… I felt happy when I paid that money because she [gets good use out of it],” her father, Joseph, said. “She really likes to read books. That makes me happy. I didn't get any opportunity in my childhood to read any books. ... So, when I see my daughter is reading, it makes me proud of her.”

Bibeth goes with her mother, Chantal, to the library a few times every month. She is allowed to bring home five books. She always returns them well before they’re due.

“Oh, they give me three weeks, but me, I can read them in two or one,” Bibeth said.


Like most children in her community, Bibeth walks to school. School buses aren’t available, and other forms of transportation are often too expensive for families. 

Absorbing knowledge

For children sponsored through Unbound, education is one of the principal benefits. All children in the program are required to be enrolled in either formal academic education or vocational training. The value the organization places on education is entirely in sync with the values of Bibeth’s parents.

Chantal was a teenager when her daughter was born. Determined to graduate, she returned to high school, taking her baby with her to classes, and earned her diploma. She wants Bibeth to have that same desire to learn.

Joseph wants that, too, especially since he believes his own education was lacking.

“My education was not good because I didn't go to the good college or good primary school,” he said. “But I decided that … I will invest [in helping] my child to study because I know the value of studying.

“Every [parent’s] mind … goes to their children. I [envision] how my children will live, will study. I see them in good colleges, in good universities. What I didn't get in my childhood, I see them getting — knowledge.”

Knowledge is something Bibeth eagerly absorbs. A bright, inquisitive student who hopes to become a doctor when she grows up, she is consistently at the top of her class and has reached an advanced level of speaking and reading English. The reading proficiency is no doubt bolstered by her love of books.


From left, Chantal, Nolan, Bibeth and Joseph enjoy being together. Before sponsorship, Bibeth lived with her grandparents in order to attend school, but now the family is reunited.

Strong, determined and loving

Education is such a priority in Bibeth’s home that prior to her being sponsored, her parents made the sacrifice of being apart from her so she could go to a good school.

“Bibeth was left at my parent’s house because the school she was attending was nearer to my parents than the place where we were staying,” Chantal said. “Affording transport fees every day for her to come to our place was also very hard for us during those days.”

But now, with sponsorship funds helping ease their financial burden, Bibeth is reunited with her parents and younger brother, Nolan. She’s also enrolled at a closer school, one with a higher academic standing more suited to her abilities.

Another benefit of the family being reunited is that Bibeth can draw daily inspiration from her parents’ example.

“My mom, she had me when she was [a teenager],” Bibeth said. “She was so young and people said, ‘Look at that woman.’ [But] she still was powerful. … She [would] still go to school.”

Bibeth also admires her father, who, up until the pandemic, coached at a local soccer academy but now earns a living doing electrical work. From him, Bibeth has learned to stand up to difficulties.

“… When you face a problem, [don’t] be so scared,” she said. “Be powerful. Say that I'm going to face it and live!”

Like other families in the Unbound program, Bibeth’s family doesn’t allow material poverty to define them. Her parents have instilled a sense of worth and confidence in their daughter.

“My family is not poor, is not rich,” Bibeth said. “I can't explain it, but what I know is my family loves me, and I love them, too. When I am with my mom, dad and my family, I feel so happy!”

[Reading] makes me so happy, and there are some books that give me lessons I must need in my life.

— Bibeth, Sponsored child in Rwanda

Henry Flores, Nickson Ateku, Danika Wolf, Erin Coleman and Oscar Tuch contributed photos and information for this story.