Copakika celebrates Jill, her Church, and the Dufour Family
In the spring of 2018, World Dance supporter Jill Pezzino asked her little church – the First United Methodist in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania – to support our work in Rwanda. They held a spaghetti dinner, and raised $800!!! Not long after this, one of the church families, the Dufour’s generously donated an additional $300…enough for a full-grown, pregnant cow!
Jill traveled with us to Rwanda in July of 2018, knowing she had an amazing gift to bestow upon one of our communities. On July 12th, we visited COPAKIKA, a cooperative of Genocide survivors located on the outskirts of Kigali. Copakika was founded in 2007 by 211 women who came together in the hope of creating a sustainable livelihood for themselves. They received a plot of land from the government and were told to grow bamboo that might attract foreign investment. The bamboo business never took off – for Copakika or others who tried it. They were left with a lovely bamboo forest, but no way to sustain themselves, apart from marginal agriculture and some employment as domestic servants.
They heard about our WD4H, and appealed to Justin for help in 2016. We adopted them as a co-op in January of 2017, and in May provided 70 mattresses – one for every woman who had been sleeping on thin mats on the ground. Many of these women suffer from AIDS (contracted during the Genocide), and the mattresses have made a big difference in their lives. In January of 2018 we gave them 60 goats so they would have manure for their crops and a small income from the offspring. We are also sponsoring 8 primary and 4 high school students.
We enjoyed our first meeting with Copakika, learning all about their lives, and then came Jill’s big announcement: the cow from her church and George & Crystal Dufour. The cow was to be named “Jarod,” after the Dufour’s disabled son.
The women were ecstatic with the news about the cow they were to receive, and began celebrating at once. When they learned it was Jill’s birthday, they couldn’t contain their excitement, and several women spontaneously poured bottles of water on Jill’s head in delight! Jill was a great sport, letting joy and love overflow.
A tragic event had happened in Jill’s life years ago, and she hadn’t celebrated her birthday since then. The event at Copakika has changed this forever.
(Cow Poems are a tradition going back to the 1700’s when they were recited by “Memorialists” who lived in the royal palace, and spread a message about the importance and power of cows through their words.)
Expressions of Gratitude from Copakika Co-op Members:
Bernadette: “’Words come to the end [a Rwandan saying when something people wanted for long time happen]. We are no longer dreaming, we feel we are in the place we have been seeking for so long. In the life of our co-op, this is the biggest donation we have ever received. Today is a big mark in our memories. I cannot thank you enough, you can simply understand where you are bringing us from. Copakika, owning a cow? It is too much beyond our imaginations.”
Odette: “In these outskirts of Kigali, the miracle was born in a group of people called Copakika. And this is the reality, I think that you can see people across the street you came to have a look at this miracle. What a healthy cow! I still don’t believe she is ours. Thank you so much donors, the church and the Jarod’s family.”
Agnes: “You definitely bring us out of extreme shame especially when thinking about our unproductive bamboo project. In Kinyarwanda we have what we can call ‘Brushing away tears’ – meaning a significant replacement you get after a big loss. This cow has washed away our tears from the big loss in our bamboo project. Thank you so much for coming our way with what we want to lead us into a better future.”
Savera: “I can’t imagine what the celebration would be if our donors were here. I hope they will see every part of what we are doing here today. We dedicate every happiness we have to them, they deserve our thanks but beyond everything they deserve our love as they love us. This is what love is – feeling so concerned about someone you have never met and think of ways to provide for her!”
Perpetue: “Our dreams are turned into a reality toward our better future. What I can say does not seem to be enough. My heart holds an endless message to share with our donors. My prayer is that the joy I am having would be shared with them as they are the ones who brought it to me. I did not believe that we were going to receive a cow. My human belief does not even allow me to understand it happened even when I can see this cow next to me.”
Jeanine: “What can I say out of my knowledge that a miracle came into our co-operative, I thank God, the creator of heavens and universe who brought the right people to us. We thank God that we finally met the right people to work with in our lives, people who truly understand us. This cow is going to tell the entire community what Copakika is. Thank you so much our dear donors.”
Jane: “This milk pot was always empty, we had it in our home as a decoration but soon we will use it the way it was meant to be used. We know you [the cow] are going to do it for us and this will make our donors very happy. We can see it in you! Being a co-op member is giving me a chance to own a cow. Your love has brought us closer and connected to the world. I have a message to tell into the rest of my family members. Our prayers have already been answered. We thank you donors who gave this cow to us.”
Theodosia: “Some of us were saying that they had a dream about having a cow one day. I never dared to dream it. For me, having a cow is something I can hardly believe especially when I see where we came from – across the world. Our friends made it happen. We have a cow in the same place where our bamboo project did not work the way we wanted. This cow really comes in right time. We are being given the answers to people who used to ask us what is going to happen to us as the bamboo project did not work despite too much work spent on it. Again, thank you!”