Each year, HOPE celebrates clients who demonstrate HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. We’re excited to share the story of Anasitaziya, this year’s honorable mention from Africa!
The challenges nearly-80-year-old Anasitaziya Kankwanzi has overcome would be enough for several lifetimes. In her 30s, Anasitaziya’s eyesight began to falter. Doctors provided little help, but she retained enough vision to function independently. Two decades later, when she was nearly 60 years old, her husband was killed in the Rwandan genocide, leaving Anasitaziya as one of nearly 50,000 widows in the nation. Anasitaziya survived the genocide hidden in a dark room. When she finally stepped out into the light, her vision was gone. “I had gone completely blind,” she recounts.
Anasitaziya’s life has been marked by determination and hope. Though widowed and blind, she resumed her farming career by hiring workers to dig and plant for her. Despite her hard work, there were some who took advantage of Anasitaziya’s vulnerability, pilfering her crops to feed their livestock or stealing from her home.
Even in hardship, Anasitaziya never succumbed to despair or stopped working to improve her life. Instead, she takes her needs to the great Provider. “I never lose hope. I am comforted by the Word of God. I know God is with me. … My God is really faithful. He does not let me suffer.”
When a church leader invited Anasitaziya to join a savings group in 2011, she liked the idea. Though her farm provided enough to pay her workers and meet her most basic needs, Anasitaziya saw many ways in which her life could improve as a savings group member. Her home was gradually crumbling, with stones falling from her walls every day, but it would take a lump sum—which she had never had—to reinforce the structure. “I know I can do anything through Christ, so I joined others and we started saving,” Anasitaziya remembers.
It began with each woman saving just 71 cents a month, and gradually the group pooled enough funds to begin making small loans to one another. Anasitaziya used a loan to make her home a safe haven. “I am grateful to God for all He has done for me. Look at my house! I never thought I would live in a house like this,” she rejoices. With another loan she built a second small home, which could provide a source of rental income.
Anasitaziya’s group members see her as a strong woman, full of hope, determination, and vibrancy. She sees them as God-given friends and helpers. “Before I joined the group, I was helpless,” she remembers. “I am grateful to the group—which took me out of loneliness—and now I have friends. When I have a problem, I run to the group.” Today, Anasitaziya’s group has doubled their monthly savings, bearing witness to their collective progress since the group began four years ago.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. ~Psalm 27:13