Angelique Uwabera

Angelique Uwabera American University

The Arrow Takes Flight

I was only two years old when my parents were killed in a rebel attack during my country’s terrible civil war. The death of my parents was the turning point of love, and it seemed to run dry forever. I had no control over my fate.

Many people think that the most painful thing is losing someone you love, but I think it is even worse to lose yourself in the process; valuing someone else so much sometimes makes you forget how special you are. I lost my identity from the time I was told that I was an orphan. I saw myself not as a child but as a leftover. Growing up in a non-caring family made me think I would never be a priority to anyone, and I was unnecessary in the world.  There was no one in my childhood who cheered me up, and I grew in an environment of struggle, blame and darkness.

The saying, “An arrow is only shot when stretched back,” helped me to realize that when life drags you back with difficulty, it means that someday you will launch something better. When I spoke these words out loud, the load on my shoulders fell, I picked up my strength and accepted myself as an orphan, giving a voice to my silent desires. Regardless of the problems I faced, I knew I should be thankful for what I was left with. I could have died with my parents, because rebels killed them in front of me. However, I survived that day because I know God has a precious plan for me. Even though five siblings were welcomed into a small house with almost nothing, that life has prepared me to help others today, not because I have much, but because I know how it feels to have nothing.

Freedom is the power to act selflessly and help others. Freedom is the peace I can find within myself and around my neighbors. Freedom is finding value in our homelands and as citizens of the world. By helping one of my dreams to be revealed and come true, taking me from Rwanda to the walls of American University in Washington, D.C., Ashinaga has aided in my quest to gain that freedom. I believe the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. I am now interacting with a vast community with different backgrounds, sharing my story, and strengthening my confidence in building an international outlook.

“Freedom is the power to act selflessly and help others. Freedom is the peace I can find within myself and around my neighbors. Freedom is finding value in our homelands and as citizens of the world. By helping one of my dreams to be revealed and come true, taking me from Rwanda to the walls of American University in Washington, D.C., Ashinaga has aided in my quest to gain that freedom.”

Take, for example, the question of the environment. As the world has busied itself developing, the environment has been ignored and taken as an optional concern, yet it should naturally be a priority. In the 21st century, poor conservation of the environment has been a major problem at the heart of the world’s most at-risk areas, where nature is ignored and squeezed to the extreme edge. Hunger is also a threat, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa due to its poverty.  Therefore, before we cry for a forest, we must plant a tree; and before we feed the world, we must share our table with our neighbors.

Though my greatest concern focuses on green nature, water is another necessity that no one in the world can live without. I want to support water sanitation and maintenance in distant societies such as those in my home country of Rwanda. I was able to take a stand for both afforestation and water preservation in my community. During secondary school, I was the advisor of the environmental club, and was specifically responsible for planting trees and flowers. I believe gardens are the lungs of a community because they purify the air and offer renewed strength to people. It is only through a flower that we may see the smile of the world.

The environment we have is not a heritage from our fathers. Rather, we are merely borrowing it from future generations. Nature is a blessing that we were handed to maintain and not to exploit. The environment has the power to please, heal, soothe, comfort, build and save the souls of the ostracized.  I hope to spread this awareness with other American University students as, thanks to Ashinaga, I attend this incredible and inspiring school.

When I return home, it is my dream to create a business that connects graduating students with the job market in Africa. I will begin with orphans in Rwanda, but hope to expand to help the rest of Africa. I will ensure that they do not waste their university educations and will guide them to develop their careers and self-confidence, and lift Africa out of poverty. I dream of creating an organization that makes connections between the job market and academic institutions, so that I can help widen the gates for African orphans who are tormented by their pasts and engulfed in grief too deep to drum up the courage to fight for their own futures. I never hesitate to treasure that fact that I am Rwandan; my identity fortifies my faith that we can rise from our ashes.