Idrissa Dusengimana: Our first college-bound RAS alum

It is with great excitement that Rising Above the Storms announces its first high school graduate: Idrissa Dusengimana. We first met Idrissa in January 2017. Life has been anything but easy for him. He’s struggled with the loss of his father and meeting basic needs. Before he came to the Center, he dropped out of school and began collecting scrap metal for food.

Through his hard work, determination, and your support he completed his high school education! He has come a long way. Now 20 years old, Idrissa started college this past Monday! He is enrolled in Integrated Polytechnic Regional College in Kigali where he plans to study Advanced Mechatronics Technology.

We spoke to Idrissa about his accomplishments and the role RAS through our partner Peace Builders has played in his life. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Do you see a difference in yourself from when you started at the Center until now?

A: Yes! A big difference! Before I came to the Center, I was getting suspended from school and stealing. Going to counseling at the Center helped me work through these issues. I’ve regained my confidence and have become a productive member of society. I’ve been taking my studies seriously. When I finish college, I’m going to be able to take care of my family and give back to my community.

Q: Do you have a memorable moment at the Center you can share with us?

A: I really appreciate everything the Center has done for me. My family was struggling financially. I couldn’t afford to pay my school fees. I was stressed. My academics suffered.  The Center stepped in and paid my fees from level 3 to level 5. I wouldn’t have been able to finish high school if it wasn’t for them.

Q: What was your biggest challenge while you were finishing your high school education?

A: There was a time when school got overwhelming for me. I was taking so many courses at the same time. I didn’t feel like the tutors at school prepared me for my exams. I was nervous I wouldn’t do well. The Center intervened and offered to help me study every day. They constantly encouraged me and pushed me to reach my full potential. I ended up passing my exams and had some of the highest scores in my grade.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I want to be an engineer and work for a big company. I want to support my family and support the Center so more kids can reach those same heights.

Q: How does your family and the other boys at Center feel about this?

A: My family has a lot of respect for me. They’ve seen how hard I’ve worked. They constantly encourage me. It feels good to know I’m making them proud. The boys at the Center know far I’ve come. I’m glad I can be a role model to them. I hope my story will motivate them to go as far as earning their master’s. These are my brothers. We have survived this together. I want to be an example for them. If I could make it this far, there’s no telling what they can do.

A word from our founder, Alphonsine Anderson:

It brings me immense gratitude to watch an amazing young man Idrissa has become. His success and hope for a better future is the very reason I started Rising Above the Storms. To inspire those who have lost hope that there’s a second chance, and that they too can make it. Idrissa is our very first youth to graduate high school and continue on with higher education, on a scholarship. I am very hopeful that there will be more Idrissas. I’m beyond proud of him. I am grateful to have been able to connect with him this past Christmas while in Rwanda, and snapped a photo with him, and his 2 siblings who are also part of our program.

But this wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of so many; our Board of Directors, US team, our Rwanda partner, you, our donors, sponsors, supporters and fans. You are all making my dream of empowering future generations, and for that I am forever grateful.

Our work continues. Will you join us as we continue to empower vulnerable youth?

Click here to donate and more. Your contributions do so much to improve the lives of our youth.

  • You can sponsor a K-12 student at $50/mo. This amount covers basic needs for a child to participate in life changing programs at the Center
  • If you are a Cisco employee, Cisco matches your donations to RAS. Please visit our Light at the End of the Storm Campaign at

Please share and like our social media pages found at the bottom of our RAS page.

My name is Assouman

My name is Assouman UwimanaI. I am 16 years old and have been at the Center since 2018. Before joining Rising Above the Storms, I was in a gang. But then I joined counseling sessions and I got off the streets and reunited with my family.

They helped me return to school. Thanks to their support, I passed the national exam this year to qualify for Senior 4 (10th grade in the US) and to major in Food Processing at EFA Nyagatatre. I have studied hard and am one of the best students in my class. My mother is very proud and supportive. My dream is to start my own food processing business. I am excited for what the future has in store for me. Thank you to everyone who has read my story and continued to support us!

Learn more about how you can help our kids:

My name is Irangishatse

My name is Irangishatse Nshuti. I am 19 years old, in my first year of high school, and have been with the Center in Rwanda since 2018. Before Rising Above the Storms, I was in the streets exposed to harsh weather conditions and dangerous animals. My future was uncertain. I sought solace in drugs to curb my fear and depression. I have changed. Now, life is meaningful. I value my studies and my family. I dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. I am part of the RAS and Amahoro Builders family. I am grateful for the person I have become. I am surrounded by other children I can relate to. A former street child has now become a responsible man! It’s just amazing. Thank you to everyone who has read my story and continued to support us!

Learn more about how you can help our kids:

My name is Isaac

My name is Isaac Byiringiro. I am 15 years old, in my first year of high school, and have been with the Center in Rwanda since 2018. Before joining Amahoro Builders, I was hopeless. I was on drugs. I slept in an abandoned building.

The Center has helped me restore my faith in self. My mother is proud of me and my entire community can see the transformation I’ve made. I’m back in school, studying hard, and even helping at home with chores. I hope to become a professional soccer player and want to further my education. Who knows, maybe even a phD… Why not?

Learn more about how you can help our kids:

Success Story: Idrissa Dusengimana

As a child, life became difficult for Idrissa and his siblings when his parents separated. His mother was left with the children and did not have the resources to satisfy their basic needs. Feeling neglected and abused, Idrissa turned to a life on the streets, stealing food and only returning home late at night to sleep. Education was not a priority to him, and he attended school for only a few days during his early childhood.

At the age of 15 years old, he received an invitation to attend counseling at the Center. His mental health and motivation improved drastically. His mother was impressed by her son’s improvements and attended counseling as well three months later. This was a remarkable success, and they subsequently enrolled in family counseling to further develop a healthy relationship.

With this intervention and education, Idrissa readily reintegrated into school and made tremendous progress. At 19 years old, he is now a well-disciplined pupil in senior six, always first in the class with exceptional marks. Idrissa has undertaken vocational training in general mechanics and looks forward to becoming a mechanical engineer at the highest level.

Read more success stories and learn about our organization’s impact in our 2020 Annual Report.

Success Story: Irumva Daniel

Born to a teenage mother without the means to take care of him, Daniel was left as a baby to be raised by his grandmother. He grew up feeling frustrated with his home life, constantly asking to live with his mother who routinely turned him away. Attempting to fill the void in his heart created by a lack of a loving home environment, Daniel dedicated his energy to life on the streets. He had no choice but to engage in destructive behaviors to survive the harsh conditions.

During this challenging period of his life, Daniel accepted an invitation to attend counseling for one year accommodated by Amahoro Builders. He started P1 at the age of 12 and became a driven student who flawlessly hit his academic targets. With help from the Center, he pursued family counseling with his mother and grandmother and began rekindling and rebuilding their relationship. At last, his desire to build a loving home was coming true.

He is currently 16 years old, studying in P4, and lives with his mother. Through the adversity faced in the streets during early childhood, he has developed exemplary resilience that he carries forth to this day. He has refocused his energy on his studies and become a responsible, level-headed student. After completing P6, Daniel intends to go into welding. Outside of studies, Daniel is a talented striker on the football (soccer) team and plans to become the best player in the world.

Read more success stories and learn about our organization’s impact in our 2020 Annual Report.

Success Story: Andrew Mucyo

Born into a disorganized and conflicting family, Andrew faced domestic violence and poverty early in his life. This led him to drop out of school and join the street life. He continued to be abused by his father and relatives and was not loved or cared for. Feeling hopeless and depressed, he consumed drugs and slept outdoors.

At the age of 12 years old, he accepted our invitation to attend counseling at the Center. A few months later, we were able to get his family to begin family counseling as well. This arrangement made Andrew’s integration back into his family and school much easier. Andrew, committed to change, resumed primary school two. He was brilliant!

At 16 years old, he is now in P5. We have seen him become strong in making decisions and is a well-disciplined and wonderful peace maker in the group. He dreams of becoming a medical doctor and the best football (soccer) defender in the world.

Read more success stories and learn about our organization’s impact in our 2020 Annual Report.

Success Story: Abijuru Line

At Rising Above the Storms, we have seen our children impacted by family issues, violence, or even an identity crisis. Since the age of nine years old Abijuru Line, now 14, has come to our Center because of such factors. As a street child, he faced critical conditions such as using drugs, theft, and intra-group violence. Recognizing his circumstances, he accepted our invitation to attend counseling with the goal to experience a social and emotional transformation.

As a part of our process to rehabilitate Line after just two months our team met with his family to identify what pushed him onto the street in the first place and what triggers would potentially pull him back. By doing so, we were able to successfully reintegrate him with his family and school.

Line’s success did not come without struggle. During this time, his father left the family leaving his mother to struggle to provide basic needs alone. His mother would then turn to unhealthy activities. The Center intervened by providing family counseling. Line was able to resume his primary school classes, sat for his primary six (6th grade) national exam, and graduated among the top in the country. He is now in senior school one (7th grade). He does well in his academics and is among the best football (soccer) players on the team. We continue to work with Line in group counseling and keep a close eye on how we can develop his talents. More importantly, we continue to see a positive change in his behavior, and he dreams of continuing his education and like many of our kids, wishes to be the best soccer player in the world.

Read more success stories and learn about our organization’s impact in our 2020 Annual Report.

An October Update on the Children

COVID-19 has affected people all over the world in different aspects of their lives. For our kids, they have not been able to attend school or come to the Center for counseling.

To make sure our kids don’t return to the streets, Amahoro Builders is still reaching out to respective families through phone calls and home visits. During our August and September blog, we detailed that our kids are split into two groups Gatenga and Busanza. These two groups consist of 28 children in total with Gatenga consisting of 9 children and Busanza consisting of 19 children. All 28 of our children are living with either their parents or guardians during this time.

In order to keep up with counseling, our counselors try to visit them four times a week. During many of the sessions, our counselors continue to stress the importance of respecting measures to fight the coronavirus and have continued lessons prior to the pandemic that focus on their individual transformation.

people sitting around talking
Our team discussing ideas.

We even talk to them about ways they can help their parents with chores like fetching water, cleaning the home, washing clothes, and prepare food. We’ve also advised them to use the evening time to revisit their studies so that they are ready when school starts.

Our kids can’t wait to go back to school and long to see their classmates and teachers again. They do get discouraged at times, but overall are hopeful about returning to school. By visiting them regularly, we hope to keep our kids engaged.

We also have invited them to come to the center to eat porridge and food. Sometimes we even see the Busanza and Gatenga groups play football together.

September 2020: A letter from Amahoro Builders on the conditions of the Busanza Group during COVID-19

COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone in their daily lives. In Rwanda, it has deeply affected our children and their families.

During the month of April, we were able to support them with food. In May, it was difficult. We kept following up with the kids through phone calls with their mothers or guardians. By the beginning of June, we were able to visit some of them in order to know how they were coping with the situation of staying home. Here is how they are doing:

map of Busanza, a neighborhood in the in Kigali region of Rwanda
Busanza is a neighborhood in the in Kigali region of Rwanda. A group of our kids from the Center reside here and have become friends outside of the Center both with their group and the Gatenga group.

“In this situation of staying home and staying safe, my brother, Dieudonne, and I have learned how to stay home. I think we succeeded. Our Mum died and the lockdown announcement occurred unexpectedly, leaving our dad locked at work. He could not come home and had to stay there. That meant we were alone. This situation has frightened us since the time the lockdown started till the time you brought us food in April. But in May, the situation changed. We are so proud that we were able to manage this situation alone and with the help of receiving food from Amahoro Builders. We are safe, and our dad comes and goes from work. We are happy,” Patrick said.

two kids sitting outside in Rwanda wearing masks

Daniel brought up a similar outlook that this has been a good moment to be with his mother after a long period of conflict. “Now, the situation is good. We understand each other and I feel much better at home even if getting food is hard. We have peace after the counseling sessions I received from Amahoro Builders counselors, said Daniel.”

From time to time we go to the ground near our home and play soccer with other children. All the children of Busanza meet on the playground mostly every day to play.

When Fred and Prosper went to visit them, they were found on the ground playing soccer. They said they miss their peer group counseling at the Center and playing soccer with the Gatenga group.

group of kids in Rwanda standing outside holding a soccer ball

When Prosper, a volunteer coach, asked them why they don’t wear masks, they said that it disturbed them when they were playing.

“If there is no class, no other entertainment, no going to the center, no peer group counseling, meeting here to play soccer is our dearest time.”

All the children of Busanza are not able to access the internet and television to continue their studies through e-learning, a program the Ministry of Education activated to help fill the gap.

The children noted that they would like to revisit their courses and continue learning, but the situation is not favorable. There is no television, radio, computer, or smart phone to connect to for e-learning.

“What we do have is enough time to continue improving our football skills even if we are missing our brothers and sisters of Gatenga. We are coping with the situation as positively as we can.”

Editorial Note: Rising Above the Storms acknowledges the importance of wearing a mask in public to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are working with the kids to stress the importance of wearing masks and are providing masks to the kids without any. We are posting this blog to show the real hardships our kids are facing. The reality is, during the pandemic, our kids have even less access to the internet leading them to turn to in-person activities such as soccer to retain their connection to the world. At Rising Above the Storms, we aim to provide our kids access to the internet as a fundamental human right in hopes that our kids can value their health and the health of others above that of connection and connectivity.