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Big Sister Leads Her Family Toward a Brighter Future

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WRITTEN BY Shannon Deppi

Sylvine is the ultimate big sister. After her Mom died and Dad left, the 25-year-old woman stepped up for her five younger siblings, ranging in age from 20 to 4.

Such a feat would be impressive in any situation. But Sylvine lives in especially dire circumstances. She and her brothers and sisters live in one of the world’s hardest places, an extremely impoverished community in Rwanda.

And, even more daunting, her family was identified as one of the 10 poorest households there.

They were truly the most vulnerable: The “least of these” who Jesus described in Matthew 25:40.

Today, however, this big sister and her family are on the road to a bright future filled with hope. What changed? It was a combination of Sylvine’s unstoppable hard work and determination paired with the compassionate support of FH Child Sponsors.

Sylvine, big sister and head of household, collects water for her family.

A Big Sister Carrying a Heavy Burden

It’s impossible to overstate the massive responsibility laid upon Sylvine’s shoulders. At just 25, she found herself all alone and in charge of not only the destiny of her family members, but also their very survival.

Sylvine had very little with which to build a future. She had no agricultural tools, land, livestock, or savings. Since she was forced to  drop out of school, she also lacked an education and prospects for earning a living.

As a result, she resorted to begging for the kindness of neighbors.

The shame was overwhelming, and the little she’d scrape together was hardly enough.

Most days, Sylvine and her siblings ate just one meal. Some nights, they’d go to bed having eaten nothing at all.

“When I faced these problems, I felt so sad,” the big sister shares. “I stayed hopeless about my future life.”

The tide began to turn, however, when Food for the Hungry (FH) entered her community and offered to walk with her family on the journey out of poverty through child sponsorship.

One of Sylvine’s siblings helps her big sister by feeding the family’s cow.

On Her Own No More

Not long after Food for the Hungry (FH) arrived, teams on the ground identified 10 of the most vulnerable families in the community who faced critical need for support. Sylvine and her siblings were one of those 10 families.

FH invited the family to take part in a variety of poverty-fighting programs, including saving groups, small business training, and agricultural programs.

Through these programs, this overwhelmed big sister received a wealth of support to help her provide for her family. 

  • Sylvine was able to start two of her own small businesses: One buying and selling goods at the market, and the other farming and raising livestock.
  • Her two school-aged siblings can now participate in activities made possible by child sponsorship, providing them with all of the basic necessities for a brighter future, including food, clean water, education, and medical care. These gifts not only benefit the children and their family, but the whole community.

The results have been life-changing for every member of this family of six, especially Sylvine.

No longer does this big sister bear her burdens alone. A loving community has gathered around her, both locally in her Rwandan neighborhood and globally through the FH family of child sponsors and supporters.

Sylvine and one of her siblings in front of their newly rehabilitated house.

Bright Future for Big Sister and Her Family

The journey out of extreme poverty is long and hard. But while not all the family’s problems are resolved yet, it’s incredible to see how far they have come.

Today, Sylvine’s two thriving businesses bless her family with food on the table and funds to meet their most basic needs. In fact, her income is now nearly seven times as much as she earned before FH entered her community. As a result, she’s been able to rehabilitate the family’s previously dilapidated home.

What’s more, this big sister has become a role model for her neighbors. Her hard work and determination to climb out of poverty and provide a better life for her siblings is an inspiration for others in her community to follow her example and take charge of their lives.

“One day, I will sit with all members of my family and celebrate what we have achieved with the guidance of FH staff,” Sylvine shares. “These accomplishments not only profit my family, but also the whole neighboring community. Many people come to buy my items and seek my advice related to their own small businesses.”

Continue Reading

From Sadness to Hope: A Story of an Expanded Family

Teen Girls No Longer Skip School Thanks to Dignity Kits

Saving for Her Future at Age 12


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You may send small, flat paper-based items that can fit into a standard #10 size envelope, have a value of less than $5 dollars and weigh less than 4 ounces. We ask that you send small, flat items of this size because shipping is expensive and even small gift items can cause issues clearing customs.
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