SHE-CAN Scholar's Take the Lead project provides neighborhood families with colorful homes, dust protection - by Ornella Rwanziza
My Take the Lead project was a living example for me since I knew how it felt to live in a house when everything had no color. I knew how it felt having to cough out dust every time you wake up. I lost my home and happiness when I was 11 years old. When my father died, my mother and I had to move out of our home - a home that I felt was a part of my personality. Now in my new house, I know how much colors and paintings have contributed to creating a home for me, and through my project I was able to share with my neighbors the passion and magic I see in colors.
People in my neighborhood have dusty and unpainted houses on the inside and outside. The dust carries small but dangerous diseases that are especially harmful to young children. I knew that by painting some houses I could help reduce the chances of people in my neighborhood getting sick.
Unpainted houses not only make my neighbors lives less colorful, but it reduces their chances of feeling happy. This is especially problematic for young children and elderly people who make up more than 70% of the people in my neighborhood. Since I believe colors in our lives can heal emotional breakdowns, and I see them as a way to help people feel more comfortable in their own homes, I knew I could make a difference in their lives by painting their houses!
For the first step of my project, I visited 10 families with young children, pregnant women, elderly people or sick family members. Visiting these families, I asked them a couple of questions about their life and how my project would change their lives.
One woman told me that painted houses are for rich people and that she’d never lived in a painted house. I asked her, “Can you imagine yourself waking up in a painted house with the color of your choice?” She answered, “It would be a miracle to me.”
That day I confidently said, "I’m going to give her a miracle to change her life.” I immediately started finding people to help me with my project. I already raised the money I'd need to achieve my goals thanks to the help of my friends and family and by using my personal savings. Also, I knew the colors they wanted in their houses. I looked for one professional painter who helped me buy the needed materials, and my cousin Chris helped us paint the houses.
The three of us woke up very early on the first day to start painting our first house. Our goal was to paint all the houses in three days, but we ended up painting them in two because of our incredible teamwork! We started by painting the big parts of the house together. As we reached the end, Chris and I moved on to the next house to start cleaning, preparing the paint and making sure it was ready, as the professional painter Vianey added the last touches to the previous house we all worked on.
I can’t say my project was easy but it was so fun, and I felt important as I painted the houses. Seeing the joy and happiness in each families eyes as they looked all around their painted houses made me understand the whole point of this project, which was helping people and seeing someone else’s life change because of you.
I’m grateful and very humbled that I’ve had the opportunity to play a role in helping people have healthier and happier lives through my Take the Lead project. I now believe in miracles because I helped them come true for some people in my neighborhood, and this makes me feel proud of myself but also curious of how many more miracles I will create in my lifetime.
Read stories written by our talented scholars and multiple voices across the SHE-CAN network