Q & A with Alice Nyirimana, Livelihood Program Manager - Her 12 year journey at PIH-IMB

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In this staff spotlight, we share with you our conversation with Alice Nyirimana, a Rwinkwavu based Livelihood Program Manager. We had a fascinating conversation with Alice who was so glad to share with us about her 12 year journey at PIH-IMB as social worker.

As we begin our conversation, would you briefly tell us about yourself (who is Alice Nyirimana, what do you do, what were you doing before joining PIH-IMB)

I am a clinical Psychologist by training and a social work practitioner since 1994. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and I mastered in Community Economic Development, having been inspired by my daily work with the community. I am married with three children - a girl and two boys aged 22, 20 and 4.5 respectively. I have been social worker since 1994, and I must say, it has been so rewarding to me.

Before joining PIH-IMB, I worked as a social worker in the hardest times of the country (1994/post genocide), re-settling and re-uniting families, as well as finding ways for them to live a better life after such a tragedy; an experience I must say was remarkable in my life. I later became a primary school teacher from where I joined PIH-IMB as a social worker in 2006. My position was later changed to Livelihood Program Manager which majorly involves overseeing the planning and implementation of all the activities encompassed in the program.

What was your inspiration for joining PIH - IMB?

I remember it was around December 2005 when I saw a PIH-IMB’s job advert in “Imvaho Nshya” - a local newspaper, I carefully read the job description and it not only resonated with my experience but also my passion. I applied for the job and was called for an interview in the same month. In January 2006 I was called to begin my job, and that was the beginning of my incredible journey at PIH-IMB, with our beneficiaries who are my every day’s motivation. I have seen them when they are very sick, and seen them when they have recovered, I have seen them when they have lost hope and seen them when they are hopeful for a bright future. This journey is amazing and every day comes with new experience for me.

What experience do you cherish from this job that you think you wouldn’t otherwise have gained working in a different area?

Well, my whole journey at IMB has been very experiential to me. Working with the community opened my eyes to see the intricacy of what makes up a human being. I learnt that beyond housing, food and clothing, a person needs education, health insurance, income generating activities, sanitation and nutrition lessons, social support groups, etc.

Serving the community has also exposed me to people of various levels and that has developed my interpersonal skills. Often times, I interact with leaders from the local level to the district level and beyond, and this has enhanced my understanding of the country’s political/administrative structure which is a great tool in my work as a social worker. I have also been challenged to be creative in my daily work because working with the community requires one to be vigilant, innovative and candid. I have also been developed into a good listener and at the same time a good advocate.

Among POSER’s many components, what stands out for you personally, and what’s one remarkable achievement do you feel so proud of in your work as Livelihood Program’s manager?

I should say, all POSER components are amazing but what stands out for me is education. To me, education is such a foundation on which our beneficiaries have built a strong future. By education I mean both formal and informal. We have graduated many children from vulnerable families who are now working and giving economic support to their families. Additionally, our supported families have been empowered with skills which have helped them improve their economic standards, hence enabling them to break the poverty cycle. I can mention many more benefits of educating our communities than just giving them food packages, medical insurance, etc, which I personally consider emergence support. Through education, we are inventing sustainable solutions to issues that affect our beneficiaries’ health.

I am so proud of many things but one thing that sends me to my bed with a smile and wakes me up with the same smile, is seeing someone whom I accompanied through their treatment process when they couldn’t determine if they would make it to the next minute, but are now healthy and contributing to the community. Seeing the homeless have a roof over them also “sends me sky - high”. That’s what fills my heart with joy - knowing that we have given a life to those who hardly had it.

Alice with children in Rwinkwavu after home visits

Alice with children in Rwinkwavu after home visits

Everybody faces challenges in their daily work, what would you highlight as the biggest challenge in your job?

Oh yes, challenges are inevitable in everyone’s work, and there are quite a lot of challenges I face in my daily work; but what has been my biggest challenge is determining the “extremely poor” is among the “poorest” while selecting those who deserve our support. In such moments, you honestly see that all the people have barely anything and all deserve the support. It is like having one banana to divide it among twenty people; just imagine how hard this is. I must confess that I have always been heartbroken by the sight of a homeless single mother coming to me crying with a malnourished child at her back, accompanied with two more little children that have been starving for God knows how long, and I can’t be able to help her because I have a pool of many more others that are still waiting on the support. Thanks to PIH-IMB’s criteria of involving local leaders in selecting the most deserving. With their help, I have been able to avoid my emotions while doing the selection. The selection committee has really helped me overcome this challenge.

Finally, what is your professional and personal dream achievement in the five years?

(Smiles), I have two dreams which I pray that God enables me reach them. I don’t know how, but I believe I will see them come true. First, I envision a time when I will see our beneficiaries owning big SACCOs through the income generating activities they have now. I wish to see them having big projects that help them to help others.

Secondly, I dream of starting a local NGO that will be focused on empowering young (teen) moms, youths and helping the elderly live gracefully in their aging time because I have personally noticed that in one way or another, these categories need more attention than there is. But my heart goes out so much to the teen mothers. I have seen some of these poor girls face the consequences of their unplanned motherhood in such a hard way that leaves my heart bleeding for them. I can’t fathom how this will work, but I have hope that one day, my dream shall come true.

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