Molloy College Alumna Creates Non Profit to Build Homes for Rwandans

Lauren Rose Marino (Rosa), '08, a graduate of Molloy's Nursing School shares with us how and why she created Inshuti of Rwanda.

What is Inshuti of Rwanda?
Inshuti means "friend" in Kinyarwanda, the official language of Rwanda. Inshuti of Rwanda is a nonprofit organization working in collaboration with Rwandans to build simply designed, locally sourced, and hygienic housing. The houses that we construct provide much more than shelter. They provide protection from the elements, prevent the spread of diseases through sanitary flooring and beds with mosquito nets, and supply jobs for local people. In short, it is a foundation for a future.

What motivated you to create this organization?
In April 2011, I traveled to Rwanda with the University of Florida Arts in Medicine Program as I knew a friend in the program and they needed a medical professional. I jumped at the opportunity to attend as I have always been interested in Africa. I instantly fell in love with the country. Something stuck with me after the visit, and I wanted to come back...I needed to come back.
Rudasingwa Felix (Inshuti's Project Coordinator), Leocadie, her children; Claudine, Claude and Innocent, and myself in front of their new home- February 2016After another visit in 2012, I met Ayinkamiye Solome (Solome), a genocide survivor. Solome and her family had been living in a patched together, corrugated metal structure with a tarp roof for more than a year. Before that, the hillside village in which they lived had been washed away by a landslide. The government had moved the people to a safer location in Kanembwe Village, and provided each family with land. However most people, including Solome's family, could not afford to build a proper home. Rudasingwa Felix (Felix), the program translator, explained their ongoing struggle and it resonated deep within me.

Solome and her husband, Kiyoge Issac, are genocide survivors. Issac lost an eye from shrapnel during that time period and suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which escalates in the month of April, the anniversary of the genocide.  Both Solome and Issac are HIV+. While they receive antiretrovirals from their government, they often do not have enough food in the morning to take with their medications. This causes them to have stomach aches for most of the day and makes working in their fields difficult. Solome and Issac are blessed with four healthy, beautiful daughters; Nishimwe Emerance, Uwimbabazi Gentille, Ingabire Jeanette, and Nikuze Joyce.

Unfortunately, the shelter they built to live in is too small to house all six people. So Emerance and Gentille were sent to live with their aunts. Felix said I should come back and build them a house. I had initially brushed it off, but he had planted the seed. By the time I was flying home, I knew that I would return to build Solome and her family a home.

How is a house built and how many have you built so far?
Over the past 3 years, we have built over 10 houses. These houses are built out of adobe bricks, which are dried in the sun, include a proper pit latrine and can house 4-10+ people. Each house takes about a month to build, but the longer we take the better. When the initial bricks are made and delivered to site they are not 100% dry, but are strong enough to build with. We build 4 layers and let it rest. The longer the time in between builds, the stronger the structure is, as it gives it time to dry. This is why we rotate between building four houses at once.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
We built 6 houses last year (4 houses was the year before in 2015). Every year we've increased the number of houses built and our goal in 2017 is to build 10 houses, which is an increase of four houses from last year. It costs $2,500 to build a Lauren Rose Marino (Rosa), '08, a graduate of Molloy's Nursing School shares with us how and why she created the Inshuti of Rwanda.house and the challenge is fundraising for the cost of materials. Every year we have raised more and more money though social media and the generosity of friends and families.

We are always looking for more donors! If you are interested in donating, please visit www.inshutiofrwanda.org. With our continual growth, I am looking to register Inshuti with the Rwandan government. Being recognized as a foundation will allow me to have an open ended ticket to Rwanda to complete the work and will create some financial opportunities for us.

Did the knowledge and skills you gained while earning your degree contribute to your success in this endeavor?
Inshuti is actually my pet project as I work per diem as a Registered Nurse (RN) in the emergency room at Brattleboro Hospital in Vermont. Molloy provided me with a great nursing education and gave me a "leg up" in working at a hospital. I am one of the few people that have a bachelor's degree from a four year school. My colleagues only have associates degrees as there is no bachelor nursing program in this region. The other nurses had to take online and remote classes for their bachelor's, but I believe the quality of education is not the same.

How has this experience impacted your life?
I gained a new nickname! In Kinyarwanda, there is no Lauren or Rose in their language, so no one could say my name. Luckily, they recognize Rosa, so that is what I go by when I am in Rwanda. Through this experience, I see a real "inshuti" by building a community of friends. We have hired previous house recipients to be builders of the new houses. This provides them with income and allows them to give back to their community. Families develop close relationships with the workers, keeping the circle connected. I am happy that I am able to extend my care taking to the community and especially to another country. It also motivates me to travel extensively, especially through Africa and Asia.

Solome and her family when I met them in 2012.  This is the corrugated metal structure they were living in for 2 years because of the landslide.  Joyce, Solome, Issac and Jeanette Jeanette and Joyce, daughter's of Solome- December 2012

Solome and her family when I met them in 2012.  This is the corrugated metal structure they were living in for 2 years because of the landslide. Joyce, Solome, Issac and Jeanette

Jeanette and Joyce, daughter's of Solome- December 2012

The nephew of Francoise (2015 Inshuti house recipient) helping carry bricks for his aunt's new house. - January 2015

Hassan building Solome's house in 2014.  Hassan and his family are one of our 2017 families we hope to build a home for.  He has been working with Inshuti every year since we started in 2014.

Alphonine carrying mud for the construction of her home. January 2016.

Emerithe in the small room she was renting when I met her in December 2012.  She was suffering from Malaria in this picture and had been unable to work for quite some time.  She is pictured here with two of her three boys. 

Mason's working on Emerithe's house in January 2015.

Emerithe, her three boys and Rudasingwa Felix in front of her new home in February 2015.

Workers building Christine's home in February 2015.

Christine and her daughters in front of their new house after it was finished. - February 2015.

Rudasingwa Felix (Inshuti's Project Coordinator), Leocadie, her children; Claudine, Claude and Innocent, and myself in front of their new home- February 2016

Lauren Rose Marino and Innocent (oldest son of Leocadie)- February 2016

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