A Letter to my fellow youth: Pauline recounts how she turned chaos into an opportunity – Rwanda We Want

A Letter to my fellow youth: Pauline recounts how she turned chaos into an opportunity

Pauline Umwanankunda is a 22 years old Rulindo district resident, joined Rwanda We Want’s club in Groupe scholaire Gasiza back in 2017. She is the runner-up of the 2018 Annual Public Speaking competition as part of Rwanda We Want’s Rangurura program.

Pauline Umwanankunda managed to snatch away the 2nd place in the 2018 Annual Public Speaking Competition

As Coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the world, and the tally has been climbing up to millions of infected people among whom hundreds of thousands have succumbed to the pandemic, it has not been chaos and dark clouds on her side during this period. In this letter, Pauline shares her experience during this lockdown with her fellow youth, the challenges she faced, and how she eventually turned water into wine.

Hi I am Pauline Umwanankunda,

Before the lockdown, I was a highschool graduate without much at hand to do. It was all about helping my parents with their daily errands and home chores. I also had started a traditional dance troupe dubbed Abadashyikirwa with other neighbors. But that went to ashes the day the lockdown was announced. I remember I was in the bus coming from Kigali sitting by the window. The bus was calm as the radio was playing. I felt tired but I usually don’t sleep on a journey, I keep juggling with different thoughts or memories just to pass the time and within no time I find myself at the destination, it’s somehow fun. The announcement of the lockdown on the radio suddenly hit me with a strange feeling. There was a bit of panic, for it was a situation we had never encountered before.

Reaching home, the mood in the air was almost the same, I had thought that my parents would somehow be immune since they have been through worse, but I realized that it was their first time to experience a pandemic too.

As panicking never solves anything, I began to think about how I could adjust to the new normal since there was no playbook or manual. That’s how an idea occurred to me.

I had the idea of selling food products, namely tomatoes and Sweet potatoes to begin with. The idea was sparked by an observation that my neighborhood is densely populated and people were finding it difficult to find food products since there was no transport (buses or motorbikes) for easy access to the markets. So, I had 2000 Rwf and asked my parents for an additional 3000 Rwf to make it 5000 Rwf to begin retailing tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Back then, it was half a basin for each product and the profits were reinvested back in the business for expansion. Now I am able to acquire 2 basins and I intend to keep growing.

Pauline Uwonkunda sorting out tomatoes to provide her customers the best tomatoes

One family member noticed my efforts and decided to also inject some capital to add cabbages to my shelf with an agreement that I would be refunding back the capital and keep the profit.

Now I sell around 150 to 250 cabbages a day and I have almost paid my debt towards the family member so that I begin financing my business independently.

With the help of her relative, Pauline Umwanankunda was able to add cabbages to her products’ shelf

In the future, I would like to be an exporter of those goods and hopefully import some of the food products like fruits that we don’t have here in our country to become a wholesaler. Afterwards, I would like to use the profit to pay tuition of my university studies to relieve that burden from my parents.

In university, I would like to pursue education because I feel that I would use it to help young kids to prepare well for their future and achieve their goals.

To my fellow youth, giving up should never be an option and always strive to upgrade to the next level. You should always be confident regardless of your history, especially my dear sisters and always seek advice from someone who has been where you want to go. 

Furthermore, you shouldn’t shy away from any type of job or activity and the brainstorming of a brilliant idea shouldn’t take long, the idea should be implemented as soon as possible.

To the youth who were affected by coronavirus in any way, we should be challenging ourselves by thinking about what we can do to bring things back to normal or even ameliorate the situation at hand.

If you wish to participate, do not hesitate to send your letter to our communication team at info@rwandawewant.org