Young Life began in Rwanda in 2009, despite the drastic conditions in the country. Since then, Young Life Rwanda has continued to share the Gospel with teenagers, many of them having been directly affected by the genocide. With 179 ministries, Young Life Rwanda is seeking to love those on the margins of society.
Rwanda is a country of much ethnic division, political tension and extreme violence. In 1959, just three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group in Rwanda, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries, simply because of their ethnic identity. The children of these Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group, and in 1990 civil war ensued. This culminated in a state-orchestrated genocide in 1994, in which Hutus killed up to a million of their fellow Rwandans, including about ¾ of the Tutsi population, over the course of only 100 days. The genocide finally ended when the Tutsis defeated the Hutus' militias, and many Hutus fled. Most refugees have returned, but the country is still reeling from such a massive ethnic divide. The genocide decimated Rwanda’s fragile economic base, severely impoverishing the population – today, around 45% of Rwanda’s 13 million live in poverty, and 46% of all Rwandans are under the age of 18.
Such drastic conditions can only be addressed by the power of the gospel. Young Life began in Rwanda in 2009, Young Life has continued to grow quickly. With 179 ministries, Young Life Rwanda is seeking to love those on the margins of society. Josiane, a deaf girl from the city of Kigali, grew up stereotyped and stigmatized by families, peers and the community. People believed that deaf kids like Josiane had nothing to contribute to society. But after attending a Young Life camp (like nearly 5,300 did in 2023), she was overwhelmed by the love she saw in her Young Life leaders. She says that she now feels valued like any other kid in the community, all because of the love of Christ that poured out from her amazing Young Life leaders.
Having fun at YL club
Small group time at camp
Young Life was made for Africa
Making a joyful noise!
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According to the 2012 National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), 50% of the Rwandan population is below the age of 19 years. This gives Young Life ministry vital ground in contributing toward building a hopeful society regardless of past catastrophic experiences.
One of the indicators of the ministry growth is the average number of kids who have said yes to Jesus and have been attending the discipleship sessions for their holistic maturity. It’s out of these Campaigners that we now have commitments and active leaders who carry out the mission that God has assigned us to love kids regardless of all other factors that may seem to be a hindrance.
Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey of year 2014-2015 shows child teen pregnancy has been a huge problem. 6% of girls aged between 15-19 years old have started bearing children. This proved the relevance of YoungLives ministry in Rwanda. We have many teen moms among the kids, but we had not given it special attention as it is kind of stigma here. It was challenging to care for these women without them feeling stereotyped. But after Chimwemwe Siyabu visited and had some good discussions with the community, we felt the urge to establish the YoungLives ministry by reaching out to these teen moms with the love of Christ.
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