Odette is a genocide widow with 6 daughters and works for CAFOD’s partner, Avega. Odette helped to set up Avega after the genocide in the east of the country near the Connect2 community of Musha. Odette was recently promoted to Executive Secretary at Avega National.
Despite travelling all the way from Rwanda, Odette and Simon’s visit to Chelmsford was nearly thwarted by engineering work on the circle line!
However, with just a few minutes to spare and thanks to Martin Humphries, CAFOD volunteer and a member of the J&P group who collected them from the station, they arrived just in time to enjoy Mass at Holy Name Parish, Chelmsford and Simon was able to spend a few minutes speaking to parishioners at the end of Mass.Odette then spoke at Our Lady Immaculate parish before they both enjoyed Sunday lunch with Martin, his wife Theresa and their two children James and Fay. In the afternoon Simon and Odette spoke at a ‘tea party’ at Holy Name arranged by CAFOD parish volunteers Cathie Wickham, Martin Humphries and Kate Cook on behalf of both parishes. Over 25 people heard Simon’s presentation about the breadth of work that CAFOD is involved with in Rwanda. Simon explained the importance of peace and reconciliation counselling after the genocide – his work aimed to bring communities together as although they all spoke the same language, were the same colour, from the same communities and were neighbours there was still a lot of mistrust which needed to be alleviated. He also spoke of the livelihood projects which the womens groups ran, breeding goats and chickens for them all to share which provided income and food.
Odette spoke of how she lost her husband during the genocide and had to hide for days in the forest with her 6 children with little to eat and terrified that they would be found. She thanks God that she and her children survived and now works to help those affected and does this work in honour of the memory of her husband.
Father Hugh thanked Odette and Simon for their moving presentations and congratulated them on their love of life and the help they give others. Father Hugh also presented Joanna (Diocesan Manager) with a cheque for £200 which was money from their ‘hungry bucket’.Simon and Odette were delighted to meet all the children present, especially a little girl called Grace who with the help of her mother Jane had held a sale of her toys and raised over £70 for the community in Musha. After tea and cake, numerous photo calls and a visit to the church to have another look at the welcome board produced by the children it was off to Des and Linda Kelly’s house for supper and a well earned rest.
On Monday morning, Simon and Odette met with students from St John Payne School. Following Year 7 assembly, Simon and Odette met with students from 8C and 7C – even encouraging one student to try a Rwandan dance! The students asked some very searching questions, particularly of Odette, who courageously shared her story of the genocide.We would like to thank school Chaplain Christine Webb and the Head, Mr Schular, for welcoming us into their community. After the talks, Simon and Odette were going to visit a French class (French was the first language of Rwanda but is being overtaken by English) and then to watch a game of rounders before returning to London.
Joanna and Denise would like to thank everyone in Chelmsford who contributed in making Odette and Simon’s visit to the Diocese such a successful and memorable occasion.