The Point Foundation – Evacuation to Kigali

For the next two days we stayed at the Des Millies Colline Hotel in Kigali of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ fame – the film about the 1994 Genocide. Our small preferred hotel was already full.

The following day we were able to arrange meetings with another charity Hope and Homes, who are working to find foster homes for orphans and hope to eventually close all orphanages in Rwanda. The meetings had been due to take place at the Noel.

Later that afternoon, Charles became very ill. He was disorientated and drowsy and his right arm felt numb. It was distressing and at one stage I believed he was about to have a heart attack. In fact he had suffered a stroke.

Charles and Karen left for Heathrow the following afternoon and I made the decision to remain behind in Kigali.

After two nights I returned to the little hotel ‘Inside Afrika’ which was to be my home for the next twenty days.

As the problems continued on the border between Goma in The Congo and Gisenyi in Rwanda, I waited and pondered what to do. The M23 Rebels had attacked and seized the city of Goma sparking terrible unrest and a huge humanitarian crisis for the already poverty stricken people. Reports of rape, abuse and looting came daily with worldwide coverage giving rise to speculation of what would happen next.

For me, the next ten days would be one of the most heart wrenching and personally distressing times that I can remember.

Understandably, Steven, James, my family and friends were terrified that I would come to harm if I returned back to Gisenyi and the Noel. Kigali is a three hour drive away and so whilst there I remained safe. However, I knew that I could not stay there forever; apart from the huge expense of the hotel, I had come to Rwanda to do a job and, much to the distress of my family, I felt determined that I should stay and carry on with my work. The Point Foundation had taken on an Intern, Patrick, to help me during my three months stay at the Noel, he is police and army trained and I felt that with him to assist me, I would be safe.

Though I knew that I was causing terrible anguish to Steven, something deep within me was driving me on to stay. The days passed by with difficult and almost unbearable long distant telephone and Skype conversations. The pain of it was agonising for all of us, with me feeling completely torn between the decisions I had to make. If I returned home I would feel resentful for being forced to abandon my mission and the people I wanted to help. If I stayed, I would be racked with guilt for the pain I was causing at home and knew that I risked my family resenting me for the distress I was inflicting on them. It was an impossible situation.

The days passed and I began to write a list of all the things I could and would do during my forced stay in Kigali:

  1. Research Vocational Training Courses for the Noel students.
  2. Look at and find job opportunities for Noel children.
  3. Meet up with and discuss the needs of many of the older Noel children who have had to leave the orphanage but now have no jobs, no homes and bleak futures.
  4. Source hand soap and hand gel dispensers for use at the Noel with the intention of introducing a hand washing routine. Easy to find in England but not in Rwanda!
  5. Meet up with Handicapped International to discuss the needs of the mentally and physically handicapped children who live at the Noel but are dreadfully neglected.
  6. Organize and sort out a system to pay the school and universities fees for all the children that the Point Foundation are sponsoring for education. Sounds simple….but a minefield and so difficult to arrange from the UK.
  7. Help Noella……….


Sharon Gallagher