This story was part of the Africa New Life Food Is Campaign, which rasied over $1mm. Apophia is the cool girl in school. She just exudes confidence. She is very aware of her background and how much it means that she's the first to go to school in her family. Even with that, she holds her accomplishments very lightly. She is motivated so much more by faith in her God. Like I said, she's a cool, cool girl. I interviewed her in the school's office. She and a couple of her girlfriends knocked their video clip OUT OF THE PARK. When I asked to say what food is to them, they each had like five examples. It's so nice when people get excited about the photos or video you're shooting along with you. Photos by Esther Havens.
Apophia is beautiful — light brown eyes, close cropped hair and a wide, gap-toothed smile. She looks very sharp in her school sweater and pleated skirt as she hugs her book to her chest on her way to class.
She was born a Rwandan refugee in Tanzania. Her parents migrated there after the genocide that Rwandans refer to simply as “the war.” Life was hard there; Tanzanians abused them and called them pigs. Neither her parents nor her older siblings graduated from high school. The happiest day of her life was when she came back to Rwanda in 2007. The Tanzanian government expelled them, and even though her family had no land or food, they had freedom when they arrived in Kageyo, a rural community near the border.
Four years ago, she got a sponsor through Africa New Life and moved to Kayonza to go to school. “I am special,” she says proudly. “First of all, I am the only one in my family to go to school.” Last year, national standard tests placed her at number two in her class. Her best friend Ninah is number one.
Now 18 years old, Apophia lives in the Simple Grace dorm on campus. Her love of science makes her dream of becoming a doctor someday. She and Ninah study together, encourage each other and play soccer when there is time for fun. They are proud of being so smart and they say other students are supportive of their accomplishments. But she always remembers the feeling of hunger.
The World Food Programme believes “educating girls is one of the most effective ways to promote food security… They are more likely to be able to meet the nutritional needs of their children and to head households that are food secure.” By feeding and educating children, Africa New Life is contributing to the future of families. When girls like Apophia succeed, there are more opportunities for more girls. Parents see the benefit, the abilities, of girls in school. Those girls will grow up to become moms who can provide for their kids.
Apophia prays to God about what’s next and she feels hopeful about God’s plans for her.
In the past, girls didn’t have access to as much food or education as boys did. Apophia is the first one in her family that will graduate from high school, and she will not only graduate, but also be at the top of her class. She has a future and her children will have better outcomes because she was fed and nurtured. For Apophia, and for many girls like her educated through Africa New Life, food is justice.