Robert is one of the most impressive people I have ever met. He is also the best example I have come across of how child sponsorship can be so much more than a financial transaction. His sponsor's support emboldened him to defy all expectations and he became a successful entrepreneur by anyone's standards. The image of a man perched on a luxury car has an indulgent, MTV-Cribs vibe, but this is really a triumphant image of a smart businessman who lives his life to give his customers what they want and asks very little for himself. It was fun to turn that image on its head. We interviewed him on the balcony of his soon-to-open guesthouse that overlooks all of Kigali. Photos by Esther Havens. The Food Is Campaign we did for ANL raised over $1mm.
Once a sponsored child and now a sponsor, Robert Mugabe is an incredibly driven and natural entrepreneur. Robert was born in a Ugandan refugee camp to a Rwandan family that migrated after violence started against Tutsis in Rwanda in 1959. His family moved back to Rwanda in 1994. By the time he was eight, both of his parents died of an illness and he was left living with his uncle. There was no money for him to go to school, so he simply stopped going. Years later, he met Pastor Charles in Kayonza and was selected as one of the first nine children to be sponsored through Africa New Life. Robert was finally able to go to school for the first time in two years, and he was motivated by the confidence Pastor Charles and his sponsor had in him.
Robert was sponsored for ten years, which allowed him to graduate high school and university. When he was in school, his sponsors realized he was investing tuition money in land, making a profit and still paying for school. They left him with $10,000 USD in faith and said that he could give it back when they returned in a year. He found a partner and they started a car import business. When his sponsors came back, Robert had made $8000 with their money. When he had enough money, he bought his first car -- the beginning of an empire. With that, he started a transport business to drive tourists and businessmen around. He now has four cars and two full time employees.
Robert knows that food comes first; it is foundational to life. “I know how it feels to do things without food in your stomach,” he recalls. “It’s painful. You have things to do but you don’t have the energy to do it. The first thing you do before school, before you think of doing any business, you have to first eat. If you are going to change someone, trying to teach someone something, food should be the first thing. I compare this with the story of Jesus. Most people came to Jesus to get food. Jesus was able to pass his message of life to people while passing out food. Food is very important, mostly for the kids who are hopeless.”
Robert is now helping two students through Africa New Life just as a family once supported him. Of his transformation from sponsored kid to sponsor, he says:
In addition to his growing business, Robert just got married. He prayed for a wife because, in his words, he wanted to bring his family back to life. His wife Claire is a missions facilitator at Africa New Life. Robert's dream is to expand Special Hire Travel Agency. He's opening a guesthouse to host travelers and buying safari vehicles. For Robert, food was an investment in him, in his future. Africa New Life helped him become the man he is today – husband, businessman, sponsor.