My name is Sandrine Uwiduhaye (Dudu), I am 22 years old and I was born and raised in Rwanda, Africa. For most of my life I could speak with certainty about the origins of myself and my family, about how I grew up in an eight-member household to a single mother, and no father as a result of the infamous 1994 Genocide. I could tell you that it was a difficult time for us all back then, but despite the hardships we all made sacrifices in hopes of a better life. Then one day, everything changed, and all of the things that I thought I knew for sure turned out to be lies well kept.
When I was 18 years old, my elder sisters, all unmarried, became pregnant and left home, abandoning me, my mother and my little brother. This was too much too handle for my mother who then had a mental breakdown.
One day, she was particularly distressed and she sat me down to tell me something. My stomach was in a knot as I could tell by her face there was something weighing on her. She told me she was not my biological mother, but merely a kind woman who found me as an abandoned infant in the neighboring forest. That moment sent my life in a direction that I never could have predicted. One filled with heartbreak, disappointment, and ultimately my own self-discovery and acceptance.
For the next few years after that, I struggled alone trying to find a place where I belonged when in this past January (2017) I began working with an organization called Shooting Touch. The organization’s primary goal is to put youth and women on track towards a brighter future by combining the values and skills learned on the Basketball court with lessons and experiences that target improved health, citizenry, and employability. A sport-for-development NGO. As luck should have it, I found Shooting Touch at precisely the right moment in my own journey. On a day-to-day basis I work with individuals who are also trying to rebuild their lives after hardship, and to create a better future for themselves and their families.
If it had not been for Shooting Touch, and the role that they have played in my life, I do not know where I would be. They have given me an opportunity to support myself, both of my families (foster and biological), the opportunity for me to continue my education, as well as the great responsibility to mentor and coach youth and other members of my community. Shooting Touch is a second school and mother to me now, as I take everyday as an opportunity to learn and grow.
I believe that ultimately we all have one shared destiny, that will not be measured by the weight of our lives as individuals, but by the impact that each life has on the community as a whole. At Shooting Touch, we like to say ‘Turi Kumwe’ which is Kinyarwandan for ‘We are Together’. In life, though there is much struggle I know that I am not alone, because I have a new family in Shooting Touch, and I am able to be that for other members in my community as well.
Ultimately, I hope that others are able to find healing in my story. I’d like to say thank you to Shooting Touch, and thank you for your consideration to helping make our organization stronger so more people like me can make a change in their life.
-Sandrine Uwiduhaye (Dudu) Head Coach Nymirama, Rwanda