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Josephine's Story

My name is Josephine Murphy; I am glad to share my story with you because I know that I can use it to touch and change other people's lives. I wouldn't be the same person I am today without the things I have seen in my life. I hope that my story will help others to get stronger for whatever situation they are facing today. My twin sister and I are the 7th and 8th of 10 children not including 3 adopted ones. We were born in Burundi but my family is from Rwanda. We had a lot of struggles as it is for most African families.
In Rwanda, there were other genocides before the major genocide in 1994 and the borders did not keep the violence from crossing them. My mother was born to a well off family but at the age of 16 she was separated from her family during a race to escape the country because of one of those earlier killing sprees. In this “new” country her marriage to my father lasted over 20 years but came to an end because of problems. Mom had to move out to the city because the older kids needed to go to high school but my father didn't want that despite himself being a teacher. He told my mother to go and that he would follow us shortly. He never came and he didn't even help us financially. He just disappeared from our lives. This was when things became difficult.
We moved to Bujumbura the capital of Burundi and rented a one room house. Most of the time we didn't know where the food was going to come from but we had each other and the great love from our mom. It was this same love that also extended to those in need including hospital patients and kids on the streets. That is where our inspiration passion for this charity we started came from. Even though we were very poor she would always share the little of what we had with less fortunate.
In 1994 the genocide in Rwanda affected our lives tremendously. A group of extremist Hutus were trying wipe out all Tutsi. Close to a million people were murdered including some in our family. My aunt, a Tutsi, was married to a Hutu and had 9 children .Because the children were not "pure blood” they were murdered along with their mother. This was the same aunt we would spend two months with every summer holiday. It was a regular thing to hear gun shots and walk by dead people on the streets. As a teenager, it was very difficult to go to school, church and the hospital (to deliver food to some people in need) because on our way we would carefully have to walk over fresh corpses. There was one time going to a band practice that my sister and I got on the wrong bus for our trip. This bus was full of Hutu and they wanted to kill us. They threatened to throw us in a big tank of hot oil where other Tutsi were killed. When they saw with the Bibles, they let us go. It was because of God that we were saved. Days later, people would come to mom offering their condolences. A lot of people knew us because we were on TV singing in our band. Our testimony helped a lot people and gave them encouragement.
We moved to Rwanda right after the genocide because my mother felt that our three brothers who were in the middle of Genocide were still alive and that we needed to find them. Thank God we were reunited with them, one by one and all three were healthy and with few scars. The country was different, there were a lot of dogs and birds looking for dead bodies to eat and electricity was not common so at night there was darkness. We all tried to get along with our lives despite losing family and friends.
In 1997, at the age of 19 my twin sister Josephine and I were blessed to come to Canada. I always knew in my heart that I was going to live here but people thought I was nuts. God knows what our hearts desire.
In September 2005, my husband, myself, and two of my sisters made a trip back home to Rwanda after 8 years of living in Canada. It was meant to be a leisure trip for visiting family and introducing my husband to them, however our trip turned out not to be simply for fun because we couldn't help but notice the thousands of kids all over the place desperate for help. We were heartbroken to see children on the streets begging for food and water. The situation seemed out of control! As a mother it hurts to see children suffering so much. My kids are not better or don't deserve more than them, we are just blessed and that's why we need to give back. We were touched to see how a few people were making a difference in their communities by feeding street children .We told them that we would go back home in Canada and see how we could help them.
My sister and I registered Shelter Them Poverty Relief in 2006 and since then we have done so many great things to help the children in Rwanda. For more information, please visit out website at
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