Denyse sitting on the floor of a room, stringing beads.

Denyse Wibabara at her home in Kanyinya, Kigali.
Leocadie Nyirankunzimana for DURHAMIC ADRI.

In the heart of Kigali, and the bustling streets of Nyarugenge, Denyse Wibabara’s story unfolds: a tale of resilience, hope and unwavering determination to survive and thrive. At just 21 years old, this single mother’s life is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

Born in the Southern Province's Huye District, Denyse's early years were filled with the innocence of childhood, shared with her three siblings under their parents' care. School days and family life were forever marked by constant domestic violence. Their father's abusive behavior towards their mother shattered their home, leading to a separation that would redirect the course of Denyse's life.

With hopes of a fresh start, and with two children to support, Denyse's mother relocated to Kigali, seeking employment and a safe haven. Despite the challenges, Denyse completed her secondary education. However, life threw her another curveball—a pregnancy that led to the birth of her daughter and abandonment by the child's father, leaving them to fend for themselves in an unforgiving world.


Determined not to let despair define their lives, Denyse took on casual jobs, from fetching water to washing clothes for neighbors, and running errands for others to support her family. Tragedy struck again when her mother, the family's pillar of strength, suffered an accident that resulted in a broken back and other injuries. From that point on, her mother would be bedridden and unable to work.

Amidst this turmoil, hope emerged when the PEPFAR-funded DREAMS program took Denyse in. The Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) program offered Denyse and her malnourished daughter a lifeline through a series of services and training. She received training in health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive health, learned how to take care of her child, and how to save money and plan expenses. In 2023, when she received about US $70 (RWF 70,000) from the program, Denyse decided to invest it for a better future and start her own small business. She used the money to purchase beads and started making rosaries, wrist laces, and necklaces, which she offers for sale in her community.

Denyse's products find their way to the hearts of the faithful at the local church, turning her craft into a beacon of hope. She ensures their monthly rent is paid, and food is on the table, earning her mother's pride and securing a brighter future for her daughter.


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I sell my products on Sundays at the catholic church during mass. It is from this income that I am able to pay our monthly rent of RWF 20,000 and feed the whole family. My mother is proud of me.

Thanks to economic empowerment training and support from USAID, Denyse now has a thriving business and is able to provide for her daughter and support her family. Slowly but surely, they are rising above their hardships.

But she won’t stop there. Denyse is growing her business and plans to sell her products in other markets in the community.


Denyse with her baby making jewelry.

Denyse supports herself and her child making jewelry.
Leocadie Nyirankunzimana for DUHAMIC ADRI.

Denyse's story is not just about survival; it's a narrative of dreams, aspirations, and the relentless pursuit of a better life. She dreams of expanding her business, reaching new markets, and securing a stable income. Denyse reminds us that even in the darkest of times, the human spirit can flourish, turning adversity into opportunity and despair into hope.

To learn more, contact Emah Ndengo at

DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe) program for adolescent girls and young women is funded thanks to the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. To learn more about the program, please visit

This particular project that helped Denyse is funded by PEPFAR, and implemented through USAID and our partner DUHAMIC ADRI, a Rwandan organization.