One Rwandan Teen’s Story: From Extreme Poverty to Award Winning Inventor

Yvette is making headlines after designing a digital cane for the blind.

Yvette presents her digital cane invention.

Yvette, sponsored through Compassion in Rwanda, is making headlines after winning a national innovation competition for designing a digital cane for the blind.

In Rwanda's INNOVATE4Women Hackathon, a national design competition, contestants were tasked to develop solutions to address challenges facing women. Yvette decided to focus on those living with a disability. A sensor in her digital blind stick alerts users of obstacles in their path. Along with her teammates Adrien and Mathias, Yvette won the top prize for their design.

From humble beginnings

The achievement is even more impressive when considering the challenges that Yvette has overcome in her own life.

Her single mother raised the 19-year-old after her father abandoned the family when Yvette was just three years old. "It was a tough time for me to raise two children as I had nothing at all," said her mother, Françoise. "I didn't even have a garden to dig to get food for my children. It was a hard life."

To the relief of her mother, Restoration Church began partnering with Compassion, and, at the age of six, Yvette was one of the first children registered into its Child Sponsorship Programme.

Yvette sits and smiles with her family.

"The Compassion project came into our community at the time when I needed support the most," said Françoise. "She was enrolled in school immediately; she was given scholastic materials, uniforms, a mattress and a blanket. Ever since she started school, I have not struggled with her school fees thanks to the support from the project."

Dreaming big

Yvette thrived at the Compassion project, which she credits with helping to shape her character.

"I was in nursery school when I was registered in the project. So for the last 15 years, I have learnt so many life lessons through interactions with my peers at the project, the letters I exchange with my sponsor and the teachings I received from the project staff have shaped me to become a responsible girl," Yvette said.

A bright child, she initially dreamed of being a doctor but soon realised there was an obstacle in the way.

"Although there are several reasons why I didn't get the opportunity to pursue medicine, my extreme fear of seeing blood or wounds crashed my hopes of becoming a doctor," she said. Instead, she began pursuing her passion for technology. "While growing up, I always wanted to become a doctor, now I'm pursuing to become a doctor for machines," she said.

A doctor for machines

With financial support from Compassion, Yvette is pursuing her dream. She's studying an Advanced Diploma in Information Technology at Integrated Polytechnic Regional College, where she heard about the INNOVATE4Women Hackathon.

The competition process involved pitching the invention to a panel of judges, an experience Yvette said she found simple after building her confidence at her local Compassion project, where she learned her identity in God.

Yvette reads a letter from her sponsor.

"I'm able to interact with people better thanks to the project staff who nurtured us to be responsible and God-fearing children.” She said.  “At the project, I was given small projects to participate in, such as discussions and debates, and this boosted my confidence. When I got the opportunity of being at the forefront of pitching the digital cane, it was easy for me."

Obviously impressed with her presentation, judges crowned Yvette's team the winner. They walked away with five million Rwandan francs (a little over £3540) to develop their invention further and even produce it.

"I'm happy that we won, God is gracious,” said Yvette. “It gave me more motivation to be innovative, and I'm more confident."

While developing the digital cane, she said she has learnt a lot about using innovation for social change.

"I have been inspired to find ways to be innovative and provide solutions for people living with disabilities because they have the potential of attending school, conferences and contribute to society's development," said Yvette. 

With the support of her mother, sponsor and project staff Yvette has been motivated to provide solutions to bring social change to her community. What an inspiring young woman!

You can empower a young life, just like Yvette's, by sponsoring a child today.


WORDS : Doreen Umutesi

PHOTOS : Compassion International



A Beautiful Survivor: Finding Hope After Tragedy

A survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Christine Uwase grew up as an orphan after witnessing her mother’s murder at the age of four. Her story will inspire and challenge you.


Parenting, Poverty and Progress: a Free Family Discipleship Resource

This brand new free resource will help you talk to your children about big issues such as poverty and caring for the world around them.


Miracles Truly Exist: How Child Sponsorship Reunited a Family

After 26 years without even a photo of his father, discover how Christian was reunited with the family he believed he’d lost during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.


Girls and Computers: How Compassion is Helping Girls Conquer the Digital Gender Gap

Access to technology is crucial in this digital age. Yet women and girls are often excluded from it. For International Day of the Girl Child, Compassion explores the digital gender gap and how we’re empowering girls to bridge it.


Indigo Valley: Selling Ethical Coffee for God’s Glory

We’re collaborating with Indigo Valley coffee to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name. Indigo Valley produce high quality, carbon neutral, Fairtrade and ethical coffee. Try it today!


Your Words, Their Treasure: How Kind Letters Make a Difference

Ani’s about to graduate from the Compassion programme. As she reflects on her time at Compassion, it’s her relationship with her sponsor that’s given her much joy. Read Ani’s story and be encouraged. Our letters matter, and our kind words make a difference.


Taking on the World: 11 Children in Poverty Share Their Dreams

As we look forward to celebrating International Youth Day (12 August), let’s hear from Compassion’s sponsored children around the world as they share their dreams for the future.


35 Children Quotes to Warm Your Heart

Enjoy this collection of famous quotes about children. Let these wise words remind you how precious kids are!



Prayers for the world today

It’s been a challenging time for so many people around the world. From a global pandemic to political and social unrest to natural disasters, we have seen so much suffering. It’s precisely in times like these we should lift our eyes to God.


5 Things To Do With The Kids To Keep Them Entertained This Holiday

We’ve created some fun, free, downloadable kids activities to help you this half-term.


Talent and Tenacity: How One Young Woman in Togo is Achieving Her Dreams

Meet Winner from Togo. She’s breaking boundaries in her community by studying engineering. She’s one of only two women in her class. Read her story and you’ll find out why we’re praising God for her on International Women in Engineering Day and every day.


22 Father’s Day Bible Verses You Can Share As a Gift

Be inspired by these Bible verses about fathers and share them with a father figure in your life.