For The Bob & Diane Fund
“We are one big and blessed family!”, Ms. Ndayeshimiye Oda exclaimed with a big smile. She is the wife of 71-year-old Pastor Nkeshimana Pancras and together they have 9 children. Pastor Pancras started experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s in 2010 and ever since, every member of the family has worked tirelessly to maintain facets of Mr. Pancras’s identity. There is very little to no awareness on Alzheimer’s in Kigali or whole of Rwanda. I met the family at their home in Kigali, as I got their information from Dr. Arthur, a psychiatrist at the Ndera Psychotherapeutic Centre in Kigali.
When one learns about the troubles and challenges faced and the warmth spread by the Pastor, then it does evoke a stronger emotion towards how the regressive nature of the disease has, yet again, put the Pastor through testing times. As it’s true with every individual, It’s hard to summarize the Pastor’s life in a few words. As a teenager, Pastor Pancras fled to Burundi in 1961, a year before Rwanda became independent, as the tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi were rising. After spending 34 long years of moving around neighbouring countries - where he spent most of his time in Burundi with over 8 years in a refugee camp there, a few years in Tanzania, Congo and Kenya – he returned to his home along with his family in Rwanda in 1994 when peace, recovery and development were focused on after the bloodbath of the genocide. He had started preaching during his time in Burundi where he also met Ms. Oda and raised 6 of his 9 children. He played an important role in helping many heal from their psychological scars, along with preaching across villages and cities.