When his second parent passed away in 2000, Pacifique Mahirwe (in black suits) became an orphan at the age of 13. But when his aunt, who had taken him under her wings, also died shortly afterwards, his world crumbled around him. “My life was shattered, I hated myself and I hated this mischievous world,” he says.
He ended up living in the streets, bearing the heat during the day and the cold in the night, until a family friend took him to an orphanage, where he would spent nearly a decade. He immediately became friends with other kids who trusted and told of the hard lives they endured.
One of them was a boy called Munyeshyaka, who became very close to Mahirwe and one day recounted the sad story of his life. Munyeshyaka then asked his friend to write it down.
“I spent the whole night in front of a computer,” remembers Mahirwe, who was born with a knack for writing. “In the morning, I had already written dozens of pages, which he was very excited about. He couldn’t believe what he was reading, he was happy that his story was going to be read by many people. For him, it was like lifting a heavy burden from his heart.”
At the same time, it was Munyeshyaka who convinced Mahirwe that he could earn money with his talent. So he went to look for support, and the orphanage’s director agreed to print 30 booklets, entitled ‘Living with Sorrow Makes Those Who Don’t Love You Happy.’ That was in 2009.
“When I realized that people liked what I did, I went to MINISPOC for more support, and then Minister Joe Habineza accepted to fund 400 copies of the booklet. That’s when I left the orphanage, and began a new life.”
When Mahirwe was about to finish high school, he sat down and looked back on his life so far — the misery of life in the street after the death of his relatives, and the slow but steady climb out of that dark hole. He found that he had experienced and achieved many things during those years, and decided to write a book about it — but this time about himself. He didn’t have to go begging for money this time, he was able to print it by himself. The book called “Life Changes” was printed in 2010 on 300 copies.
“Later, I thought it’s good I do a book launch in 2011 to get it more attention. I approached BRD and they agreed to pay for the hall and equipment at St Paul. It was a success, with around 150 guests.”
The 25-year-old writer, who currently works as an EMR Data Entry Clerk at Kimironko Health Center, is working on another book that’s scheduled to be released in March. It’s about educating parents about the benefits of reading stories for their children.
Mahirwe says that writing supports him financially as well. “I can’t depend on the salary; I must also have something extra. It all began with baby steps, but what I can tell you is that I earn money every month from the books.”