A group of former volunteers and staff at the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a development aid body, have started a crowdfunding campaign to save a 6-month-old boy in Rwanda suffering from a rare liver disease.
They hope to collect $195,000 by Sunday so that Ganza Habiyambere Ethan, whose father is an employee of JICA's Rwanda office, can get liver transplant surgery on June 6 at a hospital in Belgium.
The fundraising project had raised $151,273 from 1,506 people as of Wednesday. Organizers said that if they cannot raise enough money by the deadline, they may postpone the surgery to another date in late June.
The group launched the crowdfunding project on May 14 as a show of friendship to the father, Iddy Habiyambere, 43, who has helped more than 300 Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers dispatched by JICA settle into the East African country to engage in aid projects as a coordinator since 2008.
According to organizers, the boy, who is suffering from biliary atresia -- a condition in infants in which the bile ducts outside and inside the liver are scarred and blocked -- underwent surgery in Rwanda when he was 3 months old but the operation failed, leaving him now with no option but a liver transplant. His mother is due to be the donor.
Habiyambere said he was "scared and depressed by the situation" until the fundraising started.
Yuki Kawano, one of the JICA volunteers helped by Habiyambere -- who she described as a friend -- when she was in Rwanda from 2016 to 2019, said she was eager to help.
"Iddy-san has supported me to get used to the life in Rwanda, when I was worried about how to communicate with my neighbors or my co-workers. It's not just me who feels thankful to him," said Kawano.
Koji Nakashima, a staff member at JICA's Rwanda office who has also volunteered to help raise funds for Habiyambere, said, "Honestly when we first started, we didn't think we would garner this much support."
"I hope that the circle of support will further expand so that we can reach the target and save Ganza," Nakashima said.
With the operation unavailable in Rwanda or elsewhere in the region, the organizers said Habiyambere looked at the option of a hospital in India, where the cost for liver transplant surgery is relatively low. But the severe state of the coronavirus pandemic in the country made it difficult to travel there.
Expressing hope that the target figure for donations will be reached, Habiyambere said he wants to tell his son that his life was saved not only by those who knew him but also by those who did not but have "good hearts."
Donations can be made at http://gofund.me/fb4574b9.