Located in central East Africa, Rwanda is the most densely populated nations in Africa. It is a rural country where 90 percent of the people subsist on agriculture. As a result of the 1994 genocide and effects of HIV/AIDS, Rwanda has about 850, 000 orphans,representing one in four of all children in Rwanda (Rwandan Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion). Today more than 120,000 children are the primary care givers to more than 300,000 children in Rwanda. In 2003 with financial support from Church World Service, staff of the YWCA Rwanda started a program to train the oldest child in a family to become the Head of Household. A year later, this became the “Giving Hope” program which provides support for orphans and other vulnerable children who join a working group that meets weekly and provides support to members and their siblings.
YWCA staff report: “There are 14 children in Group One “Trust” Kabarondo, Kayonza District. They were identified in 2006 and every child in the group has a heartbreaking story. When children talk about their lives before Giving Hope the dominant words are hunger, loneliness and isolation. Once they get together everything changes. We often hear children say, “In the beginning, the days when we gathered for training, were the best days of our lives, we enjoyed it so much.” Friendship and solidarity in this group is well known in the area. They are always together and help each other as much as possible.”
“With loans from the Giving Hope project group members buy tiny trees and plant them in the rented tree-plant area. After raising the plants they sell them in the local market. Their nursery is well known in the community. Local government offices are their major customer. They also grow tomatoes together. Children have individual projects as well and the group helps them be successful. Once a week each group gets together at a member’s home where they all work on a project (plow a field, patch a leaking roof, repair a fence, etc.). After work they share a meal, discuss common goals and they often dance. Without parents or other adult role models, group activities are especially important for these children, who had experienced so many traumas. Amon Iradukunda spoke for all when he said, ‘My group is my foster family; my mentor is my foster mother. Now, I can eat and sleep because I belong to this group.’”
Today the YWCA of Rwanda operates 409 working groups of 15 to 30 orphans or vulnerable children who are heads of households. While many children inherit some farm land, they have to be taught how to raise food. Some children’s adult family members stole their inheritance after both parents died. All need help to survive and build sustainable lives for themselves and their younger siblings. The YWCA will expand the number of groups as more funding becomes available.
For information about this article contact Betty Tatham firstname.lastname@example.org. The article may be downloaded and copied. To help with this and other YWCA programs around the globe, please send a check to YWCA World Service Council, 1015 18th Street, NW Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036.
The YWCA of Rwanda is one of more than 120 national associations of the World YWCA, a global movement that reaches 25 million women and girls www.worldywca.org.