David Chaplin, Rwanda Aid CEO reflects on the last 10 years

This is David’s speech, which was read out at the recent 10th Birthday celebrations in Rwanda. We hope you enjoy his reflections on the last 10 years.

Rwanda Aid 10th birthday Speech

I am really sorry that I cannot be with you to celebrate Rwanda Aid’s tenth birthday, but so glad that Janyis, Sally, Deanne are with you representing the UK team, as well as John and Chris, our good friends from Kigali.

It is also a great honour to be able to welcome – and here you mention any of the dignitaries who are with us, if there are any. Felicien will advise.

I am told by Jonas, who reckons to know about these things, that the gestation period for an elephant is two years. Rwanda Aid’s was rather longer than that – five years from conception to birth.

The baby was conceived in 2003 when I arrived in Rwandan with an assignment to work with the Anglican church for a few months. Having lived a very comfortable and privileged life until then, I was really shocked to encounter poverty and suffering first handand felt a real urge to try to do something to help.

After much rallying round of family and friends the baby was eventually born in 2008 with a mission to help people lift themselves out of poverty by supporting education and training.

That Rwanda Aid is now a strapping ten year old, with a wide range of projects right through the two districts of Nyamasheke and Rusizi, is largely down to three wonderful groups of people whom we might appropriately call our godparents.

First there all the amazing people who have supported us and raised funds for us over the years. There are too many to mention by name, but they include our wonderful trustees, the schools, foundations and trusts, corporates and individuals. Huge sacrifices and efforts have been made: people have jumped out of aeroplanes (with parachutes, I hasten to add), run marathons, sailed round the world, baked cakes, performed concerts, scrambled through mud – the list goes on and on.

Much of the giving has involved real sacrifice. I gave a presentation at a school some years ago. When Ifinished the Headteacher said that he had a few presentations to make. Amongst these was a football given to a boy who had scored three goals for his team. The boy collected his ball very proudly, but when the assembly was over he came and found, tugged my sleeve and whispered that he would like me to take his ball out for the children in Rwanda.

Rwanda Aid has also been superbly supported by the Rwandan government, both at local and national levels. It is a real partnership. Each year we sit down with our two districts with the aim of identifying and meeting the most pressing challenges.

Let me give you a few examples. Rwanda Aid is sponsored by Mineduc and we have worked closely with the Rwandan Education Board and our two districts in developing the highly successful teacher/mentor programme. Our farm training initiative has been picked up by our two districts and is being rolled out through sectors and cells. Migeprof has been hugely supportive in helping us to develop this wonderful project here at Baho Neza Mwana which rescues children from the street and works to see the safely back to school, and, wherever possible, back home.

Rwanda is 8nusual and remarkable in having a very clear set of admirable goals set out in its Vision 2020, and for us it is wonderful that there is the determination to work closely with aid agencies such as ours, but not to be dependent on them, especially in the longer term.

I want also to mention and thank our great Rwandan Rwanda Aid team. We are so blessed to have a group of committed and professional Rwandans who share our vision and who work tirelessly to develop our work. Their dedication and local understanding are absolutely fundamental to the success of our work.

So welook forward to the next ten years with confidence and excitement. In particular we have plans to work with our districts to ensure better care and inclusion for all young people living with disability in their homes, in schools and in the community.

At the same time, we will work to see that all our initiatives are embedded in the community and supported by the local and national government so that when eventually the time comes for us to go, we will know with absolute confidence that we shall leave behind us something that is not only good but also something that will endure.

Finally I would like say how happy I am that Janyis has taken on the role of UK Operations Director and how grateful I am to her for her hard work and dedication. The organisation could not be in a more capable pair of hands and I know you will all give her your undivided loyalty and support as we move ahead into the next ten years.

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