Rwanda Aid's core projects are designed to meet need and create opportunity. They seek to find new and effective solutions to problems, always conscious of the fact that these solutions must be practical and sustainable. Rwanda Aid believes in empowering people at the grass roots level so that they will be able to forge a better future for themselves and their country.
Children with Disability
THE ALIVERA CENTRE (previously called Ngwino Nawe)
As is the case in many developing countries, children in Rwanda with disabilities typically face discrimination and are excluded from school and the community. Families may hide their children at home because having a disability is shameful for the child and the family. Very poor families sometimes discover that they are unable to cope with disability and children can be neglected or even abandoned.
The main obstacles to effective care and inclusion are:
- A lack of understanding of the nature of disability, especially mental disability
- A lack of awareness among families that children with disabilities can attend school
- Poor families often need their children to support them by looking after animals, fetching water or firewood, or looking after younger children
- The shortage of well-qualified teachers trained to differentiate effectively and adjust their teaching to meet the needs of children with disability
- The lack of specialist support, especially in signing and basic therapies
- The lack of specialised aids
- The stigma that society attaches to people with disabilities.
As part of its Vision 2020 the Rwandan Government is keen to address these issues and Rwanda Aid supports this vision.
In 2008, Rwanda Aid built a village, which provides care and support for over 60 children with a wide range of disabilities, some physical, some mental.
The village is run by Rwandan Aid and employs a centre manager with a staff of carers, teachers and cleaners.
Many of the children have hearing impairments and a significant number have been abandoned by their parents.
The village includes eight dormitories, each accommodating up to eight children and a carer, a small farm, three classrooms and an office. The children benefit from music therapy, speech therapy, and physiotherapy, as well as an education. Great emphasis has been placed on including as many children as possible at the local school. This has been highly successful and recognised at Government level.
A teacher conducts a music therapy session with children at The Alivera Centre
A graduation policy is in place, so that wherever possible children return to their homes and we work with families to help them understand how best to support their children.
QUALITY RESIDENTIAL CARE
There are a minority of children who need residential care, at least on a short term basis, either because they have severe disability or because there is no family which can provide the care needed. Residential care provides these children with quality care enabling them to achieve their potential, and wherever possible, return to their homes and cope to some extent independently in society.
INTEGRATION THROUGH SUPPORT & TRAINING FOR THE COMMUNITY
Where possible we promote and support the care of disabled children in their homes, in mainstream schooling and in the community given the appropriate level of training, support and sensitisation. It aims to become increasingly self-sufficient through income generating projects such as the farm and the craft workshop.
THE ALIVERA CENTRE: CASE STUDIES
The Alivera Centre has been named after an inspirational girl who touched many hearts. We were introduced to Alivera in 2006 in a remote village through the Nyungwe forest called Banda. Alivera suffered from epilepsy and the local pastor was concerned about her well-being. He wanted to see if we could help. We were told that she was fifteen years old, although she looked a lot younger.
Alivera’s father, a polygamist, had long since abandoned the family, and her mother was obliged to work in the fields each day to feed herself and the six children. Sometimes when Alivera had a fit she fell into the fire and suffered terrible burns.
We gave Alivera a pig and she was delighted to have the responsibility of looking after it. We also arranged for her to have medication for her epilepsy. For a while things were better for Alivera and her family.
However early in 2008 we made a return visit. The pig had been sold and Alivera was starving to death. She weighed just sixteen kilograms. Her mother admitted that she was no longer able to cope with her.
Alivera had terrible burns all over body and legs. We tried to save Alivera but we were too late and she died in November 2008. Shortly beforehand, we gave Alivera a new dress. She was so happy with this. At last she saw herself as a pretty young lady
Rwanda Aid is determined to try to prevent such things happening to other children with disability.
Sifa was found abandoned in the forest. She was leading a feral existence, crawling on all fours, feeding on berries and leaves and sleeping rough. It is hard to know how long she had been on her own, and we can discover little about her background. When she came to Ngwino Nawe she was very wary of any human contact and would cower in the corner of the room shielding her face.
However, the other children were persistent in wanting to give her a hug, and she has gradually gained confidence. She does not speak but she can hear, and she has also been deeply traumatized by her early experience of life.
Since arriving at Ngwino Nawe Sifa has made great progress. She will now make eye contact, smile and hug. We have also discovered that she is a natural drummer. Place a drum beside her and she will regard it suspiciously for a moment, but it’s not long before she is sidling up to it to start drumming, sometimes quietly and peacefully, sometimes loudly and frenetically, but always with a perfect sense of rhythm. It is her way of communicating.
Sifa will not be able to attend mainstream school in the foreseeable future, but she is being taught to make necklaces from paper beads which might enable her to be partially self-sufficient school in the longer term.
Berchimas was born in 1998 and is 14 years old and has lived at Ngwino Nawe for the last three years. He has never spoken. Berchimas was taken by his parents to Kigali to visit a doctor. They wanted to check that it was not an infection stopping him from hearing and therefore speaking. They discovered then that Berchimas was totally deaf.
Therese visited Berchimas at home to find out how the family communicated with him. They explained that they use signs. Berchimas’ parents came to Ngwino Nawe to study Sign Language in order to improve their communication with him. When Berchimas is at home he looks after his younger brother.
Berchimas attends Ntendezi Primary School for five half days a week, like most other children in Rwanda. He is in class P6, the third year of Primary Education. There are 33 children in his class. Since starting primary school Berchimas has always been top of the class. He often gets 98% in his exams. The teachers at school invited Berchimas’ father to school to learn more about Berchimas’ life. Berchimas is very sporty, artistic and enjoys all the work he gets at school and again at Ngwino Nawe.
‘BAHO NEZA MWANA’ – ‘A BETTER LIFE FOR CHILDREN’
As a border city, Kamembe is a place of transition, re-entry and abandonment: as the only major town in a very remote, rural and poverty stricken region, it also attracts the most desperate sectors of society. Latest statistics calculate there are almost 60,000 vulnerable people in the district, and of these 5000 are orphans. It is estimated there are over 400 children living on the streets.
There are many reasons a child may be forced to live their life on the streets, including:
- Parents in jail
- Children born due to prostitution
- Violent conflict at home
Children growing up on the streets live their lives in constant danger, sleeping in gutters and doorways, begging for food or being forced to steal. With no opportunities, access to education or stability they are left exposed, vulnerable to a life of crime, exploitation and abuse.
Working closely with the Districts and the National Government’s National Commission for Children, Rwanda Aid has created a respite centre for street children, providing levels of care to match the requirements of each street child:
- Short-term residential care for younger street children up to the age of 16
- Day care of street children up to the age of 21
- Family support and training
BAHO NEZA MWANA STREET CHILD VILLAGE
Centered around a main block there are facilities for dining, recreation, accommodation, classrooms, workshops and offices. Nearby sit three smaller houses that in total provide residential accommodation for up to 21 individuals.
Whilst offering the care, support and love these street children need, the street village ensures it encourages the children to develop brightly and work towards self-sufficiency, through:
- Each child being given their own plot of land to grow vegetables providing essential basic learning, knowledge and therapy.
- An elected parliament created by the children which helps them to establish and live by the rules and values they set themselves
We currently care for 21 children in family units of seven. The residential care is for younger children up to the age of 16 who have been living on the streets. It provides them with secure and comfortable accommodation, food and clothing, counselling, recreational opportunities and appropriate schooling and/or training.
We provide day care for up to 50 children up to the age of 21 who have been living on the street. The centre provides food and clothing, counselling, recreational opportunities and appropriate schooling or vocational training. The aim is to help the older children to become independent and self-sufficient.
A LOVING HOME IS KEY
We understand that growing up in a loving home is the best place for a child, so we work hard to identify the families of the children and provide support and training so that, where possible, a child can return to their familial home. Where this is not possible, Rwanda Aid, in partnership with Hope and Homes, will provide training for foster families.
The Street Child Village has supported 172 children since it began. This includes residential care and children who have received vocational training support.
Meet Angelique. She is 16 years old. She has no father, and her mother prevented her from going to school and made her work instead. Life was very hard leading Angelique to leave home and have no choice but to begin prostituting herself.
When Angelique came to the village we were unsure if Angelique would settle in, but she has done and is now attending school. Furthermore, in the recent street child village elections the other children chose her to be Prime Minister of the village council. Angelique sees her role as one of understanding the other children, holding meetings to help solve problems and helping to cultivate the gardens.
Anicet is 16 years old. His mother died when he was three, and his father was killed by a thief in 2007. Anicet began living on the street in 2011. There he joined a street gang and begged for food and money pretending he only had one arm. When he went hungry he would smoke.
Anicet is now a member of the street child village and has started school for the first time. He really likes it and would like to become a doctor.
THE FUTURE – A COMMUNITY UNITED
Rwanda Aid has an agreement with the Government, to deliver a transition programme allowing the District to gradually assume responsibility for running the street child village.
Rwanda Aid will support the transition of responsibility in the form of a “community hub”. Staffed by trained psychologists and counsellors, the community hub will become a vital component in helping the local community to support the disadvantaged, by:
- Continuing the work of the village, caring for street children and re-integrating them into loving homes
- Working with dysfunctional families so that children are less likely to find themselves on the street
- Train families to provide effective foster care for those children who are unable to re-join their familial homes
Rwanda's education system is considered to be one of the most progressive in Africa, with some of the highest primary school enrolment rates on the continent - 95% of boys and 98% of girls (2012). With the support of UNICEF there has been a huge expansion of primary schooling. The government recently introduced free compulsory education for the first nine years of school for all Rwandan children, which won the Commonwealth Education Good Practice Award in 2012 for its innovative strategies.
However, there remain some big challenges despite this investment and success.
- There is a sizeable drop-out rate
- The pupil teacher ratio is high at 1/62
- There are insufficient classrooms
- Primary school teachers are often poorly trained and poorly paid
- For the first six years of primary schooling there are two shifts a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This places a heavy strain on teachers
- There is often a rigid approach to teaching and a failure to respond to the diverse abilities and needs of all learners
- There is a lack of resources: books, stationery, posters, science equipment
- There is often a failure to develop coherent school development plans
- A big burden is placed on resources by the shift from French to English in 2009 as the official language of instruction
The challenge, as recognised by the Government, is to improve the quality of teaching and learning, with a focus on establishing a better trained and qualified cadre of teachers. In pursuit of this aim, there has been considerable investment in the recruitment and training of new teachers.
Rwanda Aid seeks to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Rwanda by building classrooms where most needed, providing resources and effective in-service teacher training, especially in rural areas.
Rwanda Aid has been working in the districts of Rusizi and Nyamasheke in South West Rwanda since 2008. It has helped to build and equip over 35 classrooms enabling hundreds of children to benefit from an improved learning environment.
The founder of Rwanda Aid, David Chaplin, was a former Headmaster and Ofsted school inspector, and the organisation is supported on a voluntary basis by a number of other teachers and head teachers with extensive experience in delivering effective in-service training. Rwanda Aid also has an experienced and well-qualified Education Officer.
THE TEACHER MENTOR SCHEME
Rwanda Aid is in its third year of piloting a scheme to develop a teacher mentoring scheme that is mainly staffed by local Rwandan teachers. It covers all aspects of effective teaching, including a greater emphasis on learner centred teaching, effective differentiation, effective assessment and planning, good use of text books and teaching aids and good classroom management.
SPECIFIC BENEFITS OF MENTORING
- Training is carried out on a day-to-day basis so that skills can be monitored and reinforced
- The training is informed by the particular circumstances of the school
- Mentors establish a baseline of each school in which they are working so that progress can be measured against clear and established criteria
- Problems and challenges are dealt with as and when they arise
- There is the opportunity for team teaching
Primary School children in Bweyeye Sector using local resources in learner centred lessons
Rwanda Aid initially trialled this scheme in one remote sector using UK volunteers. The scheme was scaled up in its second year to operate in all 18 sectors in Rusizi District. By the end of 2015, 18 mentors in Rusizi District had mentored a total of 84 teachers across 26 schools. The scheme is now in its third year and is operating in 5 sectors in Nyamasheke District.
The Rwanda Education Board is now introducing local mentors throughout the country.
Vocational Training and Enterprise
The districts of Nyamasheke and Rusizi in the South West corner of Rwanda (see map) are cut off from the rest of the country by the Nyungwe mountain rain forest. The region is very beautiful, but there is widespread poverty with over 60% of the people living below the poverty line, measured as less than $2 per day per family.
The majority of people survive on subsistence farming, but with limited, hilly land, and a fast growing population, this does not provide a secure future. In particular, many young people see no prospects in farming, and there is growing drift towards towns.
The Rwandan Government has set itself some admirable targets in what it describes as its 2020 vision. This sets out to achieve, amongst other things, good governance, twelve years universal free education and an effective health system supported by an affordable health insurance scheme.
Inevitably there is a certain amount of drop-out, and many of those young people who complete schooling (and even further education) are unable to find employment. The same problem applies to those who complete vocational training.
Working closely with the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) Rwanda Aid has supported the vocational training programme by building two vocational training centres. Sewing, carpentry, construction, electrician and welding courses have been developed at these centres, making them increasingly sensitive to the developing market.
Rwanda Aid plans has introduced “soft skills” courses for young people.
The first of is Preparation for Employment and includes the following:
- writing a Curriculum Vitae
- writing a job application
- understanding customer and employer expectations
- basic English
- basic ICT skills
- budgeting and saving
- further training
The second is Business Enterprise and includes the following:
- forming and structuring co-operative associations
- identifying business opportunities
- preparing a business plan
- research and marketing
- financial control: accounting, budgeting and marketing
- operating a loan system within an association
- lobbying Government bot at local and National level
The Business Enterprise training is also available to members of existing associations. Associations are able to apply to Rwanda Aid for small Enterprise Grants. Associations have been established in welding, photography, craft making, bee keeping, milling, carpentry and sound systems.
Community Farming Training
In Rwanda around 85% of the population survive on subsistence farming. Most farm less than a hectare of land, with infertile soils on steep slopes. Current farming techniques struggle to feed and occupy a rapidly growing population. Increasingly young people see no future in farming and gravitate towards the towns, where jobs are in short supply.
Working in the community and in close association with the Sector authorities, Rwanda Aid provides training in sustainable organic farming and livestock husbandry.
- 120 people are trained each year in organic farming methods.
- This includes the use of compost, mulch, new crops, crop rotation, soil conservation and how to build a kitchen garden.
- Each trainee commits to training at least two others in their community or association.
Organic farm training: learning to construct a kitchen garden. After a couple of months a kitchen garden is thriving with potatoes, onions, carrots, peppers, cabbages and tomatoes.
- When the trainees have established a compost heap and productive kitchen garden they can benefit from livestock training.
- Successful trainees are then given an appropriate animal – usually a goat or pig - once they have demonstrated the ability to house that animal and grow sufficient fodder for it.
- The Farm Training Manager and Farm Training Assistant provide follow-up for all trainees, visiting them at least once a year for three years.
- Veterinary support is also provided.
- Trainees are encouraged to work together in associations for mutual support and marketing.
- Each farmer commits to pass on the first female offspring from their animal to another member of their association, as well as provide the necessary training for its care.
Since the Farm Training Programme began, Rwanda Aid has trained over 825 people in organic farming methods. Farmers who complete the training successfully, and this is a high proportion, are able to provide better nutrition for their families, take out basic health insurance, send their children to school, raise income from produce and often buy further livestock.
There are now many thriving farming associations in Rusizi and Nyamasheke districts. In partnership with the Rwanda Agricultural Board, we are looking to scale up this successful programme to other areas in Rwanda.
THE FUTURE – ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT
The farm training programme has been extremely successful in helping people to farm their small plots of land more effectively. We now plan to place greater emphasis on encouraging trainees to form associations, and to create effective rural businesses based on the skills they have developed.
Training will be provided in the following:
- structuring an association
- adding value to skills and produce
- marketing and research
- preparing a business plan
- financial control, including budgeting, accounting and reporting
- provision of a co-operative loan system
- lobbying government both at local and national level
Associations will be able to apply to Rwanda Aid for an Enterprise Grant.
Rwanda Aid Tree Nurseries
Over 85% of the population in Rwanda survive on subsistence farming. Trees help people to become more self-sufficient through the use and sale of their products - timber, firewood and fruit - as well as soil improvement, better crops and health.
The tree nurseries are requested by community members, who then provide the manual work in building the tree nurseries, transport of manure, transplanting seedlings, watering and keeping an eye on seedlings as they grow. Training and follow up advice is given by Rwanda Aid staff. Our funds are used to purchase materials such as poles for the nursery structure, seeds, manure, transplanting pots and watering cans.
Tree seedlings are distributed free of charge to needy people in the community. The trees are planted on farmer’s smallholdings and community woodlots. There are many direct and indirect benefits from planting trees.
- Renewable firewood and building timber
- Sources of food – fruit, nuts, seeds, leaves
- Livestock fodder
- Income from these products
- Medicines from roots, bark, leaves & seeds
- Absorb CO2 and store carbon
- Shade for crops, livestock and people
- Increase rainwater percolation & reduce erosion on slopes
- Some species fix nitrogen – increasing soil fertility & better crops
A tree nursery in Kamembe and children of families who received a passionfruit seedling
Each tree nursery costs around £900 per year to maintain and produces 20,000 - 30,000 seedlings. So seedlings are a bargain at around 4p each. Supporting tree nurseries can also contribute to mitigation for carbon release.
We have distributed over 1,350,000 tree seedlings in Rusizi and Nyamasheke Districts since 2008 improving the lives of over 5000 families each year.