Fondation d'Harcourt

The Projects

October 2013 - September 2014

Rwanda: Setting Personal Resources in Motion


“The main goal is to help families identify their vulnerabilities and build upon their competences and capacities. It is very important to not substitute a person in its role, but to help them improve so they are able to face their problems by themselves.”

LORETTE BIRARA, AVSI Country Representative

The Context

Located in the heart of the Great Lakes Region in Central Africa, Rwanda is 166th of 187 countries in the 2011 HDI, with 44% of the population living below the poverty line.  With over 11 million inhabitants and half of its citizens under the age of 18, it is the most densely populated country in Africa.

Rwanda endured genocide and a bloody civil war in 1994.  Due to the rural exodus and return of refugees and displaced persons after the war, Rwanda has experienced rapid urbanization.  Nevertheless, it remains one of the least urbanized countries in Africa.

Rwanda’s economy depends mainly on rain-led agricultural production based on small, semi-subsistence and fragmented farms.

Thanks to a policy to make primary education free, 95.9% of students are enrolled in primary school [MINEDUC 2011], but completion (24%), dropout (12.2%) and repetition rates (14%) for both boys and girls are still key challenges.

Children remain at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse in Rwanda. The National Child Labor Survey in 2008 found that 11% of children work – half of them in hazardous conditions. Statistics from the National Police indicate that girls account for 65% of all cases of gender-based violence at the One-Stop Center in Kigali [RNP 2011].

More than 3,000 children live in orphanages and some 1,000 are currently housed in transit homes or centers for street children.

Over 50,000 children under the age of five die annually from diseases like diarrhea, acute respiratory infection and malaria.  44% of children under five years old suffer from chronic malnutrition and a quarter of the population still does not have access to an improved drinking water source or improved sanitation facilities [DHS, 2010].

Our Project

12 months (October 2013 – September 2014)

AVSI currently supports 560 children and their families in the districts of Gicumbi (Rukomo, Ruvune and Nyamiyaga sectors), Gatsibo (Gasange and Kageyo sectors), Ruhango (Ruhango sector) and Nyanza (Kigoma and Busasamana sectors).

Gicumbi, Gatsibo, Nyanza and Ruhango are districts in which AVSI has worked in the past.  They are all characterized by their alarming household poverty. In these areas, families live in very poor hygienic conditions, with lack of sanitation, drinking water and many times, surrounded by waste.

With an average of 8 people living in one room, and roofs are often plastic boards that collapse during the rainy season.  Latrines are shared and usually consist of mere holes in the ground covered by a straw roof.  Since in most sectors there is no electricity, wood fires are very common and, in rare occasions, oil lamps are used for lighting.

This is a precarious context for community development and healthy family growth. AVSI is implementing an ambitious project to aid people in helping themselves through education, awareness and nutrition.

The project runs along two parallel sets of interventions.  The first one deals with improving the well-being of children and their families, and the second one at fomenting the skills parents need to take better care of their families and constructing a community.

Our Partners

AVSI Rwanda

Our Activities

I – Improving the well-being of children and their families

1. Psychosocial support

1.1 Follow-up and monitoring children and their families
Follow-up home visits are scheduled twice a year.  AVSI social workers are able to evaluate the family environment and dynamics so that children have a healthy home to grow up in.School visits are carried out in agreement with the schools and, other than evaluating children’s performance, we help teachers deal with situations such as difficult students and school dropout.Supported children are also offered individual and group counseling sessions in which their psycho-emotional well-being is assessed and improved.  In difficult cases, families will be supported by a clinical psychologist.

1.2 Play Therapy room to help children express themselves
Play Therapy focuses on children suffering from communication problems who are having trouble expressing their feelings and opening up.

The Play Therapy sessions are run by a trained social worker who leads games and activities geared towards establishing a trust relationship with the children and help them express their feelings.  Through this process, children also manage to regain confidence in adults, finding a positive role model in the social worker.

2. Improving access to quality education

2.1 Improve access to education
AVSI currently pays preschool, primary school and secondary school fees and provides children with school materials and uniforms.To avoid charity, supported children are given a small livestock animal to take care of. Through it, families will be coached into making money and saving it so they can pay for things like uniforms and scholastic material.

2.2 Remedial classes for children and Study rooms
Many times children lack a table or a place to do their homework and study outside the school.  Study rooms will be accessible to supported children, where they will be able to do their homework and read.  These rooms, which can be used by children and teachers alike, are to be equipped with books, comic books, story books and other didactic material.

Social workers, parents and volunteering teachers will watch over these study rooms, thus improving the overall quality of learning achieved.

2.3 Protection for the young ones – Nursery
When parents leave to work in the fields, children too young to go to school are usually abandoned at home or wander around the village alone.

Each district will have a nursery where these young children can be taken to in the mornings by parents or older siblings.  The nursery will provide a safe environment for the young ones to draw, play and learn how to count.

2.4 Recreational activities
AVSI collaborates closely with schools, as well as other pilot education programs to provide children with activities and such as dance, theater, poetry and singing clubs.

3. Health, hygiene and nutrition
Good hygiene is essential to both a good education and a healthy family environment.  Through good nutrition, health can many times be ensured.  AVSI is continuously working to teach families how to take care of their own vegetable gardens and grow their own food.  Through cooking workshops, communities are taught how to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

3.1 Increase health care access
The program pays health insurance for supported children, family members, and other children who still need it.  Other things such as eyeglasses, special material, examinations that need to be carried out at Kigali or visits to specific hospitals are also taken care of.

 3.2 Increase nutrition
Inadequate diets are widespread, especially in families where HIV-positive mothers are not able to go to work due to antiretroviral (ARV) medications.  With the aid of sosoma porridge (a mix of soy, sorghum and corn with added vitamins,) these mothers are able to regain enough strength to take care of the family again.With time, these mothers are able to prepare the mix themselves and are taught how to maintain a healthier diet for themselves and their families.  Malnourished children and children suffering from HIV or other chronic diseases are provided with sosoma.

Families are also supported and coached through generating some revenue through their vegetable gardens and through pig or rabbit farming.

II – Building the skills for families and communities to take care of their children

1. Positive parenting sessions
Bad language, lack of rules, lack of privacy and intimacy, adultery and prostitution create family circumstances in which parents are not able to educate their children because they have lost all their respect.In this context, Social workers organize positive parenting sessions to raise awareness within the community.

2. Alphabetization courses for adults
Analphabetism among working adults hinders the growth and development of their small revenue-generating activities.  To address this situation, AVSI organized a 6-day training course for literacy teachers that will work with 2 groups of 30 adults.

Alphabetized adults will also be given notions of civil education, namely regarding their and their children’s rights and obligations.  Basic notions of how to start a revenue-generating activity will also be provided.  In this way, parents will be able to raise their children and take care of their families in better, fuller ways.

3. Reinforce household food security
One of the main issues faced by families is the lack of agricultural yield. 98% of our beneficiaries work in fields with inconsistent crop results.  We have found that the problem lies in the lack of proper cultivating techniques and bad management.

To address this problem we intend to teach beneficiaries cultivation techniques through evening workshops in our specially fitted agricultural experimenting fields situated around the socio-educational center.

4. Promote IEC (Information, Education and Communication) activities
Awareness activities will take place in public spaces to make sure the key points reach the whole community. Using travelling tents we shall spread the word regarding children’s rights, dignity and worth, hygiene, nutritional cooking demonstrations, the fight against HIV/AIDS and positive parenting.

Child protection entities such as Nkunda Abana, Ijisho ry’umuturanyi and Malayika murinzi will be invited and shall help us with their experience with the local families.

Our Results So Far

The program counts among its direct beneficiaries 560 children in the following districts:

  • 120 children in Gicumbi (Rukomo, Ruvune and Nyamiyaga sectors)
  • 218 children in Gatsibo (Gasange and Kageyo sectors)
  • 186 children in Ruhango (Ruhango sector)
  • 36 children in Nyanza (Kigoma and Busasamana sectors)

From the four districts covered by the project, Gicumbi was chosen as pilot site to set up the first socio-educational center. The center is now operational and is managed by a coordinator and groups of volunteering parents from the community. These parents help organize, and also participate, in the activities.

The parent’s involvement in our initiatives represents our biggest breakthrough. Before the project began, parents saw themselves as poor and in need and would simply wait for aid to be given to them without contributing to their own well-being. After several awareness meetings informing them about the center’s program and objectives, people started getting engaged physically, materially and emotionally.

The center is currently offering the following services:

  • Nursery: Overlooked by 3 parents, one of whom is in charge of preparing the meals.
  • Remedial courses: Mathematics classes are offered by a teacher once a week, whereas for other subjects older siblings are divided into groups to help the younger ones.
  • Study room/library equipped with graded books for different school levels. (Books are commonly only available to children of well-to-do families.)
  • Leisure and recreational activities organized in conjunction with the Italian association CHEARTE.
  • Alphabetization courses for adults, currently counting 33 students per week.

More specifically, the “Saving Education” program is also promisingly moving forward. Children in pilot schools, who received rabbits to take care of, will soon be providing unsupported children with their own rabbits. The profits each child is deriving from these animals are being placed in a savings account to pay for books, uniforms and other school materials. The program is accomplishing the dual goal of building life skills and educating the community to take charge.

With regards to health care access and our nutrition program, families under the “Saving Health” initiative are making progress, saving and paying for their health insurance with the profits they are making from the livestock provided. Children and families that need it continue to be financially supported by the program.
In addition, parents have decided to conduct monthly cooking demonstrations to improve and ensure good household nutrition. Children are being weighed and measured at these sessions and referred to health centers if they are not eating properly.

In this respect, a special collaboration has been established with local health centers to better monitor children with nutritional and/or growth problems. It has also been agreed with the district hospital for its psychologist to treat children identified by the socio-educational center as having mental or psychological issues.

In order to reinforce household food security, Farmer Field Schools (FFLS) led by parents have proven to be a great achievement. Members are exchanging knowledge about modern and productive agricultural practices. Life skills, household hygiene and reproductive health are also discussed during these sessions.

Women at the nursery have also organized an Urubohero group. Urubohero is a traditional Rwandan practice in which women get together and teach girls how to manage their household, care for their families and manufacture useful goods such as mats and baskets which they can then sell to have an income.

Sound collaborations have also be established with pilot schools and health centers, involving them in organizing reading activities, remedial courses and education/health initiatives with the support of community volunteers. This endeavor is vital because it engages the communities further in actively protecting their children and foster their well-being.

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