Last month we went on a project trip to Rwanda. Together with a family who invests in a project in Rwanda through Net4kids, we visited 'their' project. A trip that lasted 9 days and started in the capital Kigali, then crossed the country from east to west, visiting the projects in Cyangugu via Lake Kivu and then led us back to the capital.
What difference do we make?
Local project partner UNM was our first stop in Kigali. UNM, in collaboration with Street Child, applies the 'Family Business for Education' model to the Rwandan context. A total of 60 vulnerable families, with children in UNM's scholarship program, are involved in the programme. UNM offers support in setting up a business and mentoring families. From a single mother who has set up a (small) supermarket and can now support her family to a family who receives help with mental health issues and school fees for their children. In addition, the participants are trained in ways of saving and making budgets, but also in making a market analysis to ensure that their company meets a need.
Due to the genocide in 1994, many residents are still struggling with mental health problems, one of the reasons why mental health support is always offered in the above project. Every family has lost relatives and traumatized parents pass on their 'problems' to their children. In the present time, no distinction is made by ethnicity anymore. Everyone who lives in Rwanda is Rwandan. No Hutu or Tutsi. But this past will leave a big mark on the country for a long time to come.
You can have an impact in different ways
In the country, the poorer part of the population still needs a lot of information in the field of hygiene, safety and health. We do this on a smaller scale in our projects by focusing on families in need. But after a visit to Country FM Radio (the local radio station in the capital of Rwanda) we noticed that it can also be done on a larger scale due to the reach that radio has. Under the leadership of Jean Paul Nduwimana (one of the 'living legends' we got to know through One World Citizens), Country FM is now the largest in the region and focuses on education, information and entertainment. In addition to music, subjects (which are self-evident to us) are discussed, such as the importance of brushing your teeth every day or not accepting domestic violence. A good way to reach a large part of the poorer population, where radio is often the only form of media.
In addition to the radio station, Jean Paul also has a clothing brand. Young single mothers can sign up for the 'tailoring course' and learn how to make their own sanitary pads and when they have mastered working with the sewing machine, they can start making clothes. One of the girls in this training is so brave to tell what she has been through and what it means to her to participate in this training. Our group breaks after hearing her story and her fellow students also shed a tear, knowing that everyone has experienced something similar and is traumatized. The vocational training is a way to make something of their lives by teaching them a 'skill' with which they can generate income and build a future.
The ICTalk training of 'living legend' Yvan Manzi is also located in the same 'Yego Centre'. A training for basic IT skills such as word, excel and powerpoint. Despite Yvan's enthusiasm, we see here that a lot still needs to be done to give the young people a really good training. There are young people sitting in three rows behind some computers (a few are broken and there is no mechanic who can fix them) so they don't learn enough. This can be done better and if we want to teach these young people the right computer skills, we will have to generate more funding for this.
From east to west
Together with our other 'living legend' Gakire Dieudonné, we visited his native village Dusego where, with the help of Net4kids' investor Blyde, he is going to start an Empowerment Hub. In this Hub, young people are strengthened through informal education and empowerment and they learn skills such as pro-activity and resilience. After a visit to the local school (1800 students) where we meet enthusiastic young people and teachers, we see that investments have been made in computers, a computer lab, a library and books. Dieudonné is known here and is welcomed as a hero. What a nice addition the Empowerment Hub will be for the young people in this village.
After this trip it is once again clear that we cannot do our job without these local heroes, our local partners. By really getting to know UNM, Jean Paul, Dieudonné and Yvan, you will find out what works well and where the challenges lie. And what a drive these people have, as well as the other Rwandans. Because of what they have experienced in the past, they are determined to make something of their country and that can be felt and seen! We have full confidence that this will work. In the meantime, we continue to work with our local heroes to further expand and deepen the projects so that young people get the opportunities they need. We look forward to future cooperation with these partners.
Did this story make you enthusiastic about this project country, or do you have ideas about how you can make a difference for the next generation together with us? For young people and their families in Rwanda or elsewhere? We are happy to discuss the possibilities with you!