There are an estimated 860,000 orphans in Rwanda, as last reported by unicef. The 1994 genocide, AIDS, and hard living conditions account for much of that number. Forty-five of them, from the streets of Kigali, Rwanda, are fortunate to receive even minimal care, in an orphanage run by the nonprofit, OVC Rwanda.
In the shadow of the downtown business center, overlooking a slum area of Kigali, the orphanage is in a desperate state of disrepair. It’s founders and community members are unable to raise appropriate funds to update the structure beyond four walls and a roof, supply needed school books, and at times provide enough food for the children.
Small rooms with mattresses that are no more than decaying pieces of old foam with ragged sheets, are the sleeping provisions for 5-6 children each. The girls live on one side of the faded blue structure, and the boys on the other.
Too few rooms mean some must sleep in hallways. The dining area has no table or chairs. The only furniture is a set of bunks in two of the girls’ rooms.
Daytime provides the only chance for privacy. When most of the kids are outside playing or doing choirs, an empty bed can be enjoyed for reading or a nap.
Almost all of rural Rwanda, and many of the households in the capital city of Kigali, have no running water or electricity. At the orphanage, water must be carried up a steep hill from the valley floor, usually in 5, or 20 liter jerry cans. With one liter of water weighing one kilogram, or approximately 2.2 pounds, it makes for a heavy haul. No running water also means no plumbing. The toilet is a small out house in the back of the facility.
If there’s any light at the night, it comes from a kerosene lamp – a primary source of indoor pollution and respiratory problems in developing countries. Money for lantern fuel, however, is low on the priority list so the orphanage is dark most of the time.
Forty-four other children have been placed in foster homes, yet they must come to the orphanage for food. Their hosts cannot afford to feed them.
This is a case of the poor taking care of the poor; a dedicated community of people with precious little who are determined to keep kids off the streets.
The orphanage and its children are a testament to the resilience, and strength of the human spirit. In a country still recovering from the worst genocide since the holocaust, where money is scarce and resources limited, they are grateful to have a strong honest government to ensure conditions of safety. Rwanda has a motto that she lives up to: “Investment yes. Corruption no.”
OVC -Rwanda was founded in 1995 on the initiative of Emmanuel Uwamahoro, himself an orphan who was raised by nuns from the age of 9. With his co-founder, help from the surrounding community, and a small amount of funds from other nonprofit foundations, Emmanuel is doing all he can to keep children off the street, provide them with food, shelter, and access to health care and education, and give them the best chance possible to be able to provide for themselves, now and into the future.
Emmanuel’s top priority is searching for emergency assistance to rehabilitate the orphanage. He dreams of a larger more functional facility on a bigger site, and envisions strong economic, social, and cultural development for all the orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda. His goals are to reintegrate the children into everyday family life, and to know they will have the chance to live into old age with peace and dignity.
If you have any means to help, or know someone who can, please contact me at: email@example.com.
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