Feeding & Educating 50,000 Orphans in Rwanda

Apr 5, 2013

Preparing Rwanda's Next Generation to Succeed

Four-year-old Herbert attends play group
Four-year-old Herbert attends play group

In Kinyarwanda, Higa Ubeho means “be determined and live”. For Rwanda’s most vulnerable populations, such as people living with HIV and AIDS (PLHA), orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC), and their families, it takes much determination to live to the fullest. The Higa Ubeho program being implemented by CHF International through support of USAID, is helping them do just that. The program is helping by building the resilience of families to economic shocks, providing health and social services, and building the capacity of local organizations that will support them in the future.

When families are vulnerable due to these challenges, it is often the smallest children who suffer most. In rural Rwanda in particular, it is common for young children of poor families affected by HIV and AIDS to be isolated, inactive, under-stimulated, and slow to begin speaking. By the time they reach six years old and begin to attend school, they often have problems learning and developing at the same rates as their peers. Higa Ubeho is addressing this challenge by hosting play groups for children under five years old.

According to Janet Mutoni, who oversees OVC Care and Support for the Higa Ubeho program, “Each of these children comes from a difficult situation at home. You see kids in these situations not happy and not learning anything. We help teach them to play, and get the parents involved. We use games and activities that are traditional in our culture, so it feels natural for them. The parents can’t afford to put them in nursery school, so we do activities that get them learning while playing and being active. This stimulates them, prepares them for school, and makes them happy.”

During the groups the children sing and dance, play games, play with such basic things as clapping and jumping. Each child also receives a play group kit to take home. The kit contains toys hand-made by cooperatives of artisans that are supported by Higa Ubeho, and are made from local and recycled materials. Says Jane, “This way the parents can see that they don’t have to buy expensive, plastic toys from overseas. These toys are beautiful, affordable, and make the children very happy.”

The playgroups have become very popular with children and parents alike. News of lives being changed through simply playing has spread through the communities, and parents will sometimes send their children with their neighbors if they cannot attend themselves. Muhoza Adraphine, 30, is a mother who has been bringing her four year old son to the play group for one year. When he started, he was not speaking at all. Now, says Muhoza, “he speaks all the time, repeating what he learns at the group, and singing songs. I wanted him to have other children to play with. As a parent, I feel happy inside that I get to play with him and that he is learning new things. At home, we go through what he has learned, and I feel proud.”

Janet Tuisenge, 26, is a full-time nursery school teacher, but volunteers her time to lead the playgroups and work with the children. She says, “I felt it was important do something for kids who are normally isolated. I saw that I had the chance to do something for them. They are now so happy that when I am with them I forget everything else in my life. I am happy that they are happy.”

Janet Mutoni of CHF International has seen the impact of the groups not just on the children, but on the parents as well. She says, “The playgroup is actually a demonstration to the parents of how to play with their children. We show them that their children can learn, speak, laugh, and smile. Some of the parents say, ‘I didn’t know my child could smile that big. I love to see the face of my child smiling.’ Then they go home and do similar activities with them. It changes them as parents and is making the next generation of Rwandans better people and more prepared for the future.”


Jan 8, 2013

Claudine's Story


Helping Vulnerable Children Stay in School 

The Bushara School, located in the Kamara sector just 13 kilometers from the Uganda border, is host to roughly 2000 students. Over the years the school has seen many of its students forced to drop out for a variety of reasons. These students include orphans who have had to cultivate their fields and support their families; children sent across the border by their mothers to sell their products and others who decide to drop out to look for odd jobs.

Recently, USAID/Higa Ubeho program through its Rwandan Partners Organizations (RPOs) offered various trainings to community psychosocial workers (CPWs) and Parent Teacher Committees (PTC). The PTCs were trained on how to identify the reasons why students drop out and how to brainstorm and implement creative solutions to fix those problems in the future. At the same time. the CPWs were trained in active listening and creative problem solving. The goal of these groups is to come up with unique solutions to help vulnerable children stay in school.

Claudine is a special example of just how successful and rewarding the work of the CPW is in this region. Claudine is 16 years old and was out of school for an entire semester. One day Claudine went into town with a friend to look for a job and was hired as a maid. After two weeks of not seeing Claudine, her mother solicited the help of the CPW to go into town and find Claudine. To bring Claudine home and get her back into school the CPW made sure that Claudine’s employer did not pay her the full amount that she was promised. This unique technique strengthened the message that the CPW was telling her and stressed the importance to her of going back to school.

Once back in school the PTC has a program to give vulnerable children a source of income so that they can stay in school and provide for themselves, all at the same time. The way this is accomplished is through giving each child their own rabbit. Every two months these rabbits have offspring and the owners are able to sell them with a small profit. “It is a great way to teach responsibility to children at a young age”, said the headmaster. Each small rabbit is usually sold to someone else in the community for one thousand Rwandan francs, but can be sold for as much as three thousand in the nearby towns. The rabbits also have benefits outside of creating an income for the students. The manure from the rabbits can be used as a natural fertilizer for the home gardens. The fertile soil allows for better harvests from the garden and easier planting.

Since getting her rabbit, Claudine has already sold sixteen rabbits. The profits from these sales have allowed Claudine to buy herself a school uniform, school pictures and other clothing for outside of school. In addition, Claudine can now pay the fee to sit for the national exam at the end of each school year. “Being able to afford these things has made school more enjoyable and less stressful” says Claudine. Since returning to school Claudine ranks third in her class of 25 students and aspires to be a doctor when she finishes school. The dramatic change in Claudine’s life has her thankful for the programs run by the PTC and CPW. Today Claudine has returned the favor by donating three rabbits to kids who are facing similar dilemmas to the one she was once in.


Oct 11, 2012

Main achievements this Quarter

During this quarter, the program focused on the following key areas:

~Government of Rwanda and USAID field visit to USAID/Higa Ubeho beneficiaries in Bugesera and Muhanga

~Progress towards graduating Farmer Field Schools and Nutrition Groups (Positive Deviance Hearth)

~Assessed all Rwandan Partner Organizations to evaluate readiness for Graduation

~Provided an in-depth training in proposal writing for local civil society organizations

~Produced and disseminated Service Directories for all of the program’s 20 districts

~Completed assessment of playgroups in nursery schools (pilot program)

~Supported 585 Orphans and Vulnerable Children to join Technical & Vocational Training

~Participated in national technical working groups to bring attention to the growing problem of obesity in Rwanda

~Participated in Districts’ meetings, Joint Action Development Forums (JADF) and accountability day/ open day


Apr 18, 2012

School Materials Distribution

Students receiving school materials in Rwanda
Students receiving school materials in Rwanda

CHF helps thousands of children in Rwanda with school materials

 The pride on the children’s faces as they carried boxes and bags of school materials was unmistakable.  The children were not only excited about the school materials and hygiene kits that they would receive; they were also excited to be volunteers in assembling and distributing the kits to their fellow peers.

 Under the USAID/Higa Ubeho program, led by CHF, and ten local organizations, orphans and other vulnerable children receive scholastic materials, tuition, and hygiene kits to enable them to go to school, stay in school, and to perform well in school. 

 The 350+ children who gathered at Groupe Scolaire Indangamirwa in Kamonyi district are among 46,986 children in primary and secondary school who are supported by CHF’s program in Rwanda.  The kits are valued at over US $ 900,000.

 This year, CHF is undertaking a major new initiative to both test the sustainability of its social, economic, and health interventions over the past two years by asking families to manage some of the costs of the school and hygiene kits.  Instead of providing the usual 100% subsidy, the program is beginning to reduce the total package of support – encouraging families to save for and to meet these needs.  ‘Going beyond aid’ is a new slogan across Rwanda as the Government of Rwanda encourages its citizens to participate in their own development.  CHF is proud to partner with Rwandan communities in these efforts towards self-reliance.


Dec 19, 2011

Abahizi Clubs Builds Resilience for Rwandan Youth

Within the USAID/Higa Ubeho program, orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Rwanda are receiving education support in the form of tuition and learning materials.  In addition, the program helps to build life skills through peer-to-peer approaches such as Abahizi Clubs. 

Abahizi is a Kinyarwanda word used to describe people who set goals and achieve their goals through hard work and honest effort.   Through the clubs, members are encouraged to set personal goals that are linked to the broader themes of ‘higa ubeho’ – another Kinyarwanda word that emphasizes ‘living with determination’. Abahizi Clubs offer participants coping tools and provide a safe place for youth, especially vulnerable adolescents, to share their hopes for the future, to discover their talents, and to exchange information and ideas for achieving a better life. 

Abahizi Clubs are a new initiative in Rwanda, building on the lessons from the school-based clubs introduced by the Forum of African Women Educationalists (FAWE).  Since May 2011,  Rwandan Partner Organizations (RPOS) in USAID/Higa Ubeho have worked with OVC enrolled in secondary schools in 10 Districts: Gicumbi, Rulindo, Rubavu, Nyabihu, Nyamagabe, Nyaruguru, Nyarugenge, Gasabo, Busegesera and Gatsibo to establish 80 clubs.  During meetings within Abahizi Club members, and school administrators, the program has learned about changes in self-esteem, more positive outlooks for the future, and more supportive relationships being established among young people.

In the photo above, members of an Abahizi Club at Bon Conseil Secondary School in Byumba in Gicumbi district are planting a fruit tree as a reminder to take care of themselves in order to achieve a future that bears fruits.  These groups to help participants realize their potential and gain crucial life skills. Bon Conseil’s Abahizi Club, formed in May 2011, has an active membership of 80 students who help each other in academic matters through group discussions, debates, and peer support.  The students explain that their performance in school is improving as a result of the support they receive and provide to each other in their Club.  Members enforce discipline amongst themselves, feel able to speak out about day-to-day school problems, and they refer bigger problems to teachers or the school administration. The Director of Bon Conseil has seen improvement in academic performance and attitude among members; and Club members are sometimes called to mentor other students.  

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