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.
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.
712 students drawn from various schools in Nyagatare District have completed a four-day youth camp.
The annual youth camp was organised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and CHF, an international development and humanitarian aid organisation, under the ‘Higa Ubeho’ project.
According to USAID officials, this year’s camp targeted 16,000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in secondary schools across the country. The camp brought together school children aged between 12-18 years.
“The camp supports young people to build skills in resilience, helping them develop self-confidence and gain knowledge and skills to plan for a better future,” said Jane Mutoni, an official from USAID-Rwanda.
She added that 30-day camps will be organised in 20 districts across the country with the aim of empowering OVC’s with skills to create a better future for themselves, their families and the entire community.
Speaking at the closure of the camp, on Sunday, Innocent Sebagira from USAID, told the students to practise the skills acquired in their daily lives.
“This camp is meaningful to you. You should effectively apply the skills you gained here,” he advised.
During the training camp held at SOPEM Rukomo Secondary School in Rukomo sector, participants were given opportunity to share achievements and challenges related to personal goals.
They also discussed issues related to relationships, gaining practical skills in school and future employment.
“I learned how to contribute to the development of my country. I got to know that development begins from the family,” one of the students, Diane Keza, said.
CHF and its USAID/Higa Ubeho program partners African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE0 and Association des Eglises de Pentecotes au Rwanda (ADEPR) joined the Government of Rwanda to celebrate World Savings Day.
World Savings Day is designed to encourage savings by all, particularly among poor households. Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development organized a week of events across the country in honor of World Savings Day, from October 31st (the actual World Savings Day) through November 7th. The series of events aims to promote a culture of savings, in line with Rwanda’s Internal Savings and Mobilization strategy. This year’s theme is “Saving Today for a Better Future.”
Building upon the extensive package of economic strengthening services it provides to vulnerable Rwandan households, CHF and its USAID/Higa Ubeho program partners joined MINECOFIN, Local District Authorities and the private sector to showcase the successes of the Internal Savings and Lending Groups (ISLGs) and conduct outreach to vulnerable communities. CHF assisted ISLG members in emphasizing the importance of savings, and provided critical information and tools on how to foster a culture of savings. During the four hour event, nearly 30 community members opened accounts with a local savings bank, and over 1,200 local residents attended.
Additionally, World Savings Day was also recognized this year by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who pledged $500 million to programs encouraging people worldwide to save. “Saving doesn’t just help people mitigate the risks posed by a medical emergency or a bad crop,” said Ms. Gates in her announcement. “It also gives them the ability to marshal resources to build something better for their children.”
The USAID/Higa Ubeho program aims to increase vulnerable households’ – including people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, orphans and other vulnerable children—access to quality health and social services, improve household response to health and financial obstacles through economic, nutritional and educational support; and strengthen local government and civil society capacity to provide quality health and social services to those in need. The program began providing services in April 2010. Since its inception, USAID/Higa Ubeho has helped over 40,000 families across 20 districts to create over 2,000 Internal Savings and Lending Groups (ISLGs) and entry level economic strengthening activity that helps families build financial safety nets for emergencies and enables them to begin longer-term savings for items such as school fees and entrepreneurial activities.
Holiday Camps Changing Young People’s Lives in Rwanda
In Rwanda, more than 12,000 high school students participated in the 19 holiday camps held during the months of July and August. The goal of these four-day-long camps is to support vulnerable young people in high school by building their skills in resilience and empowering them to develop self-confidence and gain knowledge and abilities to plan for a better future.
“The holiday camp enabled me to realize that I can be a good mentor to my peers and that I am also good when it comes to advocating for others,” says Nduwayezu JMV, a 21-year-old student who attended the camp.
JMV, who is finishing high school this year, has one big goal: pass the final national exams to gain entrance into one of the country’s universities. He says that the camp also taught him to put his goals in writing and set strategies to achieve them.
Josiane Mukamukwiye has also learned to set goals for herself. The 17-year-old high school student says that the camp help her broaden her horizons. “The camp helped me to have another vision for my life. I have confidence that I can do things. I had an idea in my heart to help other people and here I learned that I can also help other people even though I need help too. I also learned I have to contribute to the development of my country. The development of my country begins in my family. I have to work hard and do it with spirit,” she explains.
The 19 holiday camps that took place in Rwanda were part of CHF’s USAID/PEPFAR-funded health program “Higa Ubeho” which means “be determined to live” in the local kinyarwandan language.
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