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.