Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty

by HANDS AROUND THE WORLD
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Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
Helping Rwandan Children out of Poverty
New two storey building at Muko
New two storey building at Muko

There were two great highlights in 2020, a very difficult year in most respects. The first was the opening of the new two-storey classroom block at Muko. A complex piece of construction as it meant building six new classrooms on existing buildings, not originally designed for this. However, the lack of space to extend required an innovative solution. The new classrooms will enable a broadening range of subjects for senior students preparing for university.

The second highlight was our annual sponsored walk across the rugged, picturesque North Coast of Jersey, a distance of 19 miles. After so many fundraising events had been cancelled this year, we were fortunate that September was a time when there was a real lull in the pandemic and 460 people joined us to make the most of a beautiful, sunny autumn day, raising a massive £16,500 for our projects in Rwanda.

As a result, we were able to commit £13,000 to completing this year’s planned projects at Ryankana School – the renovation of dilapidated classrooms which has helped to transform teaching and learning conditions – as well as providing £2,000 towards health insurance for some of the most disadvantaged local families and contributing some much-needed assistance to our head office in Monmouth.

The schools in Bugarama were able to reopen at the beginning of November, after eight months of closure. 

The major problem they now face at Muko, and other schools, is to provide lunches for secondary students who have to stay on at school for the whole day. These students are studying hard to prepare for the exams which are such an important step towards a new life and make up for lost time at school this year. Parents however are struggling to pay the fee for school lunches. Many in Bugarama have fields or jobs across the border in the DRC and so have lost a large part of their usual income. The harvests come in March when incomes will improve.

Hands Around The World has been able to provide some limited support but our funds are severely depleted and most of our usual fundraising activities have been curtailed. £20 will cover the cost of school lunch for one student for a whole term and would give tremendous boost to hard working students.

Start of the North Coast walk
Start of the North Coast walk
New senior classes at Muko
New senior classes at Muko
Renovated classrooms at Ryankana
Renovated classrooms at Ryankana
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Moses with his cows
Moses with his cows

Our partners in Rwanda continue to be locked down due to the coronavirus. The Rusizi District has been particularly badly hit with a high number of positive cases. Transport in and out of the district is prohibited and schools throughout the country remain closed indefinitely.

Despite the restrictions we have been able to continue with our projects at the schools in Bugarama through the leadership of our local project manager, Djuma Nsengiyumva. Our major project at Muko Groupe Scolaire, the construction of six new classrooms over existing buildings (see photo), is all but complete and waiting for the return of students to take up their senior studies in this new block.

We have also continued to support our sponsored students. Those at university are following online courses benefiting from the laptops we were able to supply. Moses, shown with cattle, is finishing five years study to become a veterinary surgeon.

The Rwandan government is working hard to develop educational opportunities for its ever-increasing population and are now working in partnership with the World bank to build three new primary schools in Bugarama. This has meant that we have been able to review our projects for this year and Jersey Overseas Aid have allowed us to divert funds to alternative projects. So, we have been able to construct 12 handwash stations (see photo) at six schools to improve hygiene facilities in the face of Covid. At Kibangira we have been able to demolish and replace the two original old classrooms which served as the foundation for this school 25 years ago.

Most of our fundraising activities have been suspended this year due to Covid but we are now in the final arrangements for our annual sponsored walk which takes us across the rugged north coast of Jersey, a distance of 19 miles. We are up to 400 registered walkers with more joining up every day before the weekend of the walk. This is double the numbers we usually have and shows how people have missed these challenges over the past few months. We are operating a staggered start with groups of 40 setting off at set times. This will enable us to undertake another renovation project at Kibangira, albeit we won’t be able to be there ourselves this year to take part.

Before and after
Before and after
Wash stations to fight Covid
Wash stations to fight Covid
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Rwanda went into lockdown early on and has suffered relatively little health impact from the coronavirus epidemic with just 280 confirmed cases and zero fatalities to date (12th May). However, the impact on communities such as Bugarama in the far south west corner of the country has been harsh.

Here many people depend on casual work which has dried up or on what they produce for themselves in the fields. Many have plots or jobs across the border in DRC and have been prevented from accessing them. Food has been scarce and prices increasing.

Our friends at Muko school made a collection amongst the teachers to assist some of the most vulnerable families with food distribution and we have done what we can to support them, identifying £3,000 from our project funds which we have been able to send them.

We have also enthusiastically participated in the 2.6 Challenge, which has tried to replicate the funds raised every year by the London Marathon and so far we have raised a further £3,200 which we are sending for food aid. We did this by walking, running, rowing and keeping silent. Joel joined in in Rwanda and ran 26 miles between his house and the Burundi border.

Our construction work at Muko had to be halted for a month due to the lockdown but work has resumed, albeit with a limited workforce. We expect delays and some price increases in building materials but we are hopeful that the new classrooms will be ready when the school reopens in September.

Sadly, our planned project visit in November will not be possible due to ongoing travel restrictions but we are optimistic about returning next year to celebrate the completion of the long awaited classrooms.

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Our volunteers team with local partners
Our volunteers team with local partners

In November 2019 a team of seven volunteers from Jersey, one from Bristol and four from Rwanda working at schools in Bugarama, South West Province.

With the generous support of Jersey Overseas Aid, we achieved the following:

  • Work was started on a conversion of a six-classroom block at Muko School into twelve classrooms by building a second storey on top of existing classrooms. This project will be completed in March 2020. It’s a challenging piece of work involving strengthening foundations and supporting columns and is being supervised by Djuma, our local project manager. These classrooms will be used to expand senior secondary school opportunities and enable more local young people to access university courses;
  • A new kitchen was built for Kibangira School and six classrooms painted. This completes a massive transformation of this school over the past three years, including six new classrooms, toilet block, teachers’ room and renovated classrooms;
  • A block of three run down classrooms at Ryankana Primary School were renovated with new doors, windows, plastering and concrete floor. Another three classrooms will be renovated at our next visit later this year.

Our plans for ongoing development in the schools continue later this year. The schools are under huge pressures with numbers as they cope with rising numbers but also government plans to improve and broaden the scope of education opportunities for all.

Jersey Overseas Aid have approved a grant of £41,000 for a new classroom block at Ryankana. This will be Phase 1 of a new two-storey building, including six classrooms and toilets. But we have to find another £41,000 to match this sum so we have our work cut out for us this year. Any assistance will be very gratefully received.

The old roof comes off at Muko
The old roof comes off at Muko
renovated classrooms at Ryankana
renovated classrooms at Ryankana
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The old school kitchen at Kibangira
The old school kitchen at Kibangira

In two weeks’ time, our team of volunteers will be setting out for a month’s visit to Rwanda. Already preparatory work has started on the foundations for the new kitchen at Kibangira and next week work will begin on plastering walls, erecting doors and windows and laying a new floor three classrooms at Ryankana School, ready for our arrival there. We will be painting the classrooms here and in other schools working with a local team, helping to improve teaching and learning conditions.

This is a time of great expansion for schools in Rwanda. The government has established basic nine years of education for all and is now focused on bringing down class sizes – which can be 80/90 children in a class – and phasing out the double-shift system in primary schools whereby younger pupils only receive half a day’s teaching and make way at midday for others to come in for their turn.

There is a desperate need for additional classrooms, and with our three-year construction plans and generous funding from Jersey Overseas Aid, we are doing our bit to assist with this programme. Our main construction project this year, which will add six new classrooms on top of existing classrooms at Muko School, is underway after months of planning. The tender document has been advertised and one of our tasks when we get there will be to sit down with the local management committee and select the best building company for the job.

At the same time, we see the need to improve what is already there. The classrooms we are renovating are some of the original buildings at Ryankana and their current state is dark and dingy. The new windows and doors will transform the rooms, bringing in new light.

Our volunteers have worked hard over the past few months to raise money in Jersey and Bristol for pay for this renovation work – and Jersey Overseas Aid has matched our total up to £10,000.

We have been visiting Bugarama now for ten years and seen tremendous development and improvement in all the schools. It’s exciting to be part of this and to return to meet old friends. In our next post, we will tell you how we get on there.

Renovating classrooms
Renovating classrooms
Dingy old classrooms at Ryankana
Dingy old classrooms at Ryankana

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HANDS AROUND THE WORLD

Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website:
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Project Leader:
Michael Haden
Monmouth, Monmouthshire United Kingdom
$3,559 raised of $42,000 goal
 
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$38,441 to go
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