Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘East Africa’

Africa Famine and Ikea

From BBC 30 August 2011 Last updated at 10:34 ET

East Africa famine: Ikea makes record $62m aid pledge.

The charitable arm of the furniture giant Ikea is donating $62m (£38m) over the next three years for people in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The funds will go through the UN refugee agency, which said it was the largest private donation it had received in its 60-year history.

Dadaab, which mainly houses Somalis, is the biggest refugee camp in the world.

Its population has swollen by 150,000 in past months, following drought and famine in the Horn of Africa.

It now holds some 440,000 people, despite only being designed for 90,000.

The money from the Ikea Foundation will be used to expand emergency relief and assist up to 120,000 people, said the UNHCR.

“This humanitarian gesture by the Ikea Foundation comes at a critical time,” said Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“The crisis in the Horn of Africa continues to deepen with thousands of people fleeing Somalia every week. We are extremely grateful. Help like this can’t come a moment too soon.”

A spokesman said said the UN had examined the donation with “due diligence” before it was accepted, news agency AP reported.

The UN says tens of thousands of people have already died in Somalia alone, and some 3.2m others are thought to be on the brink of starvation.

In a statement, chief executive officer of the Ikea Foundation Per Heggenes said the donation was a “bold but natural extension of Ikea Foundation’s longstanding commitment to making a better everyday life for children and families in need throughout the developing world”.

Ikea spokesman Jonathan Spanpinata told the BBC that the donations would not include any flatpack furniture – though it has previously sent mattresses and duvets to Tunisian refugees.

The furniture chain is the world’s largest and published financial results for the first time last year, showing that total sales were 23.1bn euros ($31.7bn; £20bn) for the year ending in August.

It did not provide profit figures.

Read more at BBC.

Speaking Kinyarwanda

Kinyarwanda is spoken in a number of East African countries, most importantly for me, primarily in Rwanda. I’ve been trying to learn it for 5 years now and still only remember a few words here and there.

When I’ve been in Rwanda to visit the ROP Center for Street Children and other reporting and projects, I’ve given it my all, but still feel like a child learning to read for the first time. I even had a teacher for awhile, but she’s probably embarrassed to claim such, since her student is so bad at it.

Here are some examples of Kinyarwanda to English (or vice-a-versa). It’s not that difficult to read, but to speak is another story.

umwana – child
abana – children
umwigisha – teacher
abigisha – teachers
umwigishwa – pupil
abigishwa – pupils
afite – she (he) has
bafite – they have

That doesn’t look to difficult, does it? Put them into a sentence though and I get lost.

Unwana wanjye – my child
Abana wanjye – my children
Be abigisha – her (his teachers)
Umwigisha wabo aravuga – ???
Mbese umwigisha wanyu arahinga? – ???

For now, I’ll have to smile and say “Murakoze” (thank you) or “Imana aguhe umugisha” (God be with you). When in doubt, it usually works to nod my head “Yes” as if I understand and smile.

An Orphan’s Life

When this story about Franco was first written, the orphanage was called El Shaddai. It has since changed it’s name to the ROP Center for Street Children and moved to the other side of Kigali.

If it isn’t difficult enough to be a teenager, try growing up in a country that just over 16 years ago experienced one of the worst genocides in African history and combine that with having both of your parents die from AIDS when you are only 15 years of age. That’s the life into which Franco Gakwaya was born, but it is not the end of the story.

Rwanda is in East Africa, adjacent to Lake Kivu and bordered by the countries of the Congo, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. It is a land-locked nation, known as the “land of a thousand hills” for its rolling iron-rich red landscape, fertile fields and volcanic mountains. Some of the rarest species of mountain gorillas live within its northern borders and chimpanzees are protected in national parks in the east.

Even though Rwanda is now a bustling and successful country that is providing health care, education, jobs and economic growth to it citizens, most people only know about the 1994 genocide, in which a million people were killed by their neighbors over a 30-day period. It was horrible and still affects every single Rwandan.

The AIDS pandemic has also touched Rwanda. As a result, there are thousands upon thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children. In the last twelve years, many of these children have been placed in foster homes, orphanages or boarding schools, but far too many still roam the roads and live on the streets. Franco is one of those who found a new place to call home, an orphanage called ROP Center for Street Children. ROP is located in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, the most densely populated country per square mile in all of Africa.

“We sleep four to a bunk for the older boys,” says Franco, “and six for the younger smaller kids.” MORE

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Rwanda’s Children

Rwanda has made incredible changes and strides in the last 17 years, since the 1994 genocide. Most people who lived in the country previously, would not recognize the advances now made in education, health care, the environment, reconciliation, security and work. They still have a lot to do and have not always had completely fair open elections, but what the government and people have accomplished after having to start from scratch (in just 16 years) is remarkable. A lot of people don’t realize it is also a beautiful country (landscape and people).

I’ve been to Rwanda twice and worked at an orphanage there called the ROP Center for Street Children, which provides shelter, food, water, education, vocational skills and health care to homeless children. There are now over 100 kids at the center (age 5 to 18). It is run entirely by Rwandans, with a sister organization in America called The Rwandan Orphans Project, which helps raise funds to keep the center going. They pay for the water, food, teachers, nurse, clothes, rent, utilities, transportation and some secondary and college costs for the children.

These children are the future of Rwanda, East Africa, the African continent and thus the world. Please consider making a donation to this non-profit organization, which started out taking in children who had been orphaned from the genocide. 100% of the money raised goes directly to the center in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda). The administrative costs by the Rwandan Orphans Project in the US are completely done on a volunteer basis. READ MORE

There is a book I put together from stories the children at the center told me. It is called The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales. All of the royalties from its sale go to the Rwandan Orphan’s Project. TAKE A LOOK

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