Greetings from Rwanda!
We hope you are having a great summer! There’s been a lot going on around the Rwandan Orphans Project’s Imizi Children’s Center, so we wanted to tell you what we’ve been up to since our last update.
The biggest and best news is the fact that we have been able to fully pay off our new land. That’s right, back in May we were able to make the final payment on our new home, and we are currently in the process of finalizing the paperwork that will secure the property, and our future, for many years to come.
When the ROP started out in an abandoned industrial warehouse the idea of having our own permanent home was nothing more than a dream. In 2010 we were able to move to a better location, but there we had to pay rent, which was a significant burden on our budget each and every year. Today we have finally realized our goal of securing a permanent facility for our children’s program, and we couldn’t have done it without you.
Another great achievement happened just last Friday when one of our graduates, Jean, graduated from the National University of Rwanda having earned himself a bachelor’s degree. Even more impressive was the fact that he graduated FIRST IN HIS ENTIRE CLASS! That is no small feat at all, especially considering he graduated with nearly 2,000 other students.
Jean is a survivor of the 1994 Genocide, the tragedy that saw approximately 800,000 Rwandans killed, including his own parents and siblings. He is the sole survivor of his family, and the physical and mental scars were never easy for him to overcome. After losing his family he ended up surviving on his own on the streets of Kigali until, at age 12, he found the ROP. No student worked harder in the classroom and when Jean wasn’t in class, washing his clothes or doing other chores his nose would be buried in any book he could get his hands on. The results of his commitment to aspire to a better life combined with the opportunities ROP was able to give him are now celebrated by us all.
When speaking to our boys at his party he told them, “I attended classes with rich kids and kids who had ‘normal’ families. Many of them doubted me and discouraged me because, in their eyes, having been a street boy, I could never hope to achieve anything. First I proved them wrong by being elected class president in my second year. Many still doubted me, so I showed them by becoming the best student in the entire school. Now they can’t doubt me. Never let anyone doubt you because of where you came from. The only one who can stop you doing great things is yourself”.
Please support the Rwandan Orphans Project’s Imizi Children’s Center.
Posts tagged ‘land’
The Truth About Land Grabs
From Oxfam America
We all rely on the land—our common ground—and farms to put food on the table. But the world’s farmland is at risk. Here in the US, we have been losing more than an acre of farmland every minute. In developing countries, the rush for land is even more intense.
What’s a land grab?
Imagine waking up one day to be told you’re about to be evicted from your home. Being told that you no longer have the right to remain on land that you’ve lived on for years. And then, if you refuse to leave, being forcibly removed. For many communities in developing countries, this is a familiar story.
In the past decade, more than 81 million acres of land worldwide—an area the size of Portugal–has been sold off to foreign investors. Some of these deals are what’s known as land grabs: land deals that happen without the free, prior, and informed consent of communities that often result in farmers being forced from their homes and families left hungry. The term “land grabs” was defined in the Tirana Declaration (2011) by the International Land Coalition, consisting of 116 organizations from community groups to the World Bank.
The global rush for land is leaving people hungry
The 2008 spike in food prices triggered a rush in land deals. While these large-scale land deals are supposedly being struck to grow food, the crops grown on the land rarely feed local people. Instead, the land is used to grow profitable crops—like sugar cane, palm oil, and soy—often for export. In fact, more than 60 percent of crops grown on land bought by foreign investors in developing countries are intended for export, instead of feeding local communities. Worse still, two-thirds of these agricultural land deals are in countries with serious hunger problems.
Righting the wrong of land grabs
With your help, Oxfam has been campaigning on land grabs as part of our GROW campaign for food justice.
People like you successfully pushed the World Bank to commit itself to a new UN standard on how land is governed. This means they’ll work to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people have their land rights respected.
In 2011, 769 families were forced out of their homes and off thier land in Polochic Valley. Their crops and homes were burned. And three people died. Over 100,000 people signed to get the Guatemala Government to declare support for the Polochic communities and, to date, 140 families have had their land returned. The campaign continues.
To send a global message about land grabs, thousands of Oxfam supporters and Coldplay fans sent photos and videos of ordinary things out of place, echoing the displacement of land grabs. These clips were edited together into a music video that helped raise the profile of land grabs during the campaign targeting the World Bank.
Communities are already standing up and demanding their rights. And because big food companies rely on your continued support to stay in business, you have a rare opportunity to stand with local farmers as they struggle to retain their farmland. Visit BehindtheBrands.org and see how the 10 biggest food and beverage companies score on their land policies.
– See more at: Oxfam America.
At any moment, a big-game hunting corporation could sign a deal which would force up to 48,000 members of Africa’s famous Maasai tribe from their land to make way for wealthy Middle Eastern kings and princes to hunt lions and leopards. Experts say the Tanzanian President’s approval of the deal may be imminent, but if we act now, we can stop this sell-off of the Serengeti.
The last time this same corporation pushed the Maasai off their land to make way for rich hunters, people were beaten by the police, their homes were burnt to a cinder and their livestock died of starvation. But when a press controversy followed, Tanzanian President Kikwete reversed course and returned the Maasai to their land. This time, there hasn’t been a big press controversy yet, but we can change that and force Kikwete to stop the deal if we join our voices now.
If 150,000 of us sign, media outlets in Tanzania and around the world will be blitzed so President Kikwete gets the message to rethink this deadly deal. Sign the petition now and send to everyone:
The Maasai are semi-nomadic herders who have lived in Tanzania and Kenya for centuries, playing a critical role in preserving the delicate ecosystem. But to royal families from the United Arab Emirates, they’re an obstacle to luxurious animal shooting sprees. A deal to evict the Maasai to make way for rich foreign hunters is as bad for wildlife as it is for the communities it would destroy. While President Kikwete is talking to favoured local elites to sell them on the deal as good for development, the vast majority of people just want to keep the land that they know the President can take by decree.
President Kikwete knows that this deal would be controversial with Tanzania’s tourists — a critical source of national income — and is therefore trying to keep it from the public eye. In 2009, a similar royal landgrab in the area executed by the same corporation that is swooping in this time generated global media coverage that helped to roll it back. If we can generate the same level of attention, we know the pressure can work.
A petition signed by thousands can force all the major global media bureaus in East Africa and Tanzania to blow up this controversial deal. Sign now to call on Kikwete to kill the deal:
Representatives from the Maasai community today urgently appealed to Avaaz to raise the global alarm call and save their land. Time and again, the incredible response from this amazing community turns seemingly lost causes into legacies that last a lifetime. Lets protect the Maasai and save the animals for tourists that want to shoot them with camera lenses, rather than lethal weapons!
With hope and determination,
Sam, Meredith, Luis, Aldine, Diego, Ricken and the rest of the Avaaz team
News from the Rwandan Orphans Project
Great Leaps Forward
It was April 2010 when the ROP Center moved from a dark and dingy warehouse to the beautiful site we occupy now. That move was a giant step forward for the organization, one that we’re still very proud of today. In the last two years a lot of ideas, work and money have been put into what was once just an abandoned school on the outskirts of Kigali, reshaping it into the wonderful orphanage and school it is today.
But this month that reminds us of our past has also brought with it some great news about the future of the ROP. Engineers Without Borders, a large international organization, has chosen to partner with the ROP to build a new school and education center on the land we acquired late last year. This comes as great news because it will be the first facility constructed on what will be the future home of the entire ROP Center, and it will feature classrooms and learning facilities custom built to address the needs and challenges of teaching and learning in Rwanda. Everyone from the children to the teachers to the administration is very excited to see the project get started in June when the first team of EWB engineers is scheduled to visit the site and begin planning the design and construction.
This is just another remarkable milestone in the short history of the ROP. In just a few short years we have gone from an overcrowded warehouse with a leaky roof and no electricity to our current home that, while great, we are having to rent for a large fee each month. Now we are on the verge of building on our very own land, and we couldn’t be more excited about the future of the ROP.
The new ROP school will be just one facility of many we hope will someday occupy our sprawling land in the Kibaya valley. Of course we also hope to build new living spaces and other necessary needs for the orphans and vulnerable children who live with us. But we also want to expand the ROP to be more than an orphanage and school. One day we would like it to be an all encompassing community center where local impoverished families can seek help educating and caring for their own children through our academic and vocational training programs, where they can seek the advice and assistance of our social workers, and benefit from other programs.
While the ROP is still a small grassroots organization, our dreams and ambitions are large. We feel that, with the ongoing support and enthusiasm of our donors (people like you) we can reach them and even surpass them. So stay tuned. More good news to come!
From Gulf News by Vasanti Sundaram
December 2, 2011
For hope, and the thing closest to a home.
His father walked out on his mother and him when he was six years old. Expected to be the “man” of the family from a young age, Sean Jones, now 31, encountered early on the hardships that abandonment brings. But it is this, combined with the strength of purpose that he drew from his single mother, that perhaps drove him to give up a well-paying job as a computer analyst at Xerox in Texas and move to Rwanda to take over the running of an all-boys orphanage. What started as a six-month stint for Jones has now completed nearly two years, and from relying on his savings — for more than a year — to earning a salary of $300 (Dh1,101) a month, he has come a long way. Weekend Review learns about the force that binds him to Kigali, the Rwandan capital. Excerpts:
Is there any particular reason behind why you chose Rwanda?
In 2009, this urge to make a difference grew stronger in me. Xerox agreed to give me six months off to do some volunteering overseas. I was looking for organizations that would let me teach English. But I found that most NGOs were the pay-to-volunteer kind; but I wanted something more substantial, something that would allow greater involvement with a community. After a concerted search, I found this small organization called the Rwanda Orphanage Project — Centre for Street Children (ROP) that had been set up by a group of friends in San Diego, California. On a visit to the country several years ago, they were told about this orphanage and its appalling conditions. They went back to the United States and raised money to create a fund to support the children there, but without any volunteers on the ground, they did not have direct control over the orphanage.
I met them in California and told them that I would like to volunteer. They were happy with my proposition and eager to have me start right away. In January last year I arrived in Rwanda with one of the organisation’s members. He showed me the ropes for two weeks, and from then on I was on my own.
Were there any challenges you faced while working with the orphanage?
The orphanage was an abandoned warehouse in an industrial part of town by the river where street children would congregate at night for shelter. A Rwandan church offered to help by donating food and clothes. The person put in charge of the orphanage, however, turned out to be corrupt and was replaced by another supervisor. When I came in, the orphanage had some 200 children between the ages of 6 and 20. The place was run-down, with a leaky roof, one light bulb and no running water, furniture or facilities. It didn’t take too long to find out that the people running the orphanage there were actually pocketing the money sent by the donors in the US. I made my case to the board of directors in California and they put me in charge of the organization. So here I was, in my first month in a foreign country, a volunteer for an orphanage being asked to run the place instead.
It was a new place and you didn’t even know the local language. Was it difficult to put things back on track?
The first thing I did was fire the supervisor and the members of staff who were hand-in-glove with him. He was a sociopath, abusing the children physically and mentally. And these poor children would rather be subject to that abuse than live on the streets without food. On top of that, this supervisor claimed to be the founder of the orphanage, and since he knew the right people in the government, went about maligning my reputation.
In a system as bureaucratic as Rwanda’s, it was difficult to make a convincing case out of the testimonies of the children and the remaining staff. But we somehow managed to get him out despite his threats. But things didn’t end there. Almost as if to defy my place in the organization, this man just used to walk into the office at will. We met the local leaders, including the mayor of our district and the minister of General Family Promotion who is in charge of all orphanages in the country, and after endless persistence, the government intervened and told the supervisor to stop bothering us.
What did the future look like at that point?
Bleak! One day the government visited us and said that the place wasn’t good enough for children. We were given a month to move out and an ultimatum that if we didn’t, the orphanage would be shut down. This was in March last year, three months into my arrival in Rwanda. We didn’t have the money to buy land or move into a new building. The new director of the orphanage and I began rushing around Rwanda looking for an abandoned building or something that could function as a temporary shelter. Divine intervention came in the form of a wealthy Rwandan man who offered his school that had been abandoned for a number of years — and he let us use the premises for free! This was a miracle. So, while earlier we were in a shoddy industrial warehouse, now we were in a cleaner and quieter area called Kanombe, on the outskirts of Kigali. We moved here in April 2010. Today we have our own land.
How do you know which child needs to be taken in?
Not all street children are orphans; some of them beg because they can make more money for their working parents. Generally, we see very, very unkempt children washing in the sewers, begging for food, and we try speaking to them. I don’t usually do the talking, because apart from the language problem, their first reaction on seeing a white-skinned person is to claim to be orphans in the hope of getting something out of him. So we have the Rwandan staff talk to them and make sure they are not just pretending. We bring in children between the ages of 5 and 10. Many come with behavioural problems or drug and alcohol addictions. We have 5-year-olds who sniff glue or smoke cigarettes. We counsel them, but sometimes they just sneak out and find a bottle of alcohol themselves. Then we again have to bring them back and tell them why it is bad for them. But with the older ones, we need to be more strict.
What facilities do you provide at the orphanage?
Apart from food and shelter, we have a primary school from Level 1 to 6. We provide education to the boys we house at the centre and support children from poor families in the neighborhood. We also pay for their secondary education once they complete their term. At present we fund about 35 to 40 children, which costs about $100 a child per term. Last year six of our students graduated from secondary school, three of whom were granted university scholarships. Children who start school late or fall back academically are also offered vocational training. Jenny Clover, a journalist from London who has taken time off from her job, supports me at the orphanage and has started an art programme and created a playroom and a library. Last year I was able to scrape together enough money to form a football club so the boys would have some activity. The children now have football shoes and uniforms and even play other schools.
Do the children ever face discrimination when they interact with others in society?
Yes, and primarily from peers. The other children tend to say: “Watch out, these are street children. They will take your wallet.” Or in the church, people say, “We don’t want street children here.” But there have also been times when people have said that our boys are far more well-behaved and respectful than other schoolchildren. I tell them to be proud of such remarks rather than be bogged down by rejections.
Are you focusing on anything in particular now?
Orphanages have a hard time finding donors, because they are known to be corrupt — we used to be an example of that. So it is hard trying to convince others that we are not going to be corrupt or wasteful with the money. ROP has no corporate or foundational support and relies on the charity of citizens. We spend $7,000 a month to provide for the 100 children we look after. Food alone comes to $2,000 a month. We have started a programme where a child can be sponsored for $35 or $50 a month, but we would love to have each child sponsored by two donors. Earlier this year, we had a Norwegian donor who helped build a contemporary kitchen here for $6,000. But our overall financial situation is a little shaky and we are desperately seeking help to keep our mission alive.
Read entire story at Gulf News.
More about the Rwandan Orphan’s Project.
Excerpt from Amakuru: News from the Rwandan Orphans Project.
Thanks to a generous donor, the ROP is now able to purchase our own land!
Thanks to two incredibly generous donors from Australia, the ROP will finally be able to buy its very own land!
For the first time in our history, the ROP will own land instead of renting it, thanks to Tony and Carol Roberts. We have identified a plot of land for sale very close to where we are currently based and have started the long process of putting it in the ROP’s name.
It is a large piece of land on a sloping hill, with a road on one side, and a river on the other.
Tony and Carol visited the ROP in July. They were part of a larger group of Australians who were visiting Rwanda to see the gorillas and were interested in the ROP because of our quilting project.
Tony and Carol were moved by the work being done at the ROP and left the Center wanting to help the program. They knew of our dream of someday owning our own land where we could construct a new and improved ROP Center and how our financial difficulties prevented that dream from coming true.
Back in Australia they put together the money needed for buying a tract of land that the ROP has had its eye on for several months. This land is very near the current Center which will make the transition easier and cheaper. We hope through fundraising and joining forces with some other foundations, that we will be able to raise the money for the construction work, and that we will be able to open the brand new ROP centre before too long.
You can help ROP HERE