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Posts tagged ‘orphanage’

Christmas In Rwanda

Dear Family and Friends,

First of all I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones and that you enjoyed stuffing your faces with all the delicious Turkey Day foods I miss more than I could possibly describe to you.

I’m writing to you because I want to ask you for your help. All of you know the work that I’m doing here in Rwanda with these orphans and former street children, and although we’re always struggling for funding I try not to take advantage of my relationships with you by asking for donations or making you feel pressured to contribute to our program throughout the year.

That being said this time I am asking for your help. We really need any and all help we can get to give our 100 boys a Christmas celebration this year. In the past we have been able to get local businesses and donors to sponsor our Christmas celebration, allowing us to provide a special meal and a small paper sack full of simple gifts like a couple pairs of underwear, some pens and notebooks for school, a tennis ball, some sweets and a few other items. As many of you have seen from photos of past Christmas celebrations that this is the boys’ favorite day of the year.

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However, this year we have struggled to find any partners or sponsors for Christmas. Starting this year the Rwandan government began a program called Agaciro. Publicly billed as voluntary, Agaciro is a nationwide program virtually requiring all businesses and individuals to donate money to the government that they say will be used for the development of the country. Often employees, whether street sweepers or doctors, are told to donate one month’s salary to this fund and businesses and organizations (like ROP) are pressured to also make large payments or face the possibility of being blacklisted and being unable to get services from the government. Basically it’s a unofficial tax in a country that already has a tax rate of 30%.

So what does this have to do with ROP? Well, because organizations and individuals are having to make these “donations” to the Rwandan government they have no money left to give to the orphanages and other charities like ours who need their support. In November we sent out dozens of letters to local businesses asking for Christmas donations and so far the response has been extremely disappointing. Jenny and I are becoming very concerned that we won’t be able to give our boys a nice Christmas.

That is why I’ve written you this letter. I know the economy is still shaky and the holiday season stretches everyone a bit thin, but I’m asking that you please consider helping us out this year, even if in a small way. If we can collect enough donations of any size in the next couple of weeks we will have just enough time to organize a Christmas Day dinner for them, buy them some small gifts and put together their little gift bags in time for the big day. If you can donate $10, $20, $50 or even more it will go a long way towards giving these wonderful kids a celebration they deserve. If you would like to help the easiest way is for you to visit our website, www.rwandanorphansproject.com. The method most likely to get the money to us before Christmas is to donate via Paypal, but you can also send us a check to the address listed on the same page. We are looking to raise only about $700 for dinner, a drink and some small gifts. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Finally, thank you all for the support you give both to me and our program. So many of you make contributions to ROP and I can’t begin to express how valuable each and every one is to us.

Happy holidays and merry Christmas to all of you!

Sean
ROP Center for Street Children
Kigali, Rwanda

Engineers Without Broders in Rwanda

From ROP Stories
Goodbye Engineer Friends!
by Jenny Clover
24 July 2012

As the last of our engineer friends depart Rwanda we want to say a huge thank you to the whole Engineers Without Borders team for their hard work!

Over the last two months Steve, Kara, Andy, Matt, Andrew, BJ, Jordan and Sonya from Boulder, Colorado, have been busy with meetings galore, testing the soil on the new ROP land, designing our new school and generally laying all the groundwork for the exciting new chapter in the ROP’s story.

Thanks to them, the ROP will hopefully have a new school on our own land by next autumn. Thanks for everything and we hope to see you all back in Kigali soon!

Read more stories about the Rwandan Orphans Project at ROP Stories.

Runaways in Rwanda

Runaways
9 June 2012
by Sean
From ROP Stories

People often ask me what is the most difficult thing about running an orphanage. Well, to be honest there is no lack of challenges and frustrations, but for me the most difficult challenge is dealing with runaways.

You see, the boys we bring in the from streets and from the far off rural areas of Rwanda are usually very young. In the last year and a half we’ve added many new kids between the ages of five to ten years of age. Although life on the streets is hard, these boys become used to being out there on their own, able to do what they want when they want without any sort of authority around to prevent them from doing so. They can eat when they want (if they can scrounge up enough change), wash when they want (which isn’t often, I can tell you) and move around town as they want. Sure, life on the streets can be harsh, but they become accustomed to it and it becomes normal for them.

When we find them on the street and invite them to come to the ROP, promising them education, food, clothes, etc, they jump at the opportunity. Usually they settle in very quickly and all might seem well for a short time, but for some, experiencing rules, structure and discipline – in some cases for the first time in their lives – is not easy for them to handle.

Taking boys who are used to fighting, begging and stealing, and getting them to fit within the ROP family is tough work. If one commits an offense – or “mistake” as we call them – the solution isn’t as simple as punishing them. If you make the punishment too serious – and for a street child any punishment is excessive in their eyes – they’ll wait for their opportunity and run away. If you take away a privilege, they’ll try to run away. If they want you to buy them a radio and you refuse, explaining to them that we can’t buy everyone radios, they’ll threaten to run away or just do it anyway. Sometimes something as simple as wanting some type of food they don’t get at the Center will cause them to try to run away.

To be honest it can be incredibly frustrating. I often wonder how these kids can choose to run back to streets when we’re offering them so much. But then I remind myself that these are young kids. They can’t see past their own noses, let alone far ahead into the future when everything we’ve providing will really mean something to them. They want a sweet roll, a radio, or the freedom to wander around NOW, and if they can’t have it they’ll go back to the street where they can do whatever they want.

Read entire story, with additional photos at ROP Stories.

Changing Lives In Rwanda

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!

Meet Alex Kaberuka

From Amakuru!

Meet Alex, the newest member of the ROP (Rwandan Orphan’s Project) team.

Alex Kaberuka’s story mirrors the backgrounds of so many of the boys living at the ROP. Alex was just five years old on April 7th, 1994, the day the Rwandan Genocide began. His father, an employee at the International Red Cross, gave Alex to his friend and coworker, who was from Kenya, and made him promise that he would take his son with him to Kenya and that he would put Alex through school so he could have a future. He then rushed back to his office at the Red Cross to see how he could help other victims. By the end of the day the killers found him and Alex no longer had a father.

Fast forward 12 years and Alex was back in Rwanda, having finished school in Nairobi as his father’s friend had promised. Alex became a professional soccer player in Rwanda (not a very lucrative job) in 2007. In 2010 he met Sean, one of the ROP’s coordinators and before long the two became good friends. In 2010 Sean decided to organize the ROP’s first official sports team, the ROP Eagles football team, but he wanted someone to lead it who would not only be a coach of soccer, but a mentor and a role model for the boys. Alex stepped forward and volunteered for the role.

Alex took a haphazard group of young boys and teenagers and transformed them into two disciplined teams who had learned the importance of leadership, teamwork and hard work and the rewards they offer. The boys took to Alex from the first practice and nearly every day boys were asking, “Where’s Coach?”

When the ROP Playroom was opened Alex was our first choice to be in charge of it. Alex’s patience with the younger boys and his ability to get them to respect rules and even to come to him with their problems were assets we simply couldn’t pass up on. Then, in December, long time caretaker Osea retired from the ROP, leaving us with a gaping hole in our caretaking staff. With barely a second thought Alex was offered the position. All the staff was thrilled with the choice, and when we announced it to the children they erupted in applause.
Since then Alex has continued to deepen his relationships with both staff and children. The ROP Eagles have become a team that are respected in the local sports community and the children continue to look to Alex for advice and solutions for their problems, as if he is their older brother. When asked what his favorite thing is about working at the ROP he says, “I really enjoy working with these people and having an opportunity to improve the lives of these boys”.

Hope and Home in Rwanda

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.

Birthday in Rwanda

From ROP Stories

A Birthday in Kigali
Posted on November 15, 2011 by Jonathon

It seems no matter how old you get your birthday is always a day you look forward to. Who among us doesn’t enjoy the extra attention and well wishes from friends and family? The fact that I share the same birthday as my Mother has certainly made the annual event more significant, as for as long as I can remember that day was always spent with Mom and it was something unique which I could claim as “mine” as a child and even into adulthood.

Thus, when October 26, 2011 neared, I found myself contemplating what it might be like, how it may be a lonely day, nothing like birthdays back home. I wondered how I might celebrate this day being so far from home, so far from my friends and family. I began to feel a bit blue about the day. Naturally, being in Rwanda for almost 3 months brings with it at times its own longing for familiar places and faces. The birthday only exacerbated that longing.

That morning, I set off to the Centre for what I expected to be a usual day – conferring with Elisabeth and Jean D’Amour on things related to the boys, talking with some of the older boys about their upcoming national exams and helping them sort through some of their feelings and anxiety over reintegrating into society after the holiday season. Around lunchtime, Sean called me and asked me if I’d like to go to lunch at a local buffet we sometimes frequent in nearby Kanombe. I accepted and we set off down the long dirt road to the restaurant, completely unassuming.

We returned to the Center near 1:30pm and were informed that as the school year had ended, there was a small ceremony to celebrate in the dining hall. As Sean and I approached, I saw a large group of the boys lined up in standard fashion on their seats, all facing a row of chairs filled with the staff of the ROP. As I entered the building, Elisabeth and Louise (one of the caretakers) greeted me by dousing me in two large pitchers of water, to which the boys cheered and began to sing “Happy Birthday” – first in English, then in Kinyarwanda. They had managed to pull off the ultimate surprise party.

Celestin and Jean de Dieu, the director and supervisor at ROP, then began to speak. They spoke of how today was a special day for me, and thanked me for giving of my time and efforts to help the Center and the boys. From there, a group of 6 of the older boys, members of the ROP’s dance troupe, put on a choreographed dance for me – an impressive one at that!

I was then asked to speak – something which is not uncommon in Rwandan culture. Not being a very natural public speaker, I was immediately nervous. I tried to explain to the boys that back home a birthday is a very significant day, one which is usually spent surrounded by family and friends. I discussed how as my birthday neared, I was feeling a general sense of apathy as I was convinced the day would pass without much notice. I then explained to them that even in my short time here in Rwanda, the ROP family has indeed welcomed me into their own, and I felt loved and very grateful for their inviting spirit and generous hospitality. Indeed, in that moment, I realized how much I have grown to love the ROP family, of which I hope to be considered a part of.

I was then presented with a plate of biscuits and hard candies and invited to serve the staff of the Center. When I finished serving the staff, I was told that everything left on the plate was for me – it was my special day and I was to enjoy it. The expense of something so simple as biscuits and hard candy is something that the ROP can’t expend on everyone, and the gesture was a bit overwhelming. Candies were provided for each of the boys, as Louise and Elisabeth approached me with 3 simple candles on a plate, upon which I was to make the traditional birthday wish before blowing them out.

Read entire story at ROP Stories

If you’d like to find out more about the Rwandan Orphan’s Project, go to Rwandan Orphan’s Project.

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