In 2019 the Rwanda Orphans Project celebrated over twenty five years of support to the orphans of Rwanda. Over 1000 have been helped, following the death of their parents, to develop through childhood and to be prepared for independence as they reach adult years. The Project has never taken over the care of the child but rather supports the extended family to care for their own children.
Started back in 1992, the Rwanda Orphans Project has helped children from over 270 families and currently supports over 250 orphans in the capital city of Rwanda, Kigali. The main problem that has led to the huge number of orphans is the AIDS epidemic that infects a sizeable proportion of the adults in the capital but back in 1994 the genocide of more than 800,000 Rwandans also resulted in many families being without one or both parents. There are therefore currently many hundreds of thousands of orphans who need support.
The Rwanda Orphans Project has helped children from over 260 families
Peter Andrews and his family have had connections with Rwanda since 1981 when Peter went out to teach Motor Vehicle Mechanics at a skills training centre in Kigali. Both he and his wife Jenny had also had a number of years experience in social work in the UK prior to this new venture. When the devastating effects of the AIDS epidemic were becoming more apparent in the early 1990s they expanded the work that they were doing with the Inkuru Nziza (Good News) Church in Rwanda to include a project for the support of the orphans. They worked alongside one of the church leaders, Elie Ugirimbabazi, and a team of other Rwandans to support orphans in the community that steered away from the use of institutional care.
With Africa known for the supportive extended family network it was felt that this was the best place for the care of children with support from the project
With Peter & Jenny Andrews both qualified in Social Work the best way to care for the children was felt to be “care in the community”. At a time when care of orphans meant orphanage it was believed that keeping the children in the community was the best practice. Experience in the UK had led to the closure of many institutions with an emphasis more on foster care and supporting the family to care for their own children. With Africa known for the supportive extended family network it was felt that this was the best place for the care of children with support from the project.
The cause of death for many of the parents of the children in the project was AIDS. This led us to admit into the care of the project many children who still had one parent surviving. It was felt that as the HIV virus was a sexually transmitted disease that if one partner had died then the chances of the other being HIV +ve was very high.
Elie Ugirimbabazi was one of the church leaders at the Inkuru Nziza (Good News) church in Kigali. He lived locally and had recently lost one of his children to AIDS. He gave up his work to become the Director of the Project. Venancia, a widow looking after her nephew and nieces, joined the team to help with visiting the families in the communities around the church. In 1994 the genocide in Rwanda created hundreds of thousands of orphans and in Kigali the project helped with the support of many of these children.
Following the influx of children after the genocide other social workers were added to supervise their areas. Venancia was in Muhima, Jeanne looked after Cyahafi and Francoise supervised Kimisagara. Suzanne initially looked after Gatsata before taking on a more administrative role and then Denise supervised the area of Gikondo. Finally Elijah was able to help with the administration of the project with his English language skills.
Currently Suzanne directs the project, carrying out the administration and the area social workers are Jeanne, Francoise and Petronille – Gikondo. These are assisted by Chrissie Mulindabigwi and Pete Andrews.
Each social worker has around 50 families within their area
Each social worker is the representative of those families at the monthly staff meeting. They are also responsible to inform the families of any messages from the office.