We have been in Kigali almost three months now. It had always been part of our planning that we would spend the first few months finding our feet and familiarising ourselves with the new environment. For all that we had done our reading and had a broad understanding of the problems in Rwanda before we came, we knew that there would be far more to learn once we arrived. Now, after three months we are beginning at last to feel that we understand the needs of the people we are working with.
There are two primary groups in Rwanda who still suffer the consequences of the genocide fifteen years ago. The first is the widows who have lost their husbands either in the genocide or the civil war that followed. Their needs are medical (many have contracted HIV), pastoral (many suffer the effects of trauma) but mostly they are economic. The women often have no income or the means to generate any.
The second group we have come to recognise are the orphans. We now understand why there are so many orphans who are too young to have lost their parents fifteen years ago. Many have simply been abandoned by their parents. Others are the children of traumatised widows unable to look after their family. Many have homes, there are others who do not.
We are not going to be able to solve all of Rwanda’s problems but we can make a difference where we work and can add to the overall effort. To that end, our work is crystalising into two strands:
The first is that we have decided to develop a street children’s project which will feed, educate and find foster homes for children living in the street. The details of this are still being finalised and we will be launching the project shortly.
The second strand is to work with widows’ groups who wish to start their own income generation. This is being done both directly with the widows themselves and indirectly through churches and church organisations.
Now that the mist has eventually started to clear, this week we are heading off to Burundi for a few days rest and to reflect on progress so far. We will return refreshed and with focused minds ready to take the work onward.