Rwaza Orphanage in Rwanda

2007 Rwanda Trip Update

We wanted to start by thanking all of you who helped make our trip to Rwanda a success. Whether it was purchasing a picture, making a donation, or buying school and art supplies for the kids, your contributions were very generous and we made sure that they were used effectively.

We went to Rwanda having raised $1700 and with two suitcases full of art and school supplies. Our main goal on the trip was to use the money raised to make sure that the children at the Rwaza orphanage were able to have a sustainable food supply for as long as we could afford. We also wanted to visit other organizations and orphanages to learn how the more effective ones work, what future projects we may want to get involved in, and to learn more about non-profit work in Rwanda. We came back to the US even more dedicated to trying our best to help fund specific projects at some of the organizations we visited.

At the Rwaza orphanage there are 52 kids split into two sections: one location for kids 9 and above and one for the younger ones. We went to the market and purchased roughly $650 worth of food, for all 52 kids. We purchased a long-term supply (two weeks) and a large meal that we ate that night with the kids. The long-term supply consisted of rice, cooking oil, potatoes, spaghetti, tomatoes, beans, and sweet potatoes plus we also purchased soap for clean hands. For the short-term supply, we got meat (beef), juice, vegetables, ndazi (cake), and fruits (bananas and passion fruit). We then rented a truck with the supplies and brought it up to the orphanage.

At Rwaza, we donated $300 dollars to Mama Deo, the Sister who takes care of the small orphans, and instructed her that the money was for another two week supply of food. As it turns out (we didn’t find this out until we actually got there), the older kids are being well taken care of by a German couple, so we decided to focus more of our attention on the smaller kids.

During the day, we distributed the school supplies, clothes, art supplies that we had allocated for the Rwaza orphans. They were VERY excited about the art supplies, composition notebooks, colored pencils, markers, paintbrushes, paint, pens and books – we are sure they will be used well. Most of these items are things that are quite rare and hard to find in Rwanda. After hanging out with the kids for most of the day, we then had a lamp-lit dinner with the older kids. This was definitely one of the highlights of our visit.

An important part of this trip was learning about how different programs are being run – unfortunately the news is not always positive. While we found that the children at Rwaza do receive a healthy amount of attention and monetary donations, but often that money is not used effectively. After talking to the heads of other local organizations in the area, we found that the money that is being donated directly through Mama Deo is not always reaching the kids. We spoke with a few others in the area who have offered to bring food and supplies directly to the children – including a German expatriate (who moved there to do aid work) and Father Bonaventure (who heads the local Rwaza parish). Regardless of the (mis)management of donated funds, we’re confident we’ll continue to find ways to help the kids at Rwaza.

Urukundo Kids (School & Guest House)
Rev. Arlene Brown (Mama Arlini)

We also make $300 dollar donations to three other very well run orphanages, where we left certain of the where the money was going. One was to a 77-year old woman from Pennsylvania named Arlene Brown who moved to Rwanda a few years ago to work with orphans. In the span of two years, she has made a sustainable system for her orphanage where she runs an adjoining guest-house from which all proceeds go to help run the orphanage and school. She has purchased a large plot of land on which she has a dream to open a large center for orphans to go to school, church and to have playing fields for sport and games. She was a truly inspiring woman and we’re looking forward to working with her in the future. Many of the art supplies that were donated went to her, as per her request, as she has some budding artists among the students.

Rebero Good Bread Bakery & Orphanage
Leonce & Emmanuel

We also visited the Rebero organization, which is run by two 27 year old genocide survivors who, during the genocide, each made a promise to themselves that, should they survive the atrocities, they would dedicate themselves to public service. As a part of their organization, these guys run a bakery and sell bread everyday in the neighborhood. They also employ local widows to weave baskets (which are now being sold in the states at Macy’s) all of which raises money for local orphans. While they do not run an orphanage per-se, they do take orphans and find local families that will take them in. They provide for health care, education and living costs for the kids with the money they raise from their efforts. Unfortunately, the government recently inspected their bakery and said that if they don’t have a ‘proper’ clean place to cook the bread, they will be shut down. They need about $5000 to bring the bakery up to local health code including getting a new roof and paved floor. We donated $300 toward helping them come up to code.

This project was fully funded in 2008.

PREFER Pre-School
Cathy Emerson

Finally, we met up with a woman named Cathy Emerson, a Canadian woman who moved to Rwanda a few years ago and is working at community development in the western part of Rwanda. She is currently building a school and trying to raise funds to give her kids a more permanent facility. Cathy has already started a successful program similar to the Heifer International, but where she raises goats, giving them to local families, but in turn, the first born goat goes back to Cathy so that she can give it to someone else. We made a $300 donation to help her continue building her school and take care of local children.

All in all, we learned much of what the challenges are facing these kids, how orphanages are run, what we can do to be involved more in the future. We thank you for your help and donations so that we could make these small but very meaningful donations to these causes. If any of you are interested in hearing more about any of these specific projects or how to get involved, we can point you in the right direction.

Thanks for all your kind hearts and generous donations.

Alex & London

More photos from the trip

Rwaza Orphanage

Urukundo Kids

Rebero Nice Bread Bakery & Orphanage

PREFER Pre-School


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