After a plane carrying Rwanda’s president Habyarimana crashed on April 6, 1994, a terrible slaughtering targeted at Tutsis and moderate Hutus set in. In no more than 90 days nearly 1 million people were killed, violently and cruelly. A tide of refugees fled to neighbouring countries, above all to the DRC – then Zaire – and settled around Goma, creating a huge humanitarian crisis. In 1996/97 refugees returned home in massive numbers – you may remember the pictures of the roads packed with people carrying what they had left on their heads.
Still today around 80,000 Rwandans are imprisoned for participation in the Genocide, around 30% of all households are headed by women, mainly widows. 60% of the population live below the poverty threshold Children are very much affected. According to an UNICEF survey 99.9% of all children witnessed violence and around 70% witnessed somebody killed or injured. Only a small part of all orphans could be placed in foster families or villages for orphans. A great many still live with their brothers and sisters without adult care or in the streets. As most of the countries in Central Africa also Rwanda is heavily affected by HIV/Aids. Approximately 13% of all Rwandans between the age of 15 and 49 are HIV infected.
Rwanda’s 1994 genocide had a profound impact on the entire society, creating a number of social problems that continue to impact the lives of people in the country today. The genocide particularly targeted men, leaving behind a large number of widows to care for children on their own, as well as many orphan-headed households led by children as young as 10. These orphans and other vulnerable children are often forced to beg for money just to be able to eat, and as they get older, the girls may resort to prostitution to meet the family’s needs. These children have no chance of going to school, trapping them in a cycle of poverty that will last throughout their lifetimes.
Rebero Orphans Center was founded in 2003 to fight these social problems by providing assistance to orphans of the 1994 genocide and other vulnerable children in the country. The founders, themselves orphaned by the genocide and now in their late 20’s, were moved by the problems facing younger children, and decided to do what they could to provide assistance. In addition to children who were orphaned as a result of the genocide, beneficiaries also include orphans whose parents died of HIV/AIDS, children heading families whose parents are in prison for participating in the genocide, and other categories of vulnerable children.
While ROC’s principal aim centers on assisting the groups of children mentioned above, we have also recognized that many children are vulnerable because their mothers- who are their single caretakers- are unable to care for them. Many of these women were raped during the genocide and contracted HIV/AIDS as a result. It is our goal to begin offering more support to the community in which the children live.
In 2007 Rebero transitioned to Children’s Support Center (CSC) and are now supporting 50 children along with many female genocide survivors. 2010 marks a new partnership with PAMASOR which is an orphanage in Kigali. They support over 100 children who all live on the premises.
Also in 2010, we rolled out our “healthy child” initiative where we provided medical physicals, eye and hearing tests to better support the children of CSC and PAMASOR. We believe that if we can help to keep our kids healthy, they will be able to stay in school and complete their studies. With an education earned, it will increase their opportunities for employment as adults thus being able to support themselves and their future families.