Streets Ahead Children’s Centre Association (SACCA) – Eastern Province, Rwanda (Project No. 2)
In 1994, in just under 100 days, nearly 1 million people were brutally murdered, often by family, friends and neighbours. Many years on and the sad legacy of the genocide remains.
· 64%!o(MISSING)f the population live on less than 1$ a day
· 3.8%!o(MISSING)f Rwandans have a secondary school education
· 48%!h(MISSING)ave access to clean drinking water
· 2%!o(MISSING)f the population have access to electricity
There are three SACCA residential centres in the eastern province of Kibungo supporting over 200 vulnerable and disadvantaged children. Children of all ages. Each centre prides itself on its high staff to child ratio – each centre has an experienced manager, assistant manager, at least one teacher, an anamateur (supervisor) and guard and is visited on an almost daily basis by one of their three social workers. As with the staff at Nsinda Vocational School, this is a team of talented and selfless individuals producing unbeleivable results under the most difficult of circumstances with little or no resources.
Involvement in SACCA’s programme gives every child the opportunity to make something of his or her life. They are offered the basics of food, education and a roof over their head. Offered the chance to be a part of a loving community or family, he is given trust and compasion, elements that were certainly lacking in their lives on the street.
Each centre is has a unique personality, but over the three the basic structure remains the same: the children work and study in return for their three daily meals. Each child, in addition, is expected to help keep the centre clean and tidy, as one would one’s own home.
No child is made to do anything for which he does not feel ready. If a child does not wish to sleep at the centre but does wish to participate in the study for food programme, he is still accepted as part of the programme. SACCA appreciates that forcing children does not achieve the best results.
SACCA’s education programme is at the core of our ethos. Offering these children an education is one way in which we hope to be able to give these children a chance in life. Through learning the children are not only given a chance to learn a skill, they are also taking a step to reintegration and reconciliation. By donning a uniform
Some of the Rwamagana Boys
See, my jokes are funny!and running to school every morning with their peers our children are able to see that they too can be a part of society and that they too can lean normal lives.
Nobody in Rwanda receives anything for free and the SACCA childern are no exception. In order to eat the children must help in the centres. Porridge is given in the morning in return for cleaning, lunch is earned by studying, and supper by work, either in the fields or at the centre.
A typical day’s menu is: Breakfast: sorghum porridge. Lunch: Potatoes and or plantain bananas in a groundnut sauce. Supper: Maize bread in a bean sauce. The diet may not be particularly varied, but it is nutritional and balanced. The children also supplement it with their own acquired fruits, maize and sweets. It costs around 200RWF (approximately 20p or 50cents) to feed a child every day.
Health care is an implicit part of the programme. The children with whom we work have suffered from a plethora of illnesses, both natural and inflicted (Mukunzi’s story). Even simple things like taking a child to the dentist to look at an inflamed tooth,
or providing enough love to dress a wounded elbow make all the difference to the lives of the children.
Malaria is a serious problem in Rwanda and we do spend much of our time administering malarial drugs. Since all the children are off the streets, the number of malaria cases has drastically reduced and the recovery time has become much shorter.
Since the beginning of 2005, even with severely limited funds, SACCA has strived to give every child a place to stay in one of the three centres. In Kayonza, for example, the children sleep four to a small room and are free to do as they please with their own private space – what there is of it. Each child also has a personal locker, in which they can keep the articles they do not wish to leave in their rooms. As do children everywhere, our children have quickly made their rooms their own with what little they have. Sticking up old newspaper pictures of footballers, musicians or their own artwork. This greatly contributes to their feeling of security and stability. Sadly Ive still yet to see one of a West Ham player, past or present. One problem that’ll be quick and easy to fix.
Most of the children have lost one or both parents either during or after the Genocide, usually due to illnesses such as Malaria and Cholera (rife in the refugee camps), plain separation and abandonment, and increasingly, HIV. These children have lived with other members of the family, but as pressure for land increases, due to the population growing and people returning from exile, family have taken their land, kept them out of school to work, and treated them as slaves. Unable to survive by carrying loads or doing other manual work, most street girls are forced to turn to prostitution. They are vulnerable to rape and HIV, and the community shuns them. Their problems are complex, accentuated by babies, illness, and their hidden position in society. SACCA centres currently support 13 young mothers with 17 small children or babies. (Yvonne and Farida’s stories)
Some children have an abusive and often drunken father or stepfather who has driven them onto the street. For others, the upheaval and separation from their family when they were young have made the routine of home unbearable. (Osiel’s story). Most children in Rwanda have a family background of upheaval and extreme violence. Separation, murder and abuse are commonplace as individuals struggle to survive. (Daniel’s story)
Many years after the Genocide it is poverty that is bringing the latest arrivals onto the street. Life at home is a monotonous drudge of digging, fetching heavy containers of water and wood long distances. The old bonds that tied families and communities together have frequently broken down, causing thousands of children to come onto the street. As a new generation of children grow up without much of the care they need, starts to produce its own offspring, as HIV takes an increasing toll, as more children find it harder to endure the poverty at home, the problem is pressing and a workable solution needed. This is where SACCA hopes to make a difference in Rwanda, creating a blueprint for the creation of new centres and child support networks across the country.
Survival, Development and Sustainability
The centre’s survive on the belief that they’re doing a good job and that they are changing the lives of children – trust me they are. When the money looks as though it’s running out, which seems to be commonplace, they carry on: because they can’t abandon the children for a second time.
Whilst generous donations and child sponsorship are critical to centre’s interim survival, if SACCA is to develop to become a national institution, able to support 100’s maybe 1000’s of vulnerable children, it needs to develop alternative self-sustaining solutions for it’s funding.
One idea currently in motion is that of a Bakery. SACCA’s very first small business, ‘The Streets Ahead Children’s Bakery’. An opportunity to not only provide the centre with food, invaluable income and an excellent educational tool, but give something hugely positive back to the local community. A local community in desperate need of some good news.
So, if you know anything about starting and running a bakery, please let me know. But seriously, how hard can it be!?