HOW MANY CHILDREN DOES THE ROP SUPPORT?
- The ROP currently houses 72 children aged between 6 and 16 years old. For these children we provide complete care (including housing, clothing, food, education [primary, secondary, vocational] healthcare, counseling, leisure activities, and 24-hour supervision.)
- In addition to these 72 children, we also provide free education for an additional 50 boys and 70 girls from our local community. These boys and girls come from very poor and vulnerable families that cannot afford to send their childen to other schools.
- We also support around 50 former residents of the ROP Center who have been successfully reintegrated back into their families. ROP covers their tuition, school supplies, transport to and from school and medical insurance.
- We also fund tuition and school needs to more than 30 former resident children who are currently attending secondary school, university and vocational training.
WHERE DO THE ROP CHILDREN COME FROM?
Most of our children are found by our social workers, who go to the streets looking for vulnerable young people when we have space in our center. Our social workers then verify their stories with the local authorities to make sure they are genuine. If they are, and if they child wants to join us, they come and live at the ROP.
Occasionally the police or other authorities bring children to us.
WHY ARE THE CHILDREN ON THE STREET?
Most of our children ended up living on the street for one of the below reasons:
- they are a single or double orphan and no other family member would take care of them (the parents may have died of AIDS, malaria or another disease).
- their parent remarried and the new spouse refused to care for the child from the previous relationship (this is common with both mothers and fathers). The child is either kicked out of the house and goes to the street, or is treated so badly that they chose to go to the street themselves.
- their parents are themselves homeless, alcoholics or in prison (often parents witnessed the 1994 genocide and are still dealing with the effects of this now, which in turn impacts on the child because the parents may have turned to alcohol, become homeless or been imprisoned).
- the parents are simply too poor to care for their children. They cannot pay for school or sometimes even food, so the child takes to the streets to look for money
WHY DOES THE ROP ONLY SUPPORT BOYS?
This is a common question. Currently the ROP doesn’t have the space or the funds to accommodate both boys and girls. Having separate living quarters for boys and girls would require more space than the ROP has at the moment, and additional staff, which we currently don’t have the funding for.
Additionally, street boys are a far bigger problem in Rwanda than street girls. Boys are seen as more trouble and are sent to the street more freely (or treated so badly that they decide to go to the street themselves). Girls are often seen as less difficult and more useful for household work than boys, so they are more likely to be kept working within families than pushed onto the street.
We do, however, have 70 girls attending our primary school free of charge. The ROP would like to be able to help girls in future if our budget situation changes.
The ROP believes that the most important tool we can give to our children to help them escape the cycle of poverty is education. We place huge importance on education and insist that all children who stay with us attend school regularly. Our school is of a very high standard and we monitor this closely to make sure the standard continues to be high.
We also believe that to be healthy, happy rounded individuals, our children should have as much contact with family members as possible (assuming the family members are stable and responsible). Therefore our social workers work hard to build up relationships between the children and their estranged families. Where possible, and only after lengthy interviews and investigations, we can reintegrate children back with their families, but ONLY where we feel confident that both the child and family are stable and ready to be re-joined. We then continue to monitor the relationship to check that it is progressing well. This is in line with the Government of Rwanda’s guidelines.
WHERE DOES THE ROP’S MONEY COME FROM?
Nearly all of the ROP’s funding currently comes from small private donations from individuals. We do receive some grants for specific projects but our running costs come mostly from private donations.
It is very difficult to plan or to grow the organisation without savings in the bank, which is why we are focusing on income generation and self-sustainability as one of the biggest priorities for the ROP.
WHAT ARE THE ROP’S KEY SUCCESSES?
- Four ROP graduates are currently studying in university on government scholarships – a testament to the quality of education we give our children, and to their hard work.
- One ROP graduate graduated from university last year, after studying mechanical engineering for four years. He is the first ROP grad to graduate from university.
- Receiving a grant to build the five greenhouses, and thus beginning our first large-scale income generating project.
- Being one of the only children’s programs in the country with a dedicated social work team, who support the mental well-being of our kids, act as mentors and try to trace long-lost family members. Unusually for Rwanda, both of our social workers are male.
- The range of extracurricular activities is now at its highest ever level. ROP now offers art classes, a capoeira club, two choirs, a dance group, a library, a pool table, and a range of sports activities including soccer, volleyball, cricket and rugby.
DOES THE ROP HAVE A NURSE?
We cannot afford to employ a qualified nurse but we have trained up a caretaker in basic first aid. He cleans and covers wounds and gives out medicine. He also gives guidance on personal hygiene etc. For more serious cases, the children go to the local health centre or hospital. All of the children have government health insurance.
PRIORITIES FOR THE FUTURE
- Being able to offer life-skills training and vocational training to the family members of our children, so they are better equipped to care for their own children in their own homes
- Providing greater support for vulnerable girls
- Being able to offer our own university scholarship program
- Providing an improved diet for our children
- Making the ROP more financially self-sustaining
- Being able to employ a nurse and a psychologist
- Adding to our team of social workers
- Building the capacity of our staff to improve the services we provide our children
- Developing partnerships with local organizations that focus on building capacity among parents to help us succeed reuniting our children with their families