HOW MANY CHILDREN DOES THE ROP SUPPORT?
- ROP currently houses 90 boys at our Imizi Children’s Center and 20 girls at our Imizi Girls Home. These 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 resident children, we also provide free education for an additional 70 boys and 60 girls from our local community. These boys and girls come from very poor and vulnerable families that cannot afford to send their children to public schools.
- We also support around 50 former residents of Imizi who have been successfully reintegrated back into their families. ROP covers their tuition, school supplies, transport to and from school and medical insurance. This is to ensure that they complete their education so they can find jobs to take care of themselves and help their families.
HOW DO CHILDREN JOIN THE IMIZI CHILDREN’S CENTER?
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 join our Imizi Children’s Center.
In other cases our social workers visit local youth detention centers to find children to help. These children are guilty of no crime other than living on the street, which is not allowed in Rwanda, regardless one’s situation. Street children are gathered up by police in large sweeps and taken to detention centers until a relative claims them, but most of these children’s relatives have no idea that their children have been detained, so they may spend weeks or even months in these centers until one of our social workers picks them up and helps them reconnect with their families.
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 in Rwanda). 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, in prison, or in other challenging circumstances. Often parents affected by the 1994 genocide are still coping with psychological, physical, or economic challenges, which in turn impacts on the child because the parents may have turned to substance abuse, become homeless, or is violent or neglectful towards his/her children
- 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 attempt to survive on their own
DOES THE ROP ONLY SUPPORT BOYS?
No. In the beginning ROP was only able to support former street boys due to limited resources, but that all changed in 2016 when we began our Imizi Girls Home program with help from the Segal Family Foundation.
Additionally we provide completely free primary education to over 60 girls from our community’s poorest families at our Imizi Primary School, and support secondary and vocational education by providing scholarships to teenage girls whose families are unable to fund their continued education. Altogether ROP is supporting housing and education to more than 80 girls each year.
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?
Our funding comes from a mix of private donations, grants from family foundations, and fundraising events in the US, UK and France. ROP has long relied on the generosity of individuals and small groups to sustain our current programs and improve the services and care we are able to offer our children. Partnerships with small family foundations have allowed us to implement new programs and increase our capacity in recent years, including the addition of our girls’ program and our school lunch program.