I am delighted to be back in Rwanda and am writing to you from our office after spending time with our team at each of our projects.
I am happy to report that, despite the tough funding climate we are currently in, we are still delivering our impactful projects and reaching thousands of beneficiaries. Whether it be students benefiting from better trained teachers due to our teacher training projects, children and young adults with disabilities being given the support they need to thrive at the Alivera Centre and Village, or the poorest members of rural communities being economically empowered through our community development project, we are working as hard as ever to relieve poverty by empowering the communities of Western Rwanda.
With a 70% poverty rate among farmers, it is crucial that the next generation is given a chance at alternative livelihoods. We are currently working with 5 groups of ten motivated youngsters, providing them 6-months training in a vocation (shoe making, welding, hairdressing and sewing) and helping them set up a business together as an association. As you can see by the big smiles below, the project is a huge success and all of the students have big ambitions in the future, including to help train others from their community.
I was especially encouraged by how motivated the youngsters in this project were and their determination to not only improve their own situation, but to help train others within their community once they have mastered their vocation.
We are continuing to support families with organic farming and livestock by organising community members into associations, providing them training and the necessary equipment to get started. Here we see one of five associations in Kinyaga cell we have supported in recent months, proudly showing off the new goat and kid of one of the association members in front of their new goat pen. The first kid from each doe goes to the association, strengthening the group and providing members with access to funds when they need it.
Access to capital is a huge barrier to families trying to break the cycle of poverty. By creating associations, in which this shared capital is controlled by the members of the group directly, it allows families to access the funds they need for emergencies or long term investments (like buying their own plot of land or buying a cow) without the usual high interest rates.
Our work to support teachers in Rusizi and Nyamasheke is progressing well. Having piloted a new programme, “The Learning Initiative”, in 16 schools and seeing the average grade of students improve by 34%, our team is now working hard to deliver this amazing project to 50 new schools. The initial results have been incredibly encouraging and we are looking forward to seeing the project's impact on the new teachers and students.
We are training teachers to engage their students, assess their levels and adopt a learning-centred, activity-based teacher approach. This means that, instead of mechanically working through a syllabus with a high proportion of talk and chalk, teachers are trained to assess the levels of individual achievement and construct a programme of study designed to enable them to make better progress. Below we see a newly trained teacher delivering an activity-based lesson plan to her students.
The 48 children in the Alivera Centre are making good progress. We continue to support them with sign language lessons, school help, physiotherapy when needed and outreach with their families. Once the children and schools are provided the right support, we find that they tend to do well in mainstream classes and that is certainly the case for our current cohort.
We are also very excited about the Alivera Village which officially opened last September. Here, young adults living with disability are gaining important work experience in a host of different vocations, enabling them to find employment or set up their own business and be self-reliant. So far, we have workshops in shoemaking, sewing, knitting, craft, IT and even a restaurant which not only gives work experience but also acts as a hub for the surrounding village.
We are delighted that one of our former beneficiaries, Fidele, is now operating one of the workshops in The Alivera Village, providing shoemaking work experience to his trainees. Great work Fidele!
Over the next few newsletters, we will take take a deeper dive into each project to give you more information about how they work and about our great team in Rwanda who make it all possible.
Thank you all for your continued support, you make all of this important work possible!
Robbie Macmillan - Rwanda Action CEO