Newsletter from David Chaplin, CEO

Whilst the pandemic continues to throw up challenges, our team in Rwanda go from strength to strength

Summer Newsletter

Dear Friend and Supporter

This has been a good year for football. As I write England are marching to the Euro final, and dear old Norwich City have secured promotion to the Premier division. Much as I enjoy watching these two teams play, they cannot match a good junior colts B football game for sheer exuberant enthusiasm. What’s more, every now and again these children’s games throw up some perfect gems. I remember in one such match at Vinehall, the goalkeeper was having trouble getting his kicks airborne. Standing discreetly behind the goal I overheard the boy say to his full back, “You take the kick and pretend it’s Mr Chaplin’s head.”

I am bound to record that the ball went sailing down the pitch.

Lockdown continues to provide stresses and strains in the Chaplin household. “Somebody” continues to be consistently irritating to the point where he has been banished to the stables. The door has not yet been bolted, but this may only be a matter of time.

Rwanda continues to flit in and out of lockdown, but our team is proving very adaptable and most of our projects are moving ahead in a very encouraging way.

We are placing a big emphasis on rebuilding post pandemic.

Thanks to a wonderful grant from the Swiss Development Co-operation, we have given further support to twelve of our existing enterprise groups which have struggled during lockdown, and we are now supporting twelve new groups.

One of the groups we are planning to help is led by Alfred. This is his story:

My name is Alfred and I am proud and thankful for Rwanda Action support. They helped me to become a parent. I remember in 2009, when Rwanda Aid visited us. I was 22 years old and it was for 14 years that my sister Jeannette, my brother Elise and I had been orphans.

We were expecting to become street children, depending on begging, stealing or harvesting from tea plantation and we were homeless. Rwanda Action gave me a bicycle that was helping me to earn at least 200rwf a day. They fed and accommodated us until they helped me to complete my mechanics training and gave me a tools box in 2017.

I continued to get jobs on the street. I was able to make between 5,000rwf and 10,000rwf a day and it helped me to help my sister and brother complete their training and get married. I completed my own house and I am now the father of one child.

After hearing that Rwanda Action is currently visiting and supporting new enterprise groups; I dreamed of a model mechanical garage. I am training four young boys and I am recruiting more so that we will meet the requirements to apply from Rwanda Action support, get more needed materials and run it as a cooperative or company. We did not stop and we will not stop using any opportunity to improve our lives.

Another wonderful grant has enabled us to provide further support for the 30 farm enterprise groups that we have established.

We are helping these groups to replace animals that they have been forced to sell during the difficult times, and where possible we are helping the groups to buy land.

Most beneficiaries say that this support makes a big difference to their lives. They are able to eat more regularly, can afford basic health insurance and are able to equip their children for school.

Whilst continuing our work through the two districts we have decided to pilot a new project which we are calling Building Communities. This will focus on one cell at a time (a cell being a group of villages), and by providing carefully targeted family and community support, we aim to lift the whole community. One big advantage of the geographical focus is that we will be able to establish a very clear baseline so that we can measure accurately the success of our intervention.

We have chosen our first cell. It is Kinyaga in the Nkanka sector and has a population of 3557 with 63 disabled people, 113 single mothers, 21 homeless, 145 malnourished, 76 with inadequate housing,80 with no latrines, 16 orphans and 3557 people with no access to clean water. A local well/pump will be an obvious starting point.

To help finance this project we are inviting families to sponsor a family for two years @ £20 per month. If you would be interested in adopting a family, do please let David know and he will send further details. (

The Alivera Centre is running well under Felix’s leadership. We have appointed a full-time physiotherapist who is not only providing daily support for the residential children but is also reaching out into the community to train parents and teachers so that children with physical disability can be better cared for in their homes and in the community. This is complementing our sign langiage training nicely.

And the Alivera Village, designed to provide work experience for young people with disability is now at roof level and should be complete by the Autumn

Now we are putting our minds to establishing the enterprise groups that will provide the work experience.

Fidele and his helpers have already started making shoes and they are looking forward to moving into their new workshop

In addition to this we are planning to develop a small farm and kitchen garden, a café, a pharmacy and hair-dressing salon, and workshops for card-making, knitting and tailoring. We may also include a farm shop.

Then we hope that the village will attract lots of visitors who will see just what young people with disability can achieve given the right kind of support.

This is all so exciting, and we are enormously grateful to all our generous supporters who have made this project possible.

Our mission is to reduce poverty by empowering communities, and central to this must be education.

We have established school-based mentors in all 250 schools in our two districts and we are now piloting a specific training programme which we have called “The Learning Initiative.”

In the first six years of primary school there is a disappointingly high drop-out and failure rate. There are many reasons for this, but in our experience the main problem is the tendency of teachers to march mechanically through the syllabus with a great deal of chalk and talk and rote learning. Our initiative will focus on teaching at the right level, with careful formative assessment leading to carefully differentiated teaching. We are working with sixteen poorly performing schools from our two districts and the early signs are distinctly encouraging.

As with all that we do, we aim to make our pilot initiatives so successful that they are adopted and run with by the community and government.

This letter has gone on for too long and I suspect I will have lost most of you by now. Never mind! I want to end with a short testimony which illustrates perfectly the difference that your generous support is making to many young lives in Rwanda. I hope one or two of you may still be here to read it!

Chantal's Testimony

I remember when I came to the Alivera Centre in 2012. My physical disability would not allow me to walk. RA helped me a lot including medical treatment. In 2015, I was taken to hospital in Eastern province and after several operations I was able to walk. See the photo that shows the deformation of my legs before being supported by RA.

My life at home was totally different to my life in the Alivera Centre. When I was at home, I had no right to anything; even interacting with other children was not possible because of my disability. I was not happy; I felt such shame and thought that people with disability are useless things or rubbish in the world. Since I reached TAC, my life has changed. Here I found other children who have similar problems. I started making friends with other children and began to feel more normal and more confident.

I learned that disability is not inability. I started studying with courage and it led me to come on the first position in my class. I had not believed that this could be possible

I need to keep working hard in order to get better results which may lead to the achievement of my objectives of becoming a doctor. I thank a lot RA that took the initiative of helping people like me who were misunderstood and neglected.

All of us in the Rwanda Action team feel really blessed and privileged to be able to help Chantal and thousands of other disadvantaged children like her, and we are enormously grateful for the wonderful support of our Rwanda Action family.

With love

David and all the RA team

Formerly Rwanda Aid, we are a charity that is empowering communities to reduce poverty in Rwanda

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