It difficult to know how to begin this newsletter, with so many amazing things happening in Rwanda. I have been working on the ground with the team throughout September, the primary reason for this trip being to welcome Phoebe Kamuzima, our new Country Director. The great news is that she has seamlessly become part of the Rwanda Action family. Through her background in agriculture, Phoebe gained a wealth of experience in community level delivery and also project management and leading large teams in the NGO sector. She is a natural strategic thinker, while having her eye on the detail. It has been a pleasure to work with her in my new role as CEO and I will return to the UK confident that she will manage all our operations and importantly, support our team.
Phoebe (wearing a green dress) meeting the team at Munezero House
We have had some important developments this month in our disability and inclusion work. When we built The Alivera Village as a centre providing workshops to small businesses willing to offer training and work experience to young people living with disability, our plan was for it to become financially self-sustainable. We have moved a little closer to this goal with Jean Marie, the new manager of the café, creating a really vibrant and professional space. He has two cooks and three new trainees and what a team they are! This week we had a party to thank our team for their amazing commitment and teamwork while we recruited a new Country Director. The Alivera Café provided a great venue for 54 staff members to enjoy amazing food, music and dancing.
The fantastic Alivera Cafe crew and the beautiful food they prepared
In strategic terms, we have had very fruitful meetings with local government officials from Nyamasheke district and we are now in receipt of funding to support and expand our work in disability and inclusion. This helps enormously with running costs at the Alivera Centre, but more importantly demonstrates the government’s belief in, and commitment to our model. The money is also enabling us to expand our work beyond the Centre and take an important step towards reducing the number of children needing residential care. We will do this by improving access to education in government-run schools in each of the 15 sectors of Nyamasheke district. Our exciting plans include training one teacher from each of the sectors to gain expertise in inclusive education. They will then operate alongside our sector-based Lead Teachers to train and support teachers in their local schools. We will hold two residential training courses in December and April and by June we hope to have identified one school in each sector which might be adapted to improve access to children with disabilities. Our work with the local primary school in Ntendezi, which now offers the opportunity for all of our children at The Alivera Centre to go to school daily proves that this model can work successfully. With the right support, such as having a sign language interpreter, most of the children are able to follow the national curriculum. For those who find this too challenging, we have built the Semi Inclusive Learning Unit, which provides a more vocational curriculum. Most importantly, the children all leave our Centre daily, and are valued members of the school community.
Members of The Alivera Project Management Board
We have also made some important steps forward in our dairy goat programme. Ezechiel, the Alivera Farm Manager, has four trainees learning farming skills and he has also been training local farmers to care for dairy goats. The first 20 farmers are now bringing their local does to be mated with our dairy buck, which is the first stage towards having a good milking herd which is resilient to local conditions.
A local doe with her 50% dairy kid
I also accompanied Ezechiel on some field visits to see some of the 75 farmers he has recently trained in crop and livestock management. This is in addition to the 150 farmers he has trained in the past year. The farmers form associations with 15 members and we are able to rent some farmland for each association for three years so that they can put their skills into practise and profit from good harvests. By working in associations, farmers are able to work together on the land and help each other out, including financial support from their collective savings. We have also gifted each farmer a female goat and helped with training and materials to build goat pens. I visited the farmers in Rugabano during this training and helped distribute the building materials.
We identify the individual farmers and candidates for our enterprise training programme through working with village leaders and local government workers and by undertaking household surveys at a village level. This is managed by Isaac, The Building Communities Manager and his assistant, Odette. This baseline information is so vital to our monitoring and evaluation, enabling us to show progress towards our goals.
Ezechiel had a captive audience for the pen building session
Phoebe also met our partners, the Rural Development Inter-diocesian Service, and visited some of the five tree nurseries we are developing. These nurseries will grow and distribute over 150,000 tree seedlings this year, which help to stabilise and improve soil, prevent erosion, create shade and provide food, among other benefits. We have also started work on one of two tree nurseries which will be created this year, to help mitigate Rwanda Action’s environmental impact.
The Education team has welcomed two new members, Mitterrand and Phenias, who have both been Lead Teachers in our programme of delivering Continuous Professional Development to their peers. After spending the school holidays preparing their schedule and teaching materials, this week they have started their daily visits to schools. Through The Learning Initiative project, they will continue to support and monitor the School Based Mentors in 50 schools where we aim to improve results by 5% and reduce the number of children who drop out of education during the primary school years.
Our Admin team also has exciting news to share with the safe arrival of Francine’s baby, Alyona, and we have been joined by Honorata, who has already become indispensable.
I have had an incredibly busy trip but driven by so much positive energy and so very rewarding.
Janyis Watson, CEO
The gardens at The Alivera Village are looking splendid!