29 December 2019

Closed: first orphanage for children with disabilities in Africa

All the children who lived in this orphanage in Rwanda are now back where they belong; in safe and loving families

Wonderful news from Rwanda!

All the children who were confined to the Wikwiheba Mwana orphanage have now left to join loving families and this institution is closed for good.

Nineteen children were housed in poor conditions in the facility for children with disabilities in Gatsibo district, a remote rural area in the east of Rwanda. The youngest was only three years old.

By reuniting the children with their biological families or building new families through fostering and adoption, our skilled local team in Rwanda have made sure that all the children now have the love and individual care they need to develop and thrive.

Landmark moment for children

This is the first time that an orphanage specifically for children with disabilities has been closed in this way in Africa and represents a significant breakthrough in our work to ensure that all children can grow up in a family, never orphanages.

Hope and Homes for Children worked in close partnership with the National Commission for children, the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and district child protection professionals throughout the closure process to guarantee that the best interests of children were served at every stage.

Another fundamental part of the closure programme has been to establish the local support services that are vital to keep vulnerable families together for the long-term and make orphanages obsolete.

Cary in 2015

Reunited with the people who love her

Cary is one of the children who has been reunited with her family after spending most of her childhood in the orphanage in Gatsibo. She has cerebral palsy which makes it hard for her to control her movements and affects her speech. Cary’s family made the heart-breaking decision to place her in the orphanage when she was five because they did not have the support they needed to care for her at home.

When we first met Cary in 2015 as part of our “End the Silence” campaign, she was so desperate to leave the orphanage, she had gone on hunger strike.

“No one cares for me here” she told us. “I want to be at home and be part of a family.”

Revisit Cary’s story from 2015 here

Now Cary’s dream has come true

By making sure that both Cary and her family have the practical and emotional support they need, we have helped them to rebuild their relationship and welcome Cary home.

Our team reports that Cary’s speech has already improved dramatically, now that she has her family to talk to and encourage her.

Our skilled social workers in Rwanda will continue to follow up with Cary and the other children from the orphanage to make sure they remain safe and happy in their families for the long-term.

A brighter future for all

Seven adults, aged between 18 and 45 were also reunited with their families or supported to join specialist foster families when the orphanage closed.

Now the empty institution buildings will be converted into a Community Hub where vulnerable parents and children can access the support they need to keep their families together.

Pioneering closures funded by UK Government

The ground-breaking work to close the Wikwiheba Mwana orphanage has been funded by UK Aid from the UK Government as part of our “No Child Left Behind”, a three-year initiative in Rwanda and Uganda, in partnership with Child’s i Foundation.

Under the same programme, our team in Rwanda is currently working on the pilot closure of a second institution for children with disabilities in the capital, Kigali.

Individual closures drive wider reform

The Wikwiheba Mwana institution in Rwanda is one of three orphanages that Hope and Homes for Children has successfully helped to close around the world this year.

Ivan is now living at home with his dad

In June, our team in Romania completed the closure of a large orphanage for boys in Targu Frumos in Romania and in July, we closed an orphanage for babies in Vidin, Bulgaria.

Read more about these closures and what they mean for children on our website here: Targu Frumos closure and Vidin closure

And each and every orphanage closure we complete with your support is a major achievement to be celebrated together.

Because when we close an orphanage, by reuniting families, building new families and keeping families together, we not only transform the lives of individual children. We also provide a clear working model and a powerful catalyst for reform, nationally, regionally and globally.

In this way, together, we are bringing closer the day when Always family, never orphanages is true for every child.

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