28 January 2016

Last child leaves Rwandan orphanage


Wonderful news – the “Home of Hope” orphanage in Kigali is now closed.

The last young adult, an 18 year old boy named Nshuti, left the institution last week and is now living with his Godparents. When we began our work with “Home of Hope”, the institution housed 59 children under the age of 17. More than half of those children were under the age of three.

The closure of this particular institution is a landmark event for us for two reasons. Firstly, this was the very first orphanage that we targeted when “Hope and Homes for Children” formally began work to close institutions in Rwanda in 2010. It took our team another three years to gain permission to actively begin the closure process and the successful completion of that process is a testament to their courage and resilience.

The second reason that this closure is so important for us is that “Home of Hope” was an institution that housed a high number of children with special needs. All of those children have now been found loving families who can give them the individual care that they need. Many people doubted whether our model for closing orphanages and finding alternative, family-based care for children could work for children with special needs, in a developing country like Rwanda. The closure of “Home of Hope” proves that it can.

Our team in Rwanda has spent the last two years working in close partnership with a range of government and non-governmental organisations, to find alternative care for all the children who used to live in “Home of Hope”.

Our partners in the closure programme included the National Commission for Children and local government agencies as well as USAID/DCOF, UNICEF, Global Communities, the Kigali Roman Catholic Archdiocese and the Missionaries of Charity.

Now, we are delighted to be able to report that all of the children who were living in “Home of Hope” have been found new homes with loving families who can give them the individual care and attention that all children need: children like Steve.

Steve (pictured above) was born with special needs and abandoned as a baby. He spent the first six years of his life, struggling to survive at the “Home of Hope” orphanage where no one believed he had a future. When our team first met Steve he couldn’t walk, speak or feed himself.

Our specialist staff in Rwanda did their best to trace his birth family but when they could not be found, we sought expert advice from our local partners and managed to find a new family for Steve.

At the beginning of May 2015, a month after his seventh birthday, he was placed with a specialist foster family and the transformation in his life has been incredible.

Steve’s new parents, Sandra and Justin, with the support of local physiotherapists, are teaching him to walk. They have even built a set of parallel bars from bamboo for him to practise – which he does every day.

Steve now eats solid food, just like his new brothers and sister, and has learnt to communicate through signs and simple pointing. It turns out that Steve understood nearly everything people were saying to him all along; he was just trapped because no-one had taught him how to respond. Most of all he loves music; whenever he hears it he smiles and dances. His siblings sing and dance with him.

For the first time in his life, Steve is loved and happy.

Rwanda is at the forefront of reforming child protection in Africa. The Rwandan Government is committed to ensuring that all children now living in institutions gain the right to live in a loving, safe and supportive family environment. Hope and Homes for Children is currently working alongside the Rwandan authorities to close six more institutions and find families for the children who live in them, with plans to begin the closure of a further two institutions in 2016.