A new future: Shima’s story

Shima and foster brother Amiable

Shima is a little boy whose life has been transformed by family love.

Shima was born with multiple disabilities and abandoned as a baby. He spent his first two years in the largest orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda. No one there had time to give him the care or stimulation that he needed to develop. No one played with him, sang to him, comforted him or encouraged him to learn.

Shima spent most of his time alone in his cot, unable to move or express himself. No one there believed that he had a future.

In 2013, Hope and Homes for Children began work to close the orphanage by finding families for all the children living in the institution. A remarkable couple called Munezero and Mugenzi approached us to ask if they could be considered as foster parents. They already had a large family of their own and got by on the modest income they earned from farming chickens but they specifically asked to care for a child with disabilities.

We took time to assess the family and to give them the training and support they needed to foster Shima. In December 2014 he left the orphanage to live with Munezero, Mugnezi and their children on their farm. 

Today, thanks to the devotion of his new family, Shima can sit by himself, stand with support and he has said his first word, “Mum”. He smiles and wriggles when his foster mother, Munezero, sings to him or tickles him and he reaches for the toys that his new brothers and sisters hold out to him. One of those brothers, 14-year-old Amiable, has become Shima’s special champion.

Amiable was born with cerebral palsy and faced an enormous challenge to learn how to stand, walk and speak. But his parent’s believed in his potential and fought hard to get him the specialist support he needed.

Today Amiable is a friendly teenager who speeds about on crutches and is enjoying school. He is also the family’s self-appointed expert on how best to care for Shima.

Shima and Amiable’s story shows that all children, whatever their needs, can lead fulfilling lives if they have the love and protection of a family. This matters because many of the children who remain in institutions in Rwanda live with disability. And every day that they spend in confinement, isolated, under stimulated, unloved, the more likely it is that their disability will increase. 

It’s painful to think how empty Shima’s future would have been if he’d been left to grow up in the orphanage. It’s unlikely that he would ever have learned to sit up or stand by himself. In fact, he may not have survived at all. Instead, thanks to you, he is developing and learning as every child should, supported by a loving family.

Hope and Homes for Children, working in partnership with the Government, is making enormous progress in Rwanda. We are on target to see Rwanda’s last orphanage close within a few years but this can only happen with your continued support. Please help us to ensure that we reach this goal and that all children, whatever their needs, have a future like Shima’s, with a loving family to support and protect them.