Financially empowering women can keep families together: Valerie’s story
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re sharing the stories of remarkable women who are part of the global campaign to end the use of orphanages by strengthening and supporting families.
Therese is the little girl you can see here in the green skirt, with her family outside their home in Rwanda. Her mum, Valerie is a courageous woman who has overcome many obstacles to care for her children alone. We first shared their story last year, when life for Therese and her family was looking up. Support from the Community Hub we’d helped to establish near their home in Kigali, meant Valerie was able to train as a tailor and had begun to build a more secure future for her family, by making and repairing clothes.
But when Coronavirus hit, strict lockdown measures meant Valerie could no longer go to work. The Community Hub closed too so Therese and her brothers could no longer rely on the meals they used to receive there.
“I was in despair”, Valerie says. “My kids spent a night without eating and my firstborn was sick. I was without any money to bring her to hospital.”
That was when Monique, a Community Volunteer from the Hub, made contact to check on Therese and her family. When she discovered they had no money left to buy food or even clean water, she immediately alerted our team in Rwanda who co-ordinated emergency support for the family.
“Hope and Homes for Children called and asked me if I had mobile money on my phone (technology that allows people without a bank account, to receive, store and spend money via a mobile phone number)”, explains Valerie. I thought, ‘Am I dreaming?’ Because in a few hours I received a message to say they had sent me some money.” This was the lifeline Valerie needed to be able to take her oldest daughter to the hospital and buy essential supplies for her family. Since then, Monique and her colleagues have followed up with further deliveries of essential food and hygiene supplies.
“I thought, ‘Am I dreaming?’ Because in a few hours I received a message to say they had sent me some money.” This was the lifeline Valerie needed to be able to take her oldest daughter to the hospital and buy essential supplies for her family.
It is crises like these that force families to make the heartbreaking decision to relinquish their children to orphanages, seeing no other way to keep them safe and cared-for. But orphanages do not protect children, they harm them. Consigning children to large, one-size-fits-all institutions, puts them at high risk of neglect and abuse and threatens their fundamental development. To feel happy and safe, to grow and really thrive, every child needs to know that they are loved and they belong; every child needs a family.
Without the right, tailored support at the time their family needed it most, Therese and her brothers and sister were at risk of being separated from their mum and sent to an institution.
But access to daycare and nutrition support at the Community Hub, made it possible for Valerie to train and begin to earn a living as a tailor. Regular visits from our social workers gave her courage and hope she needed to keep going when life as a single mum was really tough. And During the Coronavirus crisis, emergency support from Hope and Homes for Children has helped her to keep her children safe and well under lockdown.
“You have given to me birth five times”, says Valerie, summing up the life-saving difference she believes this ongoing support has made. And today, Therese is still safely where she belongs; at home with her mum and her brothers and sister to love her.
Too often, the voices and stories of women, especially those involved in the care of children, is marginalised and hidden. Throughout March, we’ll be sharing stories that demonstrate how the empowerment of women also helps to ensure children grow up with the love of a family and the safety of home.