With practicing the saying “no orphans in our community” and neighbors taking in other people children’s if needed, simply as part of the culture, Rwandan orphanages were virtually unheard of before the Rwandan Genocide. As a result of the 1994 travesty, when at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died over a 100-day period, many privately run children’s homes were proliferated. This immense change can be illustrated through the comparison of the only four in the country before and the 30 orphanages in the small East African country today. As Claudine Nyinawagaga, the Rwanda country director for Hope and Homes for Children, a non-government organization, “After the genocide there were many orphans and children separated from their parents. The government had to deal with many issues - almost everyone in the country was either a victim of, or participated in the genocide - [the government] had to rebuild the country, so children were a low priority.”
However, the Rwandan government has stated that they want to see all orphanages closed by 2020, an initiative that Hope for Homes supports. One may think that these orphanages were healthy scapegoats, which during the Genocide may have been true, but these orphanages are not like the ones in Westernized societies. Near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Noel Orphanage still stands, until recently housing about 100 children and disabled adults. Toddlers sleep in rows of storage bins as one blind infant rocks herself repeatedly, in order to simulate the affection of a parent. In the rooms, the floor is made of concrete, consisting of no toys and the smell of a farmhouse. Outside resembles a stable, with mud strewn everywhere, leaving the inhabitants to stay in the same room constantly. The manager of Noel refused to talk, but a worker who did not want to be identified said: "Some here are just waiting to die. In fact some would be better off dead". Whether it be because children are now left in orphanages because their parents say they cannot afford them or because they are disabled and too expensive, the main problem is rooted in poverty. Rwanda may have one of Africa's fastest-growing economies, but almost half the population, especially those in rural areas, live below the poverty line. In addition, to add to this dilemma, according to Ms Nyinawagaga, for every $100 donated to organizations running orphanages, only about $40 goes towards caring for the child.
In conclusion, the hope is that the Noel Orphanage will be closed by April, with children placed with either their birth families or alternative family-based. In place of the orphanages, the Rwanda government has set up building community hubs to support parents going to work. Over the last four years, eight have been established around the country built by NGOs; and as the article states, “If Rwanda is successful in closing all its orphanages by 2020, it will become the first African country to do so, something Ms Nyinawagaga hopes will help move the country "from the negative of the genocide to a positive future".”
I think the concept of this article is really important to consider, especially in comparison to my other blogs. This article accentuates the effect a genocide not only can have on a country and its economy, but its children and families. With understanding the unscrupulous conditions of the current orphanage systems in Rwanda, I strongly agree and support the initiative to deplete them by 2020 and strongly empathize for the ones who are most directly affected.
March 15, 2015