Rwanda: A Difference in a Decade

By Jean Marie Mugwaneza, as told to Kari Costanza
Photography by Jon Warren

World Vision RwandaAfter the 1994 genocide left Rwanda in shambles, World Vision acted fast to provide emergency aid and then transitioned into long-term development through child sponsorship. The first person hired for the Nyaruguru sponsorshipproject, a teacher named Jean Marie Mugwaneza, tells how World Vision’s work, funded by child sponsors, contributed to a decade of remarkable recovery.

“In 2000, World Vision came to Nyaruguru to conduct interviews. I was among the four people who were selected. I was very glad. I liked being with children, advising them and interacting with them.

We in Customer Relations Services were in charge of visiting children and following up with them. World Vision rented a house [for an office], but we outgrew it. The number of sponsored children was growing and growing—we needed more space for file cabinets.

World Vision Rwanda sponsorshipThe biggest problem then was that people didn’t have houses to live in. Most of the houses were destroyed by the war. There were no toilets. Many people were scattered and weren’t stable enough to cultivate food. They were hungry. People were fetching stagnant water. The taps were no longer functioning because of the war. It was survival of the fittest.

In 2000, 450 children were registered for sponsorship. The children didn’t understand sponsorship. They didn’t know where the U.S. was. Their faces and their hearts were dim and dark. Maybe they didn’t eat the night before. Others had life problems that affected their inner feelings. World Vision kept going into the community, sharing hope. The peace-building team would come and talk about healing.

The first sponsored child in Nyaruguru was Louise, an orphan, who lived with her grandfather. When sponsorship started, [the focus] was children who had lost one or both parents. There were many kids in that category. We stayed close to them and cared for them.

World Vision Rwanda sponsorshipI remember one family in particular. It was a child-headed household, four girls and two boys. They were emotionally disturbed. The house was very bad, so World Vision built a house for them and trained the older sister in sewing. Now she has a sewing machine and does some sewing in town, and she can provide for the rest. One of the children goes to a school that World Vision built.

Children used to walk very long distances to collect water. We decided to build water tanks and rehabilitate the water canals that were blocked. There are water tanks connected to the houses of sponsored children and to schools.

At first, many children couldn’t go to school because their families had been killed. When they started school, they started under trees. But when it would rain, the children would run home. It was a terrible time when there were no schools. Now World Vision has built three secondary schools and built or renovated eight primary schools.

World Vision Rwanda sponsorshipWhen World Vision first constructed a school, the community and government authorities said, ‘Wow. I think World Vision is really good.’ [Before that] people thought World Vision was just an organization, that it would just do the usual. When it started doing tangible things, people thought, World Vision is kind of different and special. The parents rejoiced because their children were no longer loitering around.

After the genocide, children didn’t know themselves. They had no confidence. Their minds and hearts were so frightened. When they went to school, they wouldn’t play together. But the government and World Vision came in with programs and built confidence and brought hope.

In agriculture, we trained families to have vegetable gardens to provide food for the children. World Vision provided cows. We would give 50 families one cow. The families would take care of it, sharing the manure to put in their gardens. We identified a good valley, a wetland, and looked for farmers to farm the wetland. It is so productive. Now it’s producing so much corn.

World Vision Rwanda sponsorshipWorld Vision’s approach is to sensitize the community that this is about them—it’s their development. They take over, and it becomes theirs. It’s a process.

There was a time when I had nothing. But World Vision has been good to me. After getting this job, I was able to marry and have a family. I used to rent, but now I am constructing a house. When this project phases out [in a few years], I am not worried. Let’s talk about everything I have learned: I can now take a picture. I could even work on a Web site.

I am strengthened when we do devotions in the morning. Your behavior changes because of those teachings. Before, I would pass a poor family, and it made no difference in my heart. It was like pouring water on a stone. Now I am moved when I see a poor family. I am filled with compassion. I know them. I know their needs. I work with them and I pray with them.”

Kari Costanza’s blog posts from Rwanda:


Telling the story

The lay of the land

Dinner at the Hotel Rwanda

One response to “Rwanda: A Difference in a Decade



    P O Box: 5738 Kigali Rwanda



    Date, September 27th, 2010



    Dear Sir/Madam

    We hereby remind you the letter of 13th sept, 2010 and request you for a partnership and aid or supports with the organization you are director.

    We are particularly interested in partnership and work closely with you for the development of Rwandese youth in general and the promotion of education among vulnerable youth in particular,

    Therefore Sir/Madam TUSOME RWANDA is a non-profit organization that started operating as an information-sharing forum in 2004 by youth from great lakes region; TUSOME is a Swahili word which means let’s study.

    Thus, our main objective is to promote Education and bring together the youth from the great lakes region to conduct studies of the development for the region and work closely with the countries by addressing young people’s concern and assisting in implementation of UN MDG’s on education for all, by promoting youth education with particular vulnerable groups such as girls’ education which are the most vulnerable social group, including orphans, street children, refugees…, within our purpose we pay school fees and other requirements of 9 students in secondary school and we tend to expand our activities increase considerably the number we have due to the high demand in case and due to the objective we have.

    Especially we request you any kind of aid for the worthy fulfilments of our action plan.

    Trusting you will consider our request, I remain dear Sir/Madam.

    Yours truly


    SEBUHORO Emmanuel Coordinator of TUSOME-RWANDA

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