Widows and Orphans Rebuild in Rwanda
Through a Rwandan student in Canada, John Jordan, an active Victoria retiree and ICO volunteer, heard a compelling story of widows and orphans struggling in rural Rwanda. He soon packed his bags to see if there were opportunities to help create sustainable and effective projects to help some of the poorest people in Africa.
In the rural township of Kibogora, John found two bright, compassionate Rwandans capable of rebuilding the houses of the poor, including:
- Enough metal roof to protect sleeping quarters and capture clean drinking water in a 60L tank, eliminating the hauling of dirty river water.
- Fuel efficient, smoke-free stoves, which reduce epidemic respiratory disease and require 60% less wood.
- Creating raised-bed gardens, which allow families to grow vegetables year round and enables them to purchase National health insurance and purchase materials, such as blankets, cooking pots and hoes.
These investments were not only effective and sustainable, they often added increased benefit to other community members. For example, $40 buys a widow a double cage and a pair of breeding rabbits. She can raise 36 rabbits a year, giving a pair to another poor family and selling 17 at $3 each for an income of $51. The other 17 can be eaten by her family, tripling their meat intake. She will also have manure for her garden, as well as money for food, medicine and other necessities, like blankets, with the prospect of more to come.
$40 also buys an orphan a pig, which he or she can breed for 6-8 piglets per year. One piglet can be paid back to another needy child and the others are sold to pay the $200 for boarding school. The sow will continue to produce each year, allowing these orphans to graduate and triple their expected lifetime income.
In 2012, the widows program was expanded to better meet their needs. In order to procure additional food, they would often visit local farms each day asking for work. These resilient ladies are now organized into groups of twelve, with ten able bodied widows and two frail widows. They are given an acre of rented land along with seed and fertilizer to cultivate as their own. Each year they have two full harvests that the healthy workers share with the frail ladies. Not only do they have food security, they also have the companionship of working together for a better future.
They are paying back the original loan by selling enough harvest to cover the cost of rent for the next year, making the project sustainable. The start-up cost for the project is $250 per group, with three groups currently operating thanks to the Rotary Club of Royal Oak in Victoria; however, many more widows would love to have such an opportunity.