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Rwanda Rising

An Initiative Lifting Widows and Orphans above Subsistence

Grassroots development depends heavily on the quality of the ground in which it plants its seeds.  Leaders as well as beneficiaries, must have the vision to value seeds, to nurture seedlings and to develop forests that will last generations. Rwanda has such vision, born from 20 years of rebuilding itself from complete devastation and healing itself from immeasurable grief after its horrific genocide.  They focused resources on justice, security, healthcare and education until these were systematically established throughout the country. In more recent years they build economic development and determinedly push it down to the poor.  Developers with seeds are more welcome there than those with products.

ICO’s Rwanda initiative began in 2009 with an objective of lifting widows raising children above subsistence living.  We designed a system of rehabilitating their dilapidated houses so as to protect them from prevalent sickness and reduce their hard labor. Recognizing the empowerment that comes to a whole family through education of even one, we soon began to sponsor and mentor orphan kids to attend secondary boarding school.  Sustained empowerment, however, requires that the improved health and education they achieve can be productive and this asks for technology transfer and skills training.  Incorporated into each of our projects is the evolution of its business potential for our beneficiaries.  Below we describe several of the initiative’s projects.

The prevalent sicknesses sapping the energy out of Rwanda’s poor are respiratory infection, water borne parasites, poor nutrition and malaria.  Add to that a lack of preventive or early medical care and they live in an ever recurring cycle of inching upward only to become sick, miss earning opportunity or school and fall back to bare survival.  Our goal was to preserve and build health through an improved home.

Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa and land is worked continuously.  Organic fertilizer is scarce and chemical fertilizer too costly.  The harvests of the poor grow smaller and smaller.  In 2013 we built 6 prototype composting toilets and in 2014 six more with further improvements.  When economical and practical enough, they become an option to replace the unsanitary and dangerous latrines common behind each house.   In addition they provide easily retrieved waste that has been separated by a divided floor pan.  Urine, which is sterile when it leaves the body and contain

Smoke from open fires continues to be a major health concern for people in Rwanda, both from burns and the inhaled smoke. Women will often spend hours retrieving firewood to run these ineffective fires.

Through a Rwandan student in Canada, John Jordan, an active Victoria retiree, 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:

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