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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 for generations. Rwanda has such vision. A country born from 20 years of rebuilding itself from complete devastation and healing itself from immeasurable grief after its horrific genocide, Rwanda focused resources on justice, security, healthcare and education until these were systematically established throughout the country. In more recent years, they have built economic development and determinedly shared it with the poor.  Developers with seeds are more welcome there than those with products.

ICO’s Rwanda initiative began in 2009 with an objective of raising widows and 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 the 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 have become increasingly smaller.  In 2013, we built 6 prototype composting toilets and, in 2014, six more with further improvements.  When economical and practical enough, these toilets have the potential to replace the unsanitary and dangerous latrines common behind each house.   In addition, compost toilets provide easily retrievable waste that has been separated by a divided floor pan.  Urine, which is st

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 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:

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