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UNICEF estimates that 860,000 children in Rwanda have lost one or both parents. Some lost their parents during the genocide of 1994 which left traditional systems of family and community care in Rwanda fragile. HIV/AIDS also increased the number of orphaned and vulnerable children and poverty continues to put an additional strain on families.
Many international organisations and donors responded to the increasing number of orphaned and vulnerable children by setting up orphanages. Today, over 3,600 children live in 33 institutions across the country, all condemned to a loveless childhood.
Since we started working in Rwanda in 2001, we have progressed from supporting the most vulnerable children directly in communities to also working with the Government to develop more effective childcare systems across the country. Today we have become Rwandan Government’s main partner in driving this change; together we are developing a national family-based care system for orphaned and vulnerable children and are aiming to close all 33 children institutions making Rwanda the first country in Africa to be free from institutions.
In 2011 we started working with the Government to close the first institution - Mpore PEFA in Kigali, a privately run orphanage for 51 children. By May 2012 the institution was closed for good and all 51 children were reunited with their families, placed in foster or adopted families or supported to start independent life. We will continue to support them and their families in numerous ways, including support through a Community Hub which will provide a range of services such as early childhood development, counselling, vocational training, business training and microcredit. We are also working on mapping all of Rwanda’s institutions so that we can develop a national plan with the Government and prioritise the next institutions for closure.
As part of closing institutions we also recruit and train local adoptive parents and foster parents to provide a loving environment for children who cannot return to their birth families. Key to our work is working with families to prevent children being abandoned in institutions in the first place. To support this we have developed seven community hubs in Rwanda which provide services for families in need. The Hubs bring communities together and encourage community members to support the most vulnerable families among them.
Our work to close the Mpore PEFA institution attracted the attention of The Spectator magazine and Deputy Editor Mary Wakefield paid a visit to our projects in Rwanda. Watch a film below to see the institution and meet some of the children and families we're helping.
What is Deinstitutionalisation? Why is it necessary? Find out more about our pioneering work to transform the lives of children.
Learn more about the issues we're tackling and see the evidence of our impact.
We stop children being separated from their families in the first place by supporting families to get back on their feet.
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