Following the 1994 genocide, Rwanda faced formidable obstacles in trying to recover and rebuild. The violence, rape, displacement and poverty left the society shaken and also made it more vulnerable to disease, including HIV/AIDS. One NGO has developed a community-based plan to help families deal with the consequences of the pandemic, including poverty and orphans.
The FXB Foundation operates in 17 countries around the world, running programs for pediatrics AIDS and children’s rights. It’s been in Rwanda for 15 years. It cites a 2002 census that shows how wars and the pandemic have led to growing numbers of orphans in Rwanda.
For example, it says out of a population of about eight million, 170,000 children had lost their mothers, 800,000 had lost their fathers and more than 182,000 had no living parents. The loss of parents and primary breadwinners has left families and communities struggling to survive in some areas.
The founder of FXB, Albina du Boisrouvray, says it is important for people affected or infected by HIV to find ways to become self-sufficient. She says the foundation developed a program, called modules, to identify groups of vulnerable families that care for orphans. Each module cares for about 400 orphans.
"The module is 80 of these families, who are raising AIDS orphans, to whom we cater with two social workers, a driver and a car over three years," she says.
The families in each module are not chosen at random.
"The community chooses them with the former beneficiaries and they say Margaret is a hard worker and she has six orphans to raise. And her sister has died and there’s one child she could take in. So we choose her. So, we go by the choice that they make. And then we take these people and put them in this module and our people work with them and create this bond of trust, which has already been created because of the length of time that we’ve been there," she says.
Ms. du Boisrouvray says the module lasts for three years. In the beginning, basic supplies are provided and income-generating activities are developed. So if successful, the cost of a module will decrease over time, while income increases. Before the income-generating projects, many in the program lived on less than one US dollar a day.
She says, "When I go back after those three years and meet some women, I see them flourishing. They have four cows instead of one. They have a pig. They have some chickens. They have a little patch of coffee, a little patch of pineapple. And they will say proudly, I sent all my children through school. And two of them went to secondary school and one went to university. Or they will say one has a job abroad. Isn’t that poverty eradication de facto. They’ve gone from 60 cents when they were pushed under the level of poverty – with our little program back to one, two dollars after the three years and some of them to three or four dollars."
The basic cost to operate each module is about $100 per person. The social workers assigned to a module may also be nurses. They provide the psychological support families may need to deal with fear, stigma and discrimination. The program also provides medical and nutritional assistance, as well as support for primary and secondary school age children.
The head of the FXB Foundation estimates the success rate for the module program in Rwanda at 85 percent. It has a similar program in Uganda.
The goals of the program include a reduction in poverty, the return of vulnerable children and orphans to school and respect and dignity for all those taking part.