Not Business as Usual: Nurturing Country Ownership in Rwanda

By Andrew Wainer, Director, Policy Research. Department of Public Policy and Advocacy.

Akazi Kanoze is a USAID-supported project that includes strong partnerships with the Rwandan private sector to develop marketable skills for youth including welding.
Akazi Kanoze is a USAID-supported project that includes strong partnerships with the Rwandan private sector to develop marketable skills for youth including welding.

As the Trump Administration turns its attention to international development policy, it should endorse and deepen bipartisan principles – such as country ownership – that promote stability in developing nations and security for the United States.

As illustrated in the recently published report The Power of Ownership, USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) operate a variety of projects that exemplify country ownership principles and practices. The report, by Save the Children and Oxfam America, showcases examples in Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, and Rwanda where ownership promotes stability and self-sufficiency.

Over the long term, ownership establishes the foundation for new types of relationships with the United States. Eleven of the U.S.’s closest trading partners are past recipients of U.S. international assistance, and the developing world is one of the largest markets for U.S. exports.  Rwanda’s transition over the past 30 years illustrates the importance of country ownership in development.

The Rwandan Genocide

In 1994, the Rwandan Genocide lasted 100 days without international intervention before it was halted by the Rwandans themselves, when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) entered the country from neighboring Uganda.

By the time the genocide ended, an estimated 800,000 to 1 million people were dead. In the wake of the genocide, some estimated that Rwanda was the poorest country in the world. Findings from a 1995 survey of Rwandan children found that during the genocide 90 percent had witnessed killings, 35 percent lost an immediate family member, and 15 percent hid under a corpse.

Today it is a nation transformed. The World Bank rates Rwanda as the third best business climate in Africa and notes its “remarkable development success over the last decade which includes high growth, rapid poverty reduction and, since 2005, reduced inequality.”

Rwanda’s journey from the 1990s genocide to stability and economic growth owes much to the nation’s partnership with international donors. As the Power of Ownership report demonstrates, the Rwandan private sector plays a strong role in the country-led, inclusive growth the country has enjoyed in the decades following the genocide.

Akazi Kanoze

Akazi Kanoze – which means “a job well done” in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s native language – was designed to contribute to the national goal of generating 200,000 off-farm jobs annually for the country’s burgeoning population of unemployed youth. Since its inception in 2009, it has provided vocational skills and work readiness training to tens of thousands of Rwandan youth.

While it was launched in urban areas, it has expanded into the Rwandan countryside, and is now integrated into the government technical and vocational education and training (TVET) even reaching refugee communities on Rwanda’s western border.

Akazi Kanoze, started as a partnership between the U.S.-based NGO Educational Development Center (EDC), and key Rwandan employers in the construction, welding, hospitality, and childcare sectors, among others.   Working with civil society and business leaders, EDC helped strengthen and expand Rwanda’s TVET infrastructure and curriculum to better equip Rwandan youth to enter the workforce.  The project identified youth capacity gaps and labor market needs that were then addressed by Akazi Kanoze job skills training modules. The project design included a Rwandan business advisory council to ensure strong lines of communication with the local private sector and insight into the country’s labor market needs.

Today, the project continues in another form.  USAID and EDC worked with local staff to create an independent Rwandan nonprofit – Akazi Kanoze Access – to carry the project forward, diversifying funding beyond USAID.  With the financial support of a private foundation, Rwandans are now taking full leadership over the project.

Inspired by USAID’s Local Solutions initiative, Akazi Kanoze demonstrates one way that country ownership principles can be translated into action, helping to ensure that foreign assistance builds self-sufficiency rather than dependency.  Click here to learn more about Akazi Kanoze and watch a short video featuring the project.

Now Christine Can Go to School

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Madrine Amuge

School Health and Nutrition Senior Officer

Save the Children Uganda

October 21, 2016

Christine, a nine-year-old girl and second born in a family of five children, lives with her parents and is enrolled in the Save the Children Sponsorship program in Uganda.

In the past, Christine was often sent away from school, not able to attend without the basic requirements like paper and books. When she was permitted to stay in class, she was not able to take any notes because she had no notebook to write in, preventing her ability to learn.

senior-officer-madrine-helps-christine-compose-a-letter
Senior Officer Madrine helps Christine compose a letter.

“Before I joined Sponsorship, I would feel sad going to school without exercise books, pencils or anything to color with. I would often be sent home from school because I didn’t have a book for a particular subject,” remembered Christine quietly.

As a result of Sponsorship funds, the community has been provided with enough scholastic materials to ensure all children are able to go to school and learn. Today many more children, including Christine, enjoy being in school thanks to this funding.

Christine was very excited to receive a pack of books, lead pencils and colored pencils from Save the Children, which has enabled her to develop a love of learning. In addition to the scholastic items, Christine receives frequent correspondences from her sponsor that she happily replies to. We’ve found that letter writing increases children’s interest in reading and writing and their engagement in their studies. This is certainly true for Christine, whose reading and writing skills have greatly improved – she proudly boasts her handwriting is the best in her class.

Christine proudly holds the letter she’s finished for her sponsor.

Also through Sponsorship program interventions, Christine has learned how to stay clean and healthy while at school, by keeping her fingernails short and by washing her hands with soap before eating food and after visiting the latrine.

Christine is very optimistic that she will finish school and achieve her dream of becoming a nurse one day. She is very grateful for her sponsor’s support and encouragement. Her sponsor’s words help motivate her to continue being dedicated to her studies.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

A Teacher’s Process

Author Portrait_2_Mirvat Mahran, Early Childhood Care and Development Teacher
Mirvat Mahran

Early Childhood Care and Development Teacher

Save the Children Egypt

September 1, 2016

 

I’m Mirvat Mahran, a teacher at one the preschools supported by Sponsorship, in a village called Arab AlQadadeh in Egypt.

My preschool takes part in Sponsorship’s Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program, which targets children under the age of 6. This program focuses on the development of young children to ensure they enter primary school with the skills they need for school success. Through activities like interactive games, songs, storytelling, social interaction and outdoor play, we help make sure children grow and thrive. In remote areas, where this important stage of life is often neglected, the ECCD program helps get children excited about education and thus increases enrollments in primary school.

On a regular work day, I perform activities with children to help build their social skills and teach them the basics they need to be ready for school. We welcome everybody, and in particular give special care to children with disabilities.

One of the children who joined us a while ago is Rania, a 5-year-old and very sweet little girl. Her mother tells us that before enrolling in ECCD, Rania always refused to talk or express herself. She wasn’t able to count to ten, didn’t know names of familiar animals, wasn’t able to identify names of many common objects to her surroundings and wasn’t able to put sentences together correctly. Her mother came to realize that she was significantly behind in language development.

Rania and the other kids clap along to a group activity led by their teacher, Mirvat
Rania and the other kids clap along to a group activity led by their teacher, Mirvat.

As a mother, she was willing to do whatever it took to help her daughter. She thought that a preschool might be the answer, and so decided to enroll Rania in a Save the Children supported preschool. As Rania’s new teacher, she explained to me her child’s issues and that she believed Rania had lost her self-confidence due to the laughter and criticism she endured from her peers. My biggest challenge with Rania was that I needed to avoid the same thing happening twice, so I had to welcome her very carefully, building her capacity using ECCD’s multi-activities package which is designed to promote the cognitive, physical, language and psycho-social skills of children her age.

I talked to her about the activities that the children here do to figure out what she loves best. She asked to play in the art corner and after she’d finished her drawing I asked her to describe it. I encouraged her to talk by giving her the impression that I understood her comprehensively. Gradually, I started to correct her and teach her the proper pronunciation of letters. In this way, her language skills developed as did her comfort in the classroom.

She began participating in our classroom’s reading corner, where she enjoyed reading and acting stories out in front of the other children. With her self-confidence rebuilt, she started to take part in the collective games, like playing with, and sharing, blocks and preforming plays with the other children.

Rania presents in front of her classmates
Rania presents in front of her classmates.

Now, Rania is able to clearly communicate and understand the others. I feel so happy for having a positive impact on her life. I felt responsible for her since the moment her mother came to me asking for help. I doubted myself at times, but the trainings I had received with Save the Children built a solid foundation that I relied on, and continue to rely on. Many of the mothers in our village turn to me whenever they face problems with their children. Now, I’m proud to say that Rania is looking forward to moving onto primary school next year!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Bourama at work in the clinic

Bourama Rises to the Occasion

Bourama at work in the clinic
Bourama at work in the clinic

Located in north-western Africa, Mali is a land-locked country where families and their children often suffer in the face of inadequate social services. In particular, children often experience difficulty accessing basic healthcare and quality education. Sponsorship has been operating in Mali for almost three decades helping to lift children out of extreme poverty. Bourama was one such child, born in the Ivory Coast 22 years ago. In 2000, he and his family moved to Mali.

 

Living as a young boy in Mali, Bourama faced many of these same challenges before entering the Sponsorship program. Given his family’s limited resources, he had been unable to purchase school supplies which caused him to regularly miss class. “I wasn’t interested in education. But that changed thanks to Sponsorship,” he shared. Without Sponsorship, it’s unlikely that Bourama would be where he is today – providing life-changing medical care to his local community.

The picture of his sponsor, kept close all these years
The picture of his sponsor, kept close all these years

Bourama was sponsored through Save the Children from 2001 to 2008. He remembers his sponsor’s name, the correspondence they sent back and forth, and the good advice she gave him. He still has a picture of her which he proudly shows visitors.

Picture of Bourama in 2006
Picture of Bourama in 2006

During that time he also benefited from extensive sponsorship-funded activities, such as access to clean drinking water and essential deworming and vitamin A supplements. This crucial support enabled Bourama to stay in good health and to complete his education, which then opened the door to new and exciting possibilities.

22-year-old Bourama today

 

For the past three years, Bourama has worked as a nurse’s aide in a private health clinic where he manages the treatment room. He loves his job and says it allows him to stay in contact with people and help them to relieve their suffering. He also aims to pursue higher education in hopes of moving on to a more specialized role within the medical business.

 

 

Still, Bourama always looks back in appreciation of his Sponsorship experience. As Bourama revealed, “I am what and who I am today in large measure because of Sponsorship programs.”

 

Sometimes, support from a caring sponsor can make all the difference in the world – something to keep in mind in your next letter!

 

To sponsor a child like Bourama, please visit our child sponsorship site

A Letter to Show Her Friends

Child Portrait_Hajara

Save the Children in Uganda

May 30, 2016

In this age of technology, one would think that paper letters are irrelevant and therefore have no effect on anyone’s life. However, watching the smile spread across the face of young Hajara, a sponsored child in Uganda, tells a different story.

When Hajara received her first letter from her sponsor, she was overjoyed at the thought of receiving something from someone a great distance away and whom she had not seen face-to-face before. The letter was delivered to her by Eva, a Community Sponsorship Officer with Save the Children in Uganda, who also supported Hajara in reading and understanding the contents of the letter. We’re not sure if our sponsors can imagine the immense satisfaction that letters provide to children. Perhaps equally important, sponsors’ letters help children develop a love of reading and writing, while also learning about new words and places.

Community Sponsorship Officer Eva helping Hajara read her first sponsor letter
Community Sponsorship Officer Eva helping Hajara read her first sponsor letter

When asked how she felt about receiving a letter from her sponsor, Hajara said, “I feel very happy.” That statement may sound simple to many people, but because these children have a limited vocabulary, the word “happy” for Hajara encompasses feeling loved and special, too. Her sponsor referred to her as “another pretty niece,” which Hajara tells us made her feel really special. Attached to the letter was also a drawing of a homestead, showing three family members doing house chores. Hajara noted aloud that chores at home are a part of life not only in Uganda, but are responsibilities elsewhere, too.

After they finished reading her sponsor’s letter together, Eva helped Hajara to write a reply. Most of the children in our sponsorship communities know what they want to tell their sponsors, but may need help in getting the exact words right for expressing their ideas. Thus through letter writing, children have an opportunity to practice their reading and writing skills, which results in better school performance.

Hajara proudly holding her first letter from her sponsor
Hajara proudly holding her first letter from her sponsor

Hajara proudly mentioned that she plans to show and tell all her friends about her letter. She will then give the letter to her mother to keep safe for her, and will occasionally ask to reread it. She shares that she feels more encouraged and motivated to study hard in school knowing that someone out there cares about her future.

“When a child receives a letter from their sponsor, I am excited for them. They are always eager to receive letters and always ask if they’ve received any whenever they see me. When sponsors send drawings like the one Hajara received, the children can learn,” says Eva happily.

In a community faced with numerous issues and challenges, a letter gives hope, builds children’s self-esteem and encourages them to stay in school. Just this special piece of paper, which travelled from a faraway land from the hands of someone thinking of them, gives children something to keep as their very own, sometimes for the first time in their lives.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Ebola: Fighting While Surviving

GregDuly

Greg Duly

Country Director

Liberia

March 2, 2015

 

SavetheChildren_Ebola_Liberia_Blog_March_2015As I reflect on the three weeks of my assignment thus far in Liberia I continue to be impressed by the dedication and sacrifices made by the Liberian national staff. We’ve had tremendous support from expats who’ve come from all parts of the world but our team is nearly 90% Liberians. Demonstrative of the incredible sacrifice and effort that the country has made. 

Unlike international personnel, these staff have had to “live” the reality of the Ebola epidemic in ways the rest of the world cannot contemplate. Not only are our national staff expected to work each day – and for the first few months of the epidemic this meant working seven days a week and 14 or more hours a day – they have also had to keep their families safe or find treatment for them. Simultaneously fighting the epidemic while being victims of its brutality. 

SavetheChildren_Ebola_Liberia_Kebeh_March_2015

Locals like Kebeh, a midwife in our Community Care Center, make up 90% of our aid workers in Liberia

The entire team has done an incredible job across a number of sectors, addressing the direct causes and problems of Ebola Virus with initiatives such as Emergency Treatment Units, Community Care Centres and Active Case Finding/Contact Tracing] while also addressing the indirect issues such as getting schools in shape for children to safely learn in them and aiding those children who have been orphaned.

Ultimately it will be Liberians who rebuild the country but that doesn’t mean the international community can’t help. I am very proud of the dedication & commitment of our Save the Children colleagues who’ve courageously left their current postings and offered to serve in Liberia, but I am humbled by the wholehearted commitment by our Liberian colleagues who have really stepped up to tackle this dreaded scourge.

To learn more about our Ebola response, click here.

Interview with a Sponsored Child’s Parent

Anonymous_blog

Lassine Kane

Sponsorship Operations Coordinator

Farako Community, Mali

October 17, 2014 2014

 

Sponsorship staff regularly monitor programs and talk with beneficiary communities. The purpose of this exercise is to gauge the feeling of community members about Sponsorship-funded activities, assess their level of satisfaction with those services and make adjustments to them as necessary. It also provides an opportunity to get a sense of what parents envision for their children from an education perspective.

Lassine Kane, Sponsorship Operations Coordinator, has just wrapped up such a field visit. Here is an interview he conducted with Achitan, mother of a sponsored girl in Farako Community.

Mali Blog Post 1--Picture2 of Achitan

Achitan is a mother to 9 children: 4 girls and 5 boys

Lassine: Hello! Can you introduce yourself?

Achitan: Thank you for your visit. My name is Achitan. I don’t know my exact age, but am around 40 years old. I am married to Abdoulaye. I have 9 children who are all alive: 4 boys and 5 girls. We all live together here in the community of Farako. I am a housewife. In addition to my household activities, I sell firewood to make some money and take care of some of the day-to-day expenses of the family.

Lassine: Do you know Save the Children and its Sponsorship program?

Achitan: Oh yes! ‘Projet Save’ is an organization that works towards the well-being of children. They have a friendship program [Sponsorship] here through which they connect the children of Farako to people in white men’s country. ‘Projet Save’ has been around for quite some time now; I think they introduced their friendship program to Farako six years ago.

Lassine: Do any of your children participate in Sponsorship?

Achitan: Yes, Fatoumata, my third child who attends Grade 7, has a friend in the white men’s country. And her friend even sends her letters. When Fatoumata receives a letter from her friend, she feels very happy. Her friend often gives her advice and encourages her to attend school regularly and study hard.

Lassine: Which of the Sponsorship Programs do you value most in your community?

Achitan:Projet Save’ does many things here. But I would say that their education activity is what I appreciate most.

Lassine: Why? What does the education of your children mean to you? Do you think education is important?

Mali Blog Post 1--Achitan and daughter arranging firewood for sale

Achitan & her daughter arrange firewood for sale

Achitan: Neither my husband nor I went to school. Many adults in this community didn’t go to school either. Because of that, people suffer. Unless your own children attend school and can read and write, you have to go out and look for somebody who can read or write letters for you. And sometimes you feel obliged to give them something as a token. But what’s bothers me is when people who are not part of your family are aware of personal matters that are mentioned in the letter.

When a child goes to school, the entire family benefits from it. Take Fatoumata, my daughter, for example. She teaches me certain things she learns at school such as the importance of washing hands before eating or after using toilet.

We hear good things about those whose children went to school. They live in beautiful homes, eat good food and dress well because their children have become important people because of school. I too want my children to attain in school and care for my family.

Lassine: You really have some good points. But why then are all your children not going to school?

Achitan: No, you are wrong. All of my children attend school except the last one who has not yet reached the school going age. But I don’t know whether they will be able to complete school because we are a poor family struggling to make ends meet. But we will try to keep them in school, because school is important.

Mali Blog Post 1--Fatoumata, Achitan's daughter in class

Fatoumata, Achitan's daughter, attends class

Lassine: Do you have any message for the friends [sponsors] of the Farako children?

Achitan: Yes. The support that the friends of children are providing Farako with is crucial. And everybody here is benefitting – school children and their parents. I am very grateful for their commitment and generosity to the children of Farako. I can assure you that my sentiment is widely shared here – just ask around and you will see for yourself.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Ebola: Coming to Sierra Leone

DanS

Dan Stewart, Humanitarian Communications Project Manager

Sierra Leone

September 25, 2014

 

The first sign is as you enter the terminal building. A crowd forms around a large bucket of water with a tap coming from it. Every passenger joins, and one by one washes their hands before going inside. As soon as you get close to the water you can smell the chlorine, stronger than any swimming pool.

Welcome to Sierra Leone in the midst of an Ebola epidemic.

The second sign is immediately after passport control. An official points a small plastic-handled device at each person’s temple, looks at it and gives a curt nod, before showing it to the new arrival and waving them through. When it’s my turn I see the digital display reads 36.4 °C. Normal. So on I go.

Ebola is tearing through West Africa. It’s infectious and deadly. This epidemic is killing around half of the people it infects, as though their lives depended on the toss of a coin. Sierra Leone has had over 1,500 cases.

The airport itself is on an island a twenty minute boat ride from the capital, Freetown. It’s 5am and still pitch black as I climb aboard, while rain hammers down and the boat rocks from the wind. From the front seat I can see that visibility is zero. You can only tell we’re moving from the way the boat rears every time we hit a wave.

So much has been said and written about Ebola but there’s still a sense the situation here is equally shrouded in darkness. I know the signs and symptoms and I know the steps to take to stay safe.

But I don’t understand. Not what it has been like for this disease to exert an increasing stranglehold over society, seemingly under the world’s radar. Not what it’s like to weigh up the safety of every journey you make.

As we close in on Freetown it slowly begins to become light and I start to make out the city through the murk, stretching away up the shore. I hope that in the coming days and weeks we can say the same for Ebola and its impact. Demystifying the disease is vital. A lack of understanding, fear and misinformation make the perfect breeding ground. Save the Children has so far trained over 3,000 community health workers who go from house to house explaining how to prevent the spread of the disease.

But this crisis is at a tipping point. There are new cases every day and we have a small window to contain the outbreak. Without a dramatic increase in the international response, cases could reach hundreds of thousands.

The third sign comes every time you meet someone. Hands twitch almost imperceptibly and an awkward look is exchanged. Nobody touches anyone they don’t know well now, not even to shake hands.

These signs are positive – they are necessary to help slow the spread. But there is far worse. Basic services are taking the brunt. Pregnant women can’t get the healthcare they need. With schools closed children are at risk of losing their education and with it the futures they dream of. We must shed light on Ebola – to the people at risk and the world at large – and we must stop it now.

To learn more about our Ebola response, click here.

South Sudan: “Since we arrived here, no-one will kill my family, but hunger could.”


Anonymous

Dan Stewart

Save the Children , South Sudan

June 16, 2014

 
 

Nyandong and Sunday“Nyandong* looks straight at me. She is unflinching. Small, thin limbs occasionally wrap around her or clamber up, looking for purchase, as her children mill around us. She has her malnourished one year old boy quiet and still in her arms and her face is intent as she tells me what has happened to her family since brutal fighting engulfed many parts of Jonglei, South Sudan, in December.

“Innocent people were killed in those days. There were a lot of us running together then some of the people we were with got caught. They were surrounded and killed. It was just by luck that we survived. We crouched and hid behind a fence, just hoping no-one would find us. I could see the scared faces of my children, and armed men walking the streets looking for people to kill.

 “When the sun set we left. We took nothing and it took us thirty days to walk here. We ate the leaves off the trees and I thought we would die of thirst. When we saw birds circling in the sky we followed them because we hoped they would be flying above water. I don’t know how we survived.

 “My children kept asking me for food and water but I didn’t have any. The children were constantly crying. They got rashes on their skin and became thin. They wanted to stop. They fell down on their knees and cut themselves. I had to pull them along – if we stopped we would have died there. My daughter had to bring her little brother, but he was too tired. I had to tell her to drag him along even though he cried.

 We are talking in remote Nyirol county, in an area set back from the frontline where tens of thousands of people have fled for safety. But Nyandong explains that for her family and many others, one threat has been replaced by another. Severe hunger is the price they have paid to escape the bullets.

 “Since we arrived here, no-one will kill my family. But hunger could. Hunger could kill everyone here. Nyandong and family

 “We depend on others. When people in the community give us some food, then we can eat. We eat one small meal a day. We mix grass and leaves in with sorghum to make it last longer. The leaves are very bad for children – it gives them diarrhoea.

 There is just one chink of light. Save the Children screened Nyandong’s 1 year old daughter Sunday* and found she was severely malnourished. We have been providing therapeutic feeding to begin nursing her back to health. “Sunday was about to die” Nyandong says. “She was very thin. A baby should walk one year after she is born but Sunday is more than a year old and still she can’t because of the malnourishment. If she has food I know she will walk soon. And my other children are suffering so much. They have nothing.”

 In South Sudan 50,000 children are likely to die from malnourishment unless treatment is scaled up immediately. Save the Children is helping catch children like Sunday before it is too late, but we need your help to reach more.

 Donate to help the children of South Sudan.

*Names changed to protect identities

Thriving in Nacala: One Community’s Story

I recently spent a week in Africa, my second visit to the continent in 2012.  After a quick stop in Cape Town for The Economist’s global meeting on healthcare in Africa I went on to Mozambique to visit Save the Children programs in rural communities in the north of the country.

 

I came away from this trip with a renewed understanding of the huge difference it makes when a community is really involved with kids’ development. 

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