Rwanda: Strengthening resilience for the future

Promoting the psychosocial wellbeing of vulnerable groups


“Our main goal is to help families identify their vulnerabilities and build upon their competences and capacities. It is very important to not substitute a person in their role, but to help them improve so that they are able to face their problems by themselves.”

Lorette Birara, AVSI

On the last week of June, we travelled to Kigali to meet with our partner AVSI and their HQ representatives and to visit the psychosocial and community centers we have been supporting over the past two years. The main purpose of our field visit was identify and define the steps required to ensure the sustainability of the project after 2016, when our support will come to an end.

The community centers are located in the Gicumbi and Gasange districts and were created based on the Rwandan concept of urinzara, or working together. AVSI adopted urinzara as a model for integrated community development and social support. The model has successfully involved children, parents, nearby communities and local authorities in the centers’ several activities. These include daycare for young children, a community library, literacy classes, tutoring and self-help groups for women.

The daycare is parent-led, so we met with the parents to discuss how they envisaged their children’s futures and the daycare’s future management. It was moving to see how committed parents are to creating a safe environment for their children and we were impressed by how many men were involved in managing the daycare. Parents are convinced of the center’s instrumental role in providing a better future for their children. In Gasange, we came across a group of parents who have replicated the daycare in Gatsibo for their community. Their proactiveness reflects the ownership of the project by the local people, which to us is a promising sign of its sustainability.

We also had an encouraging meeting with the director of the College of Medicine and the head of the Mental Health Department of the University of Rwanda regarding the psychosocial support we provide the most vulnerable children at the daycare. A Memorandum of Understanding is soon to be signed among both parties and AVSI to ensure that the clinical psychologists of the College of Medicine support Jean de Dieu, the AVSI psychologist, and provide community outreaches to follow up visits.

Back in Gatsibo, the women self-help group, urubuhero, continues to be a success. Urubuhero is a traditional Rwandan practice in which women get together and teach girls how to manage their household, care for their families and manufacture useful goods such as bags, soap and agaseke, traditional Rwandan colored baskets. During the course of the project this group evolved into a real cooperative currently generating income which not only sells, but exports their handcrafts! This was possible thanks to the collaboration of the Ministry of Commerce of Rwanda.

The fact that the national government became involved in the project is an important sign of where the project will be heading. The active participation of the authorities, whose representatives have supported AVSI since the beginning, and who accompanied us on our visit, show that all of the hard work will continue in the foreseeable future.

We therefore want to thank everyone at AVSI Rwanda who, over the past couple of years, has worked hard, involving all the main stakeholders, identifying the community’s needs and gaps and overcoming challenges. We encourage you all to continue working using this holistic approach to encourage real development within the communities.