Before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, there were just a few orphanages in the whole country, the most prominent being Centre Memorial Gisimba in Nyamirambo, a Kigali suburb.
After the Genocide, the country was teaming with hundreds of thousands of orphanages and this attracted “cowboy NGOs” that opened childcare centres to make profit, not out of compassion.
When things began to stabilize in the country, many social protection programmes were instituted such as FARG, a genocide survivors’ assistance fund that among many things, catered for the education of both survivors and orphans, and many fell in both categories.
In 2012 when childcare reforms were undertaken, the issue of unregulated orphanages was top on the agenda: an orphan, just as any other child, needed to be raised in a proper home environment, not centres that lacked real parental compassion and protection.
It is in that light that orphanages were requested to phase out in favour of children being raised in proper homes.
Imbuto Foundation then joined the campaign and launched “Wite ku mwana wese nk’uwawe” (Treat every child as your own) and it is starting to bear fruit, but not at the pace desired.
Formal adoption as we know it was non-existent in ancient Rwanda. An orphan always found a home, either with neighbours or extended relatives and there was no need of formal paperwork.
It is therefore encouraging that ever since the campaigns were launched, over 2,000 orphans have been integrated in homes, but the number is still low.
Most adoptions are usually undertaken by childless couples and rarely do well-to-do-families take in strangers, they would rather help relatives, sometimes with some measure of reluctance.
It is time that mindset changed and we treat all children as our own.