This year Imbuto Foundation celebrates 20-year anniversary, celebrating the impact it has made on the lives of Rwandans. Founded in 2001 by the First Lady Jeannette Kagame, the foundation began its journey as PACFA Programme - Protection and Care of Families against HIV/AIDS– with a mandate of protecting and caring for families living with HIV/AIDS, particularly children, youth and women. In 2007, PACFA rebranded to Imbuto Foundation as it embraced new programs and initiatives that include activities that engage, educate and empower communities in Rwanda. During their 20th anniversary celebration, last month, Imbuto Foundation, in partnership with Africa Re Foundation for Mobile Clinics donated two mobile clinics to the Ministry of Health, that will be used in communities to give testing services like diabetes, high blood pressure and HIV/AIDS and they are also going to be used to increase awareness of non-communicable diseases in communities, and encourage the people to get checked. The New Times’ Liesse Niwe caught up with the Sandrine Umutoni, the Director General of Imbuto Foundation on insights of the organisation’s two-decade journey and outlined the future plans of the foundation. Excerpts: What inspired the establishment of the Imbuto Foundation? The foundation started 20 years as an initiative of the First Lady. It was known under a different name, PACFA, it started as a single project that looked at preventing the transmission of the (HIV) virus from mother to child. The reason why the focus was HIV/AIDS is because at the time, the transmission of the virus was three times higher than it is now, so the First Lady and a team of dedicated women went to work and decided to focus on the expecting women to make sure that the next generation of Rwandans will not have to deal with the virus. Fast-forward a few years later, we had other programmes added. That included education, health, and women economic empowerment and as the foundation was going beyond mother to child transmission, we then officially changed the name to Imbuto Foundation, in 2007. What was the philosophy behind naming the foundation “Imbuto”? Imbuto means seed. So the philosophy behind naming the foundation Imbuto, is that any seed that is well planted, watered and nurtured will grow into a healthy tall plant, and that is one philosophy Her Excellency the First Lady had for the next generation of Rwandans, making sure that in every initiative implemented in the communities see that the young ones are raised strong and being able to stand on their own. Now the holistic approach of Imbuto is to have a different circle that follows each member of the Rwandan Community. Imbuto Foundation caters for the needs of the Rwandan family, and the overall health of the family. In education we give scholarships, where today we have over 10,000 people who have benefited from the scholarships, and looking at promotion of girl education called best performing girls where the First Lady travels around the country rewarding the best performing girls who excelled in national exams And in terms of youth empowerment, where we look at what kind of support we can give to the next generation of leaders in Rwanda, and we introduced a series of events that look at empowerment through leadership, entrepreneurship, and civic education. How has been the journey in the past 20 years? The journey has been an impressive one. From a single project in 2001 to the implementation of over 20 projects in the sectors of health, education, youth empowerment and even looking at how to maintain the gains of the foundation and look beyond the next 20 years. We are now looking at knowledge development and dissemination where we want to give more to the communities, and find a way to share the knowledge of Imbuto foundation with other communities, so they in turn can take up some of the initiatives that are happening at the community level. We believe that for full ownership of any initiative, you need to have people who are taking part at the community level. And as we look at the last 20 years of work we presented around the country, that is why this 20th year we launched a trust fund, as a way to maintain a financial independence that allows us to support the community based initiatives we believe in. Speaking of the trust fund that was launched this year, how will it support the foundation? As an organization that works with so many partners including international partners it was time for us to create a fund that will generate income and allow us to generate income that will then be used for the different initiatives of the foundation. As a non-governmental organization, it is important for financial sustainability and to move beyond the dependency on grants and donations, because over the years priorities shift. For instance, the priorities of international partners shift but do not always reflect on our priorities as well, but with the establishment of the trust fund we will be able to continue with our initiatives in the community regardless of the shift in priorities. And we want to be able to have a fund that allows us to support more priorities and also allows us to branch out even on the continental level, beyond Rwanda. What have been the most outstanding challenges during the past 20 years? The most outstanding challenge comes with the history of our country, PACFA was created a few years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, so they were many priorities at the time from education to health and infrastructure, so for the foundation to be able to pinpoint one item was key. We see this as a challenge because they had to be really strategic with the means that they had and be very clear, and the vision was that the next generation of Rwandans had access to dignified lives. We see the foundation catering mostly for the girl child. Does the foundation cater for boys too? Yes we do, we cater for the entire Rwandan family. We acknowledge that young girls have specific challenges that boys do not have to deal with, but for any initiative to be sustainable and bear fruits we need to involve everyone. For example, we have been heavily working in sexual reproductive health, and we do not only just address the girls but the boys and also their parents as well and engage the boys in concepts of positive masculinity among others. What is going to be the focus of the foundation for the next 20 years? We want to remain ambitious, we want to believe that the vision and clarity that drove the First Lady to start the foundation 20 years ago, of the holistic development of the Rwandan family stays alive. Now we believe that our responsibilities need to shift progressively away from implementation to strategic planning and that we see that happening by being more selective in the initiative we support while following the holistic approach of the foundation. And as I mentioned earlier any organizations that can generate income for itself and are not as dependent on the shifting of priorities around the world, we will look at the opportunities available in Rwanda, because they are many avenues that the Government has made available for us that we can tap into, and stay afloat and continue making an impact in the next 20 years.