The youth on fighting COVID-19, empowering vulnerable families

Volunteers help set up hand washing facilities in rural areas to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Courtesy photo

A group of young volunteers is seeking to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and malnutrition in districts where people living below the poverty line, faced with a high malnutrition rate, reside.

Following guidance from the Ministry of Local Government, the volunteers were deployed in Ngororero, Rutsiro, Kayonza and Bugesera districts and some cells of Nyarugenge District.

 

One of the former volunteers, Innocent Mutabazi, and now a liaison officer for the volunteers, said:“Currently we are 19 volunteers in the second cohort living with vulnerable communities, and guiding them on how to find solutions to different problems in their communities, including preventing the spread of coronavirus and malnutrition. We also facilitate them to set up small projects and small income generating businesses responding to problems they have,” he says.

 

The first cohort was composed of 12 volunteers.

 

Facilitated by CorpsAfrica, a non-profit organisation and local leaders, the volunteers facilitate community meetings to identify local needs in health, education, small business development, urban planning and infrastructure, agriculture, the environment, and more.

They then initiate and facilitate projects that fulfil these key needs in their communities.

“Currently, the volunteers have played a big role in educating rural families about preventing spread of coronavirus. We have contributed our efforts in establishing kitchen gardens to address malnutrition and stunting issues in the vulnerable families, and addressing other issues such as hygiene by building toilets for them,” CorpsAfrica Country Director, Ms Eustochie Agasaro, says.

She says since December, each volunteer has set up over 40 kitchen gardens in vulnerable families homes, making about 800 kitchen gardens in total.

“Each volunteer also set up handwashing stations for families and markets and trained tailors to produce face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus under the tutorial of qualities and standards of face masks,” she adds.

“Every volunteer played role in making and distributing masks in rural areas making it a total of 950 face masks,” she says.

All this was done as a model to sensitise the community (with a population of about 3,300), who have now embraced the practices to prevent COVID-19, malnutrition and poor hygiene, she adds.

Vestine Nyirimbabazi, a beneficiary of the approach in Bugesera District says, “We were educated on prevention of COVID-19 by abiding by measures like social distancing, using face masks and hand washing facilities both at home and markets, and other residents followed,” she explains.

“I currently have a kitchen garden where I harvest beetroots, cabbages, carrots and others which are helpful in fighting stunting,” she says.

Cecile Niyimenya, another youth volunteer in Ngororero District says that she is personally working with a community of 100 families.

She says each of the families has a kitchen garden and toilet under the support of volunteers and community health workers.

“We also contribute resources to renovate vulnerable people’s shelter,” she says.

Implemented in Morocco, Senegal, Malawi and Rwanda, the approach also builds the capacity of rural villages to create self-sufficiency.

Communities contribute 25 per cent to finance their small projects and 75 per cent by volunteers group to rear pigs, poultry, ship, goats and also learn TVET skills such as tailoring, among others.

“The members of the community where I volunteer also set up loan and savings associations to start small income generating projects.

“They identify problems and choose which project to address. Each contributes Rwf300 every week to the association,” she says.

At least 100 volunteers (10 in each district) have to be deployed in the next few years to bring more impact.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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