[FEATURED] ADRA: Supporting Rwanda’s rebuilding effort

School children at an ADRA-education campaign for children to go back to school at Mahama refugee camp. / Courtesy

In 1999, Yves Dufitumukiza was seven years old and in need of going to school.

Dufitumukiza’s father had been killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and was under the care of her widowed mother who had survived and was struggling to make ends meet.

Fortunately, the vulnerable family was identified by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA’s) Education program that had started right after the Genocide to cater for students who came from impoverished families in the post-genocide society.

“One day, my mother returned home and told me that I would soon start school. It was like a dream” said Dufitumukiza.

“Although after completing my primary education as a genocide survivor, I had another option of being sponsored by The Fund for Neediest Survivors of Genocide in Rwanda (FARG), I opted to continue with the ADRA sponsorship because my family had got solace in the organization’s programs, especially counselling. I was more comfortable to continue with the ADRA sponsorship during my secondary education,” Dufitumukiza said.

The Non-Governmental Organization which was first registered in Rwanda in 1978 as a humanitarian and development arm of the Seventh Day Adventist Church supported its beneficiaries (children) with school fees, scholastic materials and uniforms from the vulnerable families until they completed secondary school level.

Classrooms Mahama Camp.

Dufitumukiza went to multiple schools since the family moved to several places. “Whenever I moved with my mother, I informed my benefactors and they would direct the sponsorship to the school where I had moved to,” he said.

In 2011, Dufitumukiza finished his secondary school at APADE Lycee de Kicukiro with good grades.

After completing secondary level, he solicited for sponsorship from FARG, which, supported him to enroll for university education. He acquired a degree in Civil Engineering in 2014. “I got employed in several construction companies, prior to registering my own structural maintenance company called VEGA Maintenance Ltd.  I’m an entrepreneur in structural maintenance services,” he said.

According to Geoffrey Ngiruwonsanga, the ADRA Country Director, the organization since its inception into the country in 1978 has supported over 500,000 students. This has been through construction of classrooms, teacher’s training, capacity building, adult literacy training and child sponsorship programmes which has enabled families to become self-reliant as well as.

“As Seventh-Day Adventists, we have a mission to reveal God’s Love to a hurting humanity in practical ways that is why we work with the poor because the word of God admonishes us to do so. ADRA purpose is ‘To serve humanity so all may live as God intended” he said.

Before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, ADRA was already in Rwanda providing humanitarian services to those in need. After the Genocide, the country needed more of the organization’s outreach than ever before.

Martin Rutazigwa  one of the ADRA staff who worked directly with families during the post genocide time said: “There were many people that were in need and mostly widows who had orphans to take care of. With the great need and meager resources, we established set of criteria for one to be considered. These included a local authority attestation to the vulnerability of the child’s family which mainly was being an orphan or being from a poor family,” he said.

One of ADRA's activity.

On a few occasions, the organization provided small start-up funds for people to start up small businesses that would help them sustain themselves.

“It was difficult to talk about hope to the people that had lost their beloved and property in very brutal circumstances. All the same, we continued to serve and we are glad that by God’s grace we have provided our humble contribution to tangible change in the lives the people we came in contact with.” Rutazigwa said.

Rutazigwa and other staff who worked with ADRA in the late 1990s and early 2000 said, “we are happy having attended wedding ceremonies for some of children that were without hope and now have started their families. Lives have been transformed and we have witnessed hope taking root among those that were affected by the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994”.

In heeding to the strategy of the Government of Rwanda to pool together resources, ADRA organized beneficiaries to form cooperatives through which unity and reconciliation as well as trust have been established to serve social cohesion and economic development.