It is 9am and Hadija Bazizane, 80, is weaving a mat as she chats with other housemates.
She is one of the senior citizens at a care home in Gikondo, Kigali.
She says her hobbies include house cleaning and weaving mats.
She recalls that when she was young and energetic, she could do various activities for a living. However, old age has had its toll on her and she is now frail and unable to work as she used to, hence the need for help from Good Samaritans.
She says that old age had deprived her of basic needs like food, clothes and healthcare.
But, in 2011, Bird of Paradise Ministries Rwanda (BPMR), a Christian non-profit making organisation that helps the elderly availed her with accommodation and Bazizane says this greatly transformed her life.
Indeed as the world marked the 24th International Day for the elderly on Wednesday, Bazizane was all smiles.
“I was desperate and needy, but when I joined BPMR, my life changed for the better. My relative had even wanted to take me to Dares-Salaam where he lives but I refused since I now have a roof over my head and get all the necessities of life,” she said.
“We are living as a family and live in harmony,” interjects Stephania Mutumyinka, another elderly living in BPMR home, Gikondo in Kicukiro District.
Mutumyinka says she cannot tell her actual age but she believes she is about 100 years.
“We no longer feel lonely and live at peace with each other,” she says.
The elderly people at the BPMR home say they go for prayers and hold meetings to share past experiences.
Various people visit them, including children.
They say that apart from old age ailments, they are happy with their livelihoods.
Founding the home
Mary Munyangaju, the BPMR founder and Mission director, said she conceived the idea after realising that the elderly were living in deprivation.
She says she wanted the status quo changed.
“Some older people were frail and unable to run profitable businesses, others were needy and the Genocide against the Tutsi had worsened the situation. It was, therefore, essential to help them,” she said, adding that failure take care of the elderly would be an indictment on society.
She says she is disappointed by the factthat there are no specific policies intended to foster the welfare of the elderly.
“As well as there are policies aimed at fighting child rights violation, there should be efforts to care for elderly,” she noted.
She called upon all Rwandans to join hands and help the elderly lead better lives.
She cited lack of accommodation as one of the major challenges facing the home of the elderly.
“This house has five bedrooms. So we can only accommodate four people,” she said, adding that they are doing their best to get a larger home that can accommodate more needy elders.
BPMR was founded in 2011 with four senior citizens. However, one of them, Simon Rwabutogo, passed away on September 19, 2014.
He was battling high blood pressure and had been admitted to Masaka Hospital.
Ladislas Ngendahimana, the head of Information and Communication at the Ministry of Local Government (Minaloc), said the Government is commited to ensuring the welfare of all vulnerable people, including the elderly, especially through its Social Protection Programme.
Under Vision Umurenge Progamme (VUP), government extends support to the disadvantaged but relatively stronger people who are given work from which they earn wages.
Others are encouraged to join cooperatives and get financial support through affordable loans.
The elderly who are disabled get financial support ranging between Rwf6,500 and Rwf21,000 monthly,” he said.
Ngendahimana said the Government does not prioritise having all the disadvantaged elderly taken to care homes, but instead wants to help them from their families to avoid isolation.
He, however, said that for some elders who are lonely due to various reasons, like the widowers and widows of the Genocide, they should stay in the homes for the elderly.
“But we encourage neighbours to visit them so that they can feel integrated in society,” he said.
The International Day of the Older Persons was adopted in 1990 by the United Nations General Assembly and October 1, was designated as the date to celebrate the day.
This year, the day was celebrated under the theme; “Leaving No One Behind: Promoting a Society for All.”