With the aim of providing vulnerable children, youth and women with a productive life through basic education and skill development, Esther’s AID Empowerment Centre (EAEC) has brought a lot of joy to the survivours of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
According to the EAEC’s administrator Scovia Narame, the organisation was formed in 1999 by Claire Effiong. This was after seeing children “dumpster-diving” for food in the Rwanda’s Capital, Kigali.
“The 1994 genocide left many vulnerable, homeless children on the streets,” Narame said.
“Claire Effiong started up a non-profit Christian organisation for the needy and abandoned children. It is based in New York, U.S.A with field operations in Rwanda,” she added.
She further added that their mission has evolved in recent years to include hundreds of poor women ravaged with poverty, homelessness and HIV/Aids.
“We created a small scale, micro-finance program to support their arts and craft projects, farming and petty-trading endeavors,” Narame said.
EAEC has involved different groups of women throughout the country with the major ones being in the areas of Kamonje, Muhanga, Huye, Nyagatare and Ngoma.
The women in Muhanga are given money to buy raw materials for handcrafts from which they make different items and sell them for their daily livelihoods.
Narame said that, “…the women group in Huye is given dairy cows from which they sell the milk for income.”
They have established the Esther’s Aid Primary School in Kacyiru and a sewing and catering skills training institution.
After one year of training at the catering school, the students join internship at Esther’s Aid Heavenly Bakery and Empowerment Centre which is situated in Murwintare, Kimihurura.
The graduates are further supported with more practical industry experience that would make them fit into any Food industry or Hotel businesses in Rwanda.
“The products we produce are sold to raise funds to sustain the training program,” Narame explained.
She added that their goal is to get the students to be gainfully employed in the cooking community and generate their own income that would make them self sufficient.
The Sewing Empowerment Centre offers an intensive, 13 months training program for girls and empowers them with tools to make them self-supporting.
Jack Akili Mali Wema, a tailor at Esther’s Aid sewing company in Kinamba is one of the former students of the skills training institution.
According to Wema, the program was set up to boost the experience and confidence among young people who have decided to get into the sewing business.
“The organisation provides and supplies all the equipment, materials, financial and training support.
Each year, graduates are given a year to have a business experience and make some money in order to own a sewing machine.
That way they can have sustainable income,” Wema said.
Wema added that though the organisation is not commercial, they make garments for the public at a fee.
“When you allow us to make your dress you are automatically supporting and contributing to our grassroot efforts which helps us sustain the program,” he added.
The Esther’s Aid Primary School currently has more than 300 children enrolled and better still, the pupils’ school fees is taken care of. They are provided with free learning materials, Uniform, and also with food.s
There are also recreational and peace-building programs, as well as skills development and job training to HIV/AIDS widows and infected women.
Two soccer teams for boys and girls at the school help to build up the self-esteem and leadership skills of its members. They also serve as a forum for HIV/Aids information and education as the players interact with other school teams.
Twenty six year- old Immaculate Mukankaka is an instructor at the skills training centre.
She joined the organisation in 2003 as a student nine years after the Genocide. She was left an orphan after watching her parents and brothers brutally murdered.
“I am more than grateful that now I have a place I can call home, I no longer beg for survival and my life has changed,” she narrated.
Mukankaka broke down as she explained the joy she feels when she sees orphans join the organisation.
“It is my joy to welcome them as I was welcomed; give them a sense of belonging, hope and help them in rebuilding their future,” a soft spoken Mukankaka said.