Every community benefits from a place that represents the values of its people. No one teaches us that better than Local Expert, Mary Kamanzi from Rwanda.
Mary has been actively involved with child advocacy for 20 years since first coming to Kigali, Rwanda after the genocide. Besides personally tracking with over 100 orphans, she started a preschool, primary school and middle school. She has spent the last number of years working closely with the government to end institutional care and has been instrumental in developing a network of lay social workers to track with families who are fostering children.
Together with Mary, we believe that by strengthening and empowering families in local communities, we can see countries changed.
Studies have shown children are not in school, are institutionalized or are on the streets because of a breakdown in their families. We want to change that through Family Resource Centers. Often families are isolated and have limited access to basic information. The vision of a Resource Center is built around an integrated approach to the wellbeing of the family. It would be a base for lay social workers to interact with the community—connecting them to services, counseling, information and support. It would be a resource for families to learn together, celebrate and be heard.
Currently, no such center exists in the city of Kigali, and many services such as parenting classes, library/study space, and early childhood education are hard to find. We have begun learning and dreaming together with Mary about a Center that would meet these needs. There is already a plot of land set aside for this project just outside Kigali and now we begin the work of seeing it come to a reality.
We are excited for all the possibilities. Our hope is that the Center would include job training, garden plots, celebrations, games, family fun, study space, early childhood education, a primary health clinic. But what is critical is that it would have what the community determines is important.
We believe this could be a catalyst toward exponential positive change in Rwanda, bringing resources and space for the next generation to explore the possibilities of a life with options and a future with promise and would hopefully be the first of many around the country and continent.