Around 70,000 Rwandans live in Byumba, the capital of the Gicumbi District in the Northern Province. Like most of Rwanda, this area and the people who live here remain deeply affected by the 1994 genocide.
The area's economy depends heavily on the agricultural sector, where 90% of the population works. Although exports of tea and coffee have brought general growth, this has not been felt by the majority who are small subsistence farmers. These families have very tough lives and they often live without even the most basic public services.
Access to good quality education is extremely limited for children in and around Byumba. In rural areas children often have to travel far to get to school and even if they get their teaching standards are often low. This is primarily due to inadequate training and the extremely low pay that teachers receive, but the effects are felt long into adulthood.
More than 65% of adults in the Gicumbi District are completely illiterate. These often leads to extreme poverty and forces families to rely on every source of income they can find. This can sometimes mean taking children out of school to start earning whatever money they can, and this simply reinforces the cycle of poverty.
Despite government efforts as part of Rwanda's 2020 Vision, which aims to help the poorest citizens, life remains very difficult for many. The genocide robbed the country of many skilled individuals, such as doctors and public servants, and devastated the already poor infrastructure.
The predominance of small subsistence farming also adds to people's hardships. The land they have is often far too small to earn a living and the large number of farms means that the soil struggles to sustain crops. Not only does this effect livelihoods, but it has also contributed to the high levels of malnutrition in the country.
Our work in Byumba
We initially began our work here in 1997 in response to the high numbers of children who had lost their parents during the genocide . Over the past few years we have rapidly expanded the support that we offer to children and parents.
Making sure that all children have a loving home is central to our work, and our SOS family strengthening programme in Byumba is at the heart of these efforts. Through it we ensure that children have access to essential services, like nutrition and education, and get the support they need from their parents.
This can include counselling for those parents who are struggling to cope and training to develop income-generating activities. We work directly with local authorities to ensure that this support is integrated into the community and will last for generations to come.
We noticed a severe lack of adequate healthcare facilities throughout the district, so we invested in a new SOS medical treatment centre. This provides essential healthcare for those cannot afford it, ensuring that no one misses out on basic care.
To remedy the severe lack of schools, SOS Children set up the SOS nursery and SOS primary school in Byumba, which teach up to 430 students at any one time. The education they provide will help open doors throughout the students' lives.
Every child needs a loving and supportive family, and this remains true even if they cannot stay with their biological parents. SOS families can provide loving and nurturing homes for up to 150 children who find themselves in this situation.
All these children go to the local SOS nursery and school, allowing them to build friendships and develop their social skills. Once they are old enough they can leave home and undertake further education or vocational training and, with the support of trained counsellors, take their next steps in life.
Give a child in Byumba hope for a bright future. Sponsor a child in our Children's Village today.