Gikongoro is a growing city in the Nyamagabe district of southern Rwanda. It is a beautiful region and contains the Nyungwe Forest, a national park that was established in 2004.
This wildlife, particularly the chimpanzees, bring some tourists to the area as part of their visits, but most residents continue to rely on agriculture. This is a problem in a country where there are very few agricultural experts, which has resulted in the degradation of the land that many rely upon.
Finding clean water remains a key challenge for people throughout Rwanda, with only 52% of Rwandans having access to it, this includes those who live in and around Gikongoro. This situation is particularly bad in the south, where water shortages are common and the effects on the local population are devastating.
People are regularly forced to drink unclean and unsafe water and this has led to the rapid spread of water-borne diseases. This only adds to the other healthcare challenges that families often face and, when combined with limited access to free healthcare, this can have disastrous consequences.
1994 genocide devastated education
The Rwandan genocide in 1994 has left a mark on everybody in the country and it has also affected the educational opportunities of children who had not even been born at the time. The war destroyed hundreds of schools and to this day lessons are often taught in borrowed buildings that were not designed for classes.
Just as worrying is the limited support for teachers. Most of the 263 who operate in Nyamagabe District are qualified, but few are paid a regular wage and often rely on payments from parents for their livelihood. Equally, there is no national curriculum so teachers have little guidance and are often required to teach large classes since well-qualified teachers are rare.
SOS Children's work in Gikongoro
We began our work in the area in 1992 in response to the war that culminated in the tragic 1994 genocide. Recently we have been expanding our efforts to help vulnerable families.
Our SOS family strengthening programme, run from our SOS social centre, targets parents who are struggling to care for their children and are at risk of abandoning them. We offer them counselling and advice on how to develop income generating skills that will help stabilise their precarious livelihoods.
By working with children we can ensure that they have access to the healthcare, education and nutritional services they need to grow up strong and healthy. We work directly with communities to create strong support systems that can be there for families when they are most in need.
Because education was so badly damaged during the 1994 war, the opening of the Hermann Gmeiner primary school was a particularly important occasion. It now provides high quality teaching facilities for up to 430 pupils and ensures that children in the area get every chance to succeed.
Sometimes children in Gikongoro are unable to remain with their parents, when this happens they can find a home with one of 12 SOS mothers. These children get all the benefits of family life and are integrated into the community from a young age, since they attend the SOS nursery with around 75 other children.
Through the SOS youth programme we support young people from SOS families as they make the transition into adulthood. They are given accommodation and advice from qualified counsellors as they undertake further education or training and build an independent life for themselves.
The Rwandan genocide still has a lingering impact on children and young people. For those who have lost their family, we provide a new loving home in our Children's Village. Do something amazing today, and sponsor a child in Rwanda.