Kayonza is located approximately 50 miles from the Rwanda's capital, Kigali, in the country's Eastern Province. The province as whole is home to around 2.1 million people and sits close to the border with Tanzania.
As in much of Rwanda, the population relies predominantly on agriculture for its livelihood. Due to the often harsh climate this can lead to severe insecurity for the local people, because when crops fail and incomes disappear completely.
Due to the importance of agricultural for people's livelihoods, the government has been investing a lot of money and time into improving farming practices. This includes planting trees to improve environmental conditions and sowing drought resistant crops to help boost yields.
This is important work, since the failure of crops harms both people's incomes and the country's capacity to feed its population. As it stands, food shortages remain common and this is a major contributing factor to childhood malnutrition, which can severely hamper children's physical and psychological development.
The poverty that many families in Kayonza face has broad impacts on children's lives. Limited access to healthcare has meant high infant and maternal mortality rates and many children have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.
Often, children are forced to work to provide for their families, many in dangerous conditions within illegal cassiterite mining operations. Others live on the streets and survive by searching rubbish pits for food. When children grow up in these conditions they are robbed of the childhood they deserve and will struggle to fulfil their full potential in life.
What is SOS Children doing in Kayonza?
We began our work in this small rural town in 2011 and, though this was relatively recent, our work has already had a major impact on the lives of children and families here.
A new home and a loving family
SOS families provide new homes for children who, for one reason or another, can no longer live with their parents. Here, they receive all the love and care they need from their affectionate SOS mother and get the benefits of family life.
All of them attend the local SOS nursery and SOS school, which provide an education to up to 210 children and are an important part of the wider community. This gives them the chance to begin making friends and learning social skills, even from this very young age.
Keeping families together
As well as the SOS nursery and school, we also provide a range of other support and services to the families in the region. In collaboration with local authorities and the community we ensure that all children have access to food, education and healthcare, which are essential to a healthy upbringing.
We directly target families that are at risk of abandoning their children and offer them counselling and advice to help them stay together. We also provide special support for families that are living with HIV/AIDS to help them deal with the particular challenges they face.
Many children in Kayonza are orphaned by HIV/AIDS and forced to work on the streets to support their families. We provide essential care for children in desperate need of a loving home.