Esperance Children’s Aid: Home for Hope in Rwanda - Africa
In 1994, Rwanda became world famous because of the most effective, efficient genocide of modern history. Between 7 and 9 people were killed every single minute during a period of 90 days. Between 800,000 and 1 million people were killed, not with modern weapons but with machetes and pangas.
And in exactly that setting we have the privilege to have an orphanage. A children’s village. We are taking care of children, but we are doing much more than that. As far as we know, there is no orphanage in the entire world that has ever reached self-sufficiency and economic independence.
That means we are taking care of kids and we are developing infrastructure, we are developing income-generating projects. We are transforming a dessert into a blooming garden. People say it is impossible. That we cannot do it. But we are sure that we can.
The children are the ones getting the benefit. We are offering them shelter, we feed them, we dress them, and we take care of their health. And of course, something extremely important — we send them to school. A poor country like Rwanda needs well-educated, trained youth.
We have family settings. In each family we have boys and girls living together of all ages. They perform all of the activities that need to be accomplished in the household. That means they cook, they make sure that everything is clean, they wash themselves, they do laundry, they make sure that the houses are orderly. In this situation we have mothers or fathers ensuring that everything in the family setting is functioning properly and they are role models for the children.
If you would have visited us four years ago, we didn’t have one single drop of water at the Children’s Village Kigarama. Friends from the United States came and helped us. Engineers Without Borders-Colorado installed rainwater catchment systems and now every single house has a cistern with a capacity of 10,000 liters. Engineers Without Borders came back to us in Rwanda and they installed high efficiency firewood stoves. Those stoves have improved enormously the quality of life for our kids and workers due to their efficiency and dramatic reduction of smoke.
Engineers Without Borders Johnson Space Center-NASA in Houston, TX also came to us and they installed a water purification system. Right now we have the capacity to drink water without limits. That system has the capacity to filter 20,000 liters of water per day.
One of thousands hills of Rwanda belongs to the Children’s Village Kigarama. Between 1.5 and two hectares is in vegetable production. The children are the ones working the fields and they are learning to grow food. The food that the children are growing is the food that the children are eating. Of course, we make sure that they have enough time to play, that they have enough time to go to school, that they have enough time to be children.
And of course not everything is work. We still do not have enough electricity. In the evenings the children come together and they sing, and they sing, and they have been singing for many, many, years. They have developed excellent voices.
Some of them, I am sure, are potential singers and artists. They have produced three different CDs and every single song is original by them. We had the American astronaut, Ronald Garon, take the CDs and listen to the music that our kids produced in the international space center together with other astronauts. It is beautiful music and we have the opportunity to listen to it and to enjoy it. We have the desire that people around the world will listen to and enjoy the music of these special children.
We have a baby house. Can you imagine being the mother or the father of 10 babies at the same time? We make sure that the babies get the best. I would like to tell you a little story. There was a storm. Lightening, wind, hail. Lightening hit us at the orphanage. The next day we received the news. A neighbor was hit by lightening. There was a young mother with a little baby on her back. The mother died immediately but the baby survived. Where do you think the baby is now? With us. His name is Vincent. And I am sure that there is a reason why Vincent survived.
And I’m sure also that each one of us has a task, has a place to be. I am sure that each one of us can make a real difference on planet earth.
It is a precious gift to see little babies growing, becoming stronger, and getting healthier. It is beautiful to see little kids learning how to walk, discovering life, discovering their planet.
And they play. Children in Africa many times don’t have a childhood. Already as little kids they need to work hard. And of course, we are helping our kids to understand that they need to work hard if they want to have success in life. But we need to make sure that there is enough free time so that they can just be children.
The quality of life of our kids is continues to get better and better. If you would leave the orphanage you will see that the quality of life of our neighbors is very low.
Most of the kids outside the orphanage eat one time per day. They don’t have shoes.
Many of them do not have the opportunity to go to school. Therefore, we have also decided to have an impact in our neighbors. We are running a tailoring school.
People from the neighborhood come and they learn to be tailors and after a two year training they get their certificate. They can leave and they can start their new profession and earn their livelihood with that.
As you already read, we are a children’s village. And usually an orphanage is a charity. That means we are dependent on the goodness and kindness of people from abroad. There is nothing wrong with that. But long term, what we are doing is creating a dependency. And long-term dependency is causing a lot of damage in Africa and in many poor counties around the world.
What happens dear friends, is people become passive. They lose the capacity to make decisions. They don’t know how to solve problems. They don’t know how to stand on their own feet. Of course, our main mission is to take good care of the kids, but what we would also like to do is to reach self-sufficiency and economic independence.
We need to discover our resources and develop them. That means we need to open our eyes, look around and see what is available. And use those resources. That is exactly what we are doing. How in the world are we daring to dream to reach self-sufficiency and economic independence? For that, my dear friends, we need to develop income-generating projects. We need to develop businesses. We need to produce income and that with money we can cover our own expenses.
At the orphanage we have the largest fruit production of the country. We have 22,000 pineapple plants. Every day we harvest 40 pineapples and very soon we will harvest 60 pineapples per day. We have 1800 mango tress. And 800 of these will start producing very soon. We have 1700 guava trees. From 90 trees we harvested 712 kilos. And we have 700 avocado trees.
What to do with all this fruit? This is our first income generating project. We want to process that fruit using only green technology. That means using the energy from the sun, using the energy of bio-gas, and eventually using energy from the wind. We will get an organic certification; we will get a fair trade certification. We will pack our fruit and we will export it.
And can you imagine one of these days you visit your grocery shop in whatever part of the world you are and finally you find a little package, with a beautiful kid smiling at you, and you turn the package over and you read organic, fair trade certified.
Green technology, produced in Rwanda, grown in an orphanage. I am sure that we will have great success and I am sure that you will love it.
The second income-generating project has to do with the resource, nature. We live very close to a beautiful lake called Kivu. In a plot of 3 hectares we are aiming to build an excellent eco-lodge, with the highest environmental standards of the United States.
But, why in the world will people come to an eco-lodge in Rwanda? This spot is beautiful. Really beautiful. We will use sustainable technology. We will have excellent services. We will offer many outside activities. Can you imagine hiking at the shores of the lake for a couple of hours, a couple of days, a couple of weeks?
And we can combine it with kayaking, mountain biking, sailing, and eventually horse riding.
But, dear friends, the key factor will be that the profits from the Birambye Lodge — and by the way, birambye means sustainability in Kinyarwanda — the profits of the Birambye Lodge will be used mainly to cover the educational needs of the children.
That means these little babies, these little kids, have the opportunity to become future medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects, whatever. There are no limits. And everything because an eco-lodge is being built at the shores of Lake Kivu.
We appreciate enormously that people are willing to help us, but we do not want to create any type of long-term dependency. If you take care of my life, you take away from me my human dignity, and I lose the capacity to stand on my own feet. Therefore, we want to get out of charity and we want to develop our own businesses. We want to be independent; we want to make our own decisions. Also, if we are wrong, if we make the wrong decision, it is no problem, but we should have that possibility.
And, my dear friends, what countries like Rwanda need is not general donations, is not gifts. What we need is your support. Support to develop our infrastructure.
Your help and support to develop our own businesses. The children of Rwanda have already suffered more than enough and they deserve a much better life
We are an orphanage in the middle of nowhere trying to do something that nobody else has ever accomplished. In a short period of time, we will reach self-sufficiency and economic independence. And the children will be the ones getting the benefit.
And it will not be you and me changing Africa. It will be those kids who got the right opportunities in life — they will be the ones, they will be the ones that in the future could eventually change the country.
We are inviting people from all over the world to get involved, to get involved in one of the most fascinating adventures that is happening right now in Africa. Nothing is impossible in life. We can reach self-sufficiency and economic independence. We can really impact the lives of people.
You are very welcome to come join us. Help us build the Birambye Lodge.
Support us developing the orchard project. Come and be involved in a fascinating experience. Discover that you have your own natural talents, abilities. You are very welcome to have a fascinating experience together with us in Rwanda.
I want to use this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who has come to us. Thank you to everyone who has supported us from so many places around the world. Without your help, we would not be able to do it. It is fascinating to see that people are willing to get involved. It is a privilege to motivate people to come and to do what they always wanted to do. Thank you my friends, really.
Thank you for all that you have done for us. It is fantastic.
That is the beauty and that is the goodness of life.
Karongi (former Kibuye), Rwanda
History of Rosamond Carr and The Imbabazi Orphanage in Rwanda
In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, at the age of 82, Rosamond Carr (known to her friends as Roz) founded an orphanage on her flower plantation in the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes. The orphanage is called Imbabazi, which means “a place where you will receive all the love and care a mother would give.” Since it opened its doors in December of 1994, Roz and her staff have cared for more than 400 lost or orphaned children. The Imbabazi is and remains a haven of love and safety and a symbol of hope for all.
Rosamond Carr was born in 1912 in South Orange, NJ; she traded in her life as a fashion illustrator and New York City socialite to follow her husband, dashing British hunter and explorer Kenneth Carr, to what was then the Belgian Congo. The marriage did not last, but Roz’s love for the country and its people was kindled. She bought a plantation of her own in the tiny neighboring country of Rwanda and created a remarkable life for herself there – a life filled with romance and adventure, untold hardships and personal loss, political upheaval and civil wars, and a life that was dedicated, in large part, to the Rwandan people. From the beginning, she helped people by distributing medicine for small ailments, administering first aid and paying school fees for children.
Roz Carr was the longest-living foreign resident in Rwanda and the last of the foreign plantation owners. She witnessed the decline and fall of colonialism in Africa and the emergence of new and struggling African states. She sailed up the Congo River and camped in Pygmy villages. She survived civil wars, revolutions, and one of the greatest human tragedies of our time, the Rwanda genocide of 1994.
Rwanda has come a long way since 1994. While it has struggled to come to terms with the huge loss of life, Rwanda has made great strides in rebuilding its infrastructure, restoring its economy, and promoting peace, justice and reconciliation among its people. Roz and the Imbabazi are one of the many success stories that symbolize the rebuilding of the nation of Rwanda.
Rosamond Carr passed away on September 29, 2006 at Imbabazi, the home she loved for more than 50 years; she was 94 years old. One of the few regrets of her life was that she never had children of her own. Through the Imbabazi Orphanage however, she became mother to hundreds of Rwandan children. The Imbabazi Foundation Board of Directors and the onsite management team continue this legacy and the operations of Imbabazi today.Rubavu (former Gisenyi), Rwanda
Also known as ‘Kandt House’, it is about 10 km from Kigali International Airport, this Museum is dedicated toDr. Richard Kandt a German doctor and explorer who embarked on an exploration of Rwanda in 1897, searching for the source of the Nile River. The Nature History Museum aims at explaining the richness of Rwanda's Nature. The idea being that it is only through the knowledge of the nature we live in that our behavior and understanding will change. This museum showcases many specimen and replica of natural wonders of the country.
Located in Kigali about 2 km from Kigali International Airport, the Palace served as home to Juvenal Habyarimana’s and Pasteur Bizimungu during 1970s till late 1990s. The Presidential Palace Museum is one of the new museums in Kigali. It gives visitors a chance to visit the former state house as well as get an overview of Rwanda’s history, one can also visit some of the flight debris for the FALCON 50's presidential plane that went down on 6th April 1994.
Based in Nyanza, 88 km south of Kigali Capital City, this was the residence of King Mutara III Rudahingwa and the Royal Palace that was traditionally built. This Palace offers a glimpse into Rwandan traditional seat of their monarchy, it is an impressive museum, restored to its 19th century state and made entirely with traditional materials. Recently the Long horned Traditional cows, Inyambo were also introduced for cows make up most of Rwandan Culture . On the neighboring hill of Mwima, one can also visit the burial grounds of King Mutara III and his wife Queen Rosalie Gicanda.
Huye (former Butare), Rwanda
Ethnographic Museum is located in Huye, 132 km South of Kigali Capital City, the Ethnographic Museum is one of the six museums that make up the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda.
This Museum was built in 1987, and now houses one of Africa's finest ethnographic collections. Its seven galleries display historical, ethnographic, artistic and archaeological artifacts, giving visitors a rich insight into the culture of Rwandans.
Huye (former Butare), Rwanda
Bisesero Genocide Memorial Site
Bisesero is set in the hills of the Kibuye in Karongi district capital province of West Rwanda where some 30,000 people were killed. The region around Bisesero has become known for the acts of resistance from Tutsis who tried to organise themselves against the massacre. This was mostly unsuccessful as they were fighting with sticks against well-armed and trained soldiers.
Bisesero is a mountainous region situated about 31 km from the lakeside town of Kibuye. Historically, the majority of people who lived in Bisesero were Tutsis, whose main activity was cattle breeding. They were called Abasesero, a name from which the region derives its name.
The Bisesero story
During the genocide of 1994, people in other prefectures were all killed because of their small numbers. Here, however, the Tutsi who lived in Bisesero and the surrounding region gathered together to resist the killers—killers which were their neighbors and other Hutus from surrounding area. That’s why this hill is now called the “Hill of Resistance.” They were successful for some days because they chose the top of a hill on which there were many rocks which they threw at the advancing attackers who were armed with clubs and machetes. After many days of resistance, Hutu reinforcements from the Republican Guard in Kigali and Interahamwe militiamen organized a serious attack against the Tutsis at Bisesero. These new attackers came armed with modern powerful weapons. Under this new assault, the people of Bisesero couldn’t resist for very long and thus succumbed to the genocide. According to testimonies of the survivors, only a few Tutsis who lived in Bisesero escaped. During this onslaught, almost 50,000 people from the region were slaughtered and an estimate of 1,000 people survived.
In 1996, soon after the genocide, survivors gathered together and came up with the idea of gathering all the victims’ remains that were scattered over the hills and valleys into one place in order to bury them with dignity. So, they choose Bisesero, the “Hill of Resistance”. Today, a large number of those remains have been buried. However, a small number have been left unburied in order to be placed in the memorial where they will be displayed in order to preserve the memory of what happened in Bisesero.
This memorial is composed of nine small buildings which represent the nine communes that formerly made up the province of Kibuye. Since 1998, with official burial ceremonies, and with collaboration with the Nationa Museum of Rwanda, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has begun the treatment of human bones and skulls. They are now on display, but are still placed in a make-shift building made of wood and corrugated metal sheeting. At some point in the future those unburied remains will be placed inside the nine buildings that compose the Bisesero Memorial.
Karongi (former Kibuye), Rwanda
During the violence that erupted in the first weeks of April 1994, thousands of people were displaced from their homes. Government officials directed many to take refuge in places such as schools, churches and stadiums. In previous attacks, these types of locations had been safe shelters. But during the 1994 Genocide, they became extermination centers.
Kibuye, a town in the northwest corner of the country, was the site of two such massacres that resulted in the murder of thousands of people over four days. The first massacre occurred at the St. Jean Catholic Church and Home Complex which sits on a piece of land surrounded on three sides by Lake Kivu. By April 17, thousands of unarmed men, women and children, predominantly Tutsi, had taken refuge there. Using guns, grenades, machetes, spears, cudgels and other weapons, members of the Gendarmerie Nationale, police from the Commune of Gitesi (where Kibuye town sits), Interahamwe fighters, and armed civilians attacked and killed those who had gathered.
The second massacre happened at Gatwaro Stadium, located on the main road in Kibuye town. As with the people who gathered at the St. Jean Church and Home Complex, those who congregated at the stadium were told to go there by government officials. Once there, they were not allowed to leave. Without food or water, the captives ate grass. Gatwaro Stadium is located next to a steep hillside. On April 18, Gendarmerie Nationale soldiers; Gitesi Police; Interhamwe fighters and armed civilians surrounded the stadium and the neighbouring hillside. A gunshot in the air initiated the massacre. Men armed with guns were perched on top of the neighbouring hill and tried to shoot everyone in the stadium. When they started throwing grenades, everyone in the stadium lay down so a grenade hit would kill less people at once. It was then that the stadium was gassed, which caused everyone laying down to stand up and start running around, making them easier targets. Thousands were killed that day. The next morning, the attackers returned and killed any who had survived.
The many of the few remaining survivors from those massacres fled to Bisesero.Karongi (former Kibuye), Rwanda
Ste. Famille, the Holy Family, is a church located in downtown Kigali, the national capital. It must have seemed like the ideal sanctuary to people whose lives were at risk. And indeed when the violence broke out on 7 April, following the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana, some residents of troubled districts of Kigali fled to the church immediately. Authorities, in more than a few cases priests, deliberately deceived the victims into thinking they would find sanctuary in a church. Thousands at a time were crammed into the small spaces: 20,000 people managed to try and seek sanctuary at Sainte Famille.
Many of the early arrivals were Hutus – including members of the political opposition who knew instantly what the death of Habyarimana would mean for their security, and one member of a large group of over 400 Hutus who were forced out of their homes in Gisozi, Greater Kigali. But Tutsis also came in droves, and they came from all the surrounding areas.