As people in Rwanda come together on Monday 7 April to mark "Kwibuka 20", to commemorate the genocide of 1994, VSO reflects on its role in the development and rehabilitation of the country and its people.
Working in Rwanda with the expertise of volunteers since 1998, VSO has focused on the role that people and skills exchange can have in enabling people to have better choices to overcome poverty. VSO has been closely involved in Rwanda’s ambitious plans for economic development and poverty reduction through its Vision 2020. VSO volunteers and staff contributed to the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies (EDPRS) by infuencing the inclusion of ‘disability’ as a foundational theme. VSO in Rwanda works with the Ministry for Education and Ministry of Local Government in promoting quality education, rights of people with disabilities, livelihoods promotion of youth and women and national volunteering as a cross-cutting area.
One of the consequences of the 1994 genocide was losing a large number of qualified teachers. In order to reduce the deficit and strengthen education, the government of Rwanda invited VSO in 1998 to support rebuilding teacher’s strength and improving access to education. VSO currently supports the Government of Rwanda’s priority to improve quality in basic education.
Another aftermath of the genocide was an increased number of people with a range of disabilities including physical disabilities, visual and hearing impairments and mental health trauma. While the motivation existed to realise the rights of people with disabilities, resources and technical capacity remained a challenge. VSO has focused on building the capacity and constituency of people with disability to represent and support their members in decision-making processes, as well as increasing access to basic services.
“We stand with the people of Rwanda as they commemorate the Rwandan genocide. We honour the victims, express our solidarity with the survivors and commend the progress towards self-reliance that Rwanda has achieved," said Marg Mayne, Chief Executive of VSO International.
"When I visited VSO Rwanda in 2009 I met members of the Rwandan Paralympics volleyball team, who had been directly affected by the conflict, before they headed to the London Olympics. They had worked with our volunteers to qualify and became national heroes in the process. Their sprit symbolised something of the courage and commitment to rebuild that we see all across Rwanda and which we honour at this time of commemoration," she added.
Among the 89 VSO volunteers currently working in Rwanda are professionals with a background in special education, like Mark Aldridge from the VSO Inclusive Futures in Rwanda project. Working in partnership with Handicap International and other stakeholders such as the Rwandan Ministry of Education, the Rwandan Education Board and the University of Rwanda’s College of Education, he has been part of a team that has developed and piloted a standardised approach to the education and support of children with disabilities in two districts of Rwanda.
"It has been a very rewarding experience to see the benefits that have arisen for all the children involved in this project as some have been able to access school for the first time, while others have had the quality of their school lives and learning experiences significantly improved." said Mark from Kigali this week.
To date, VSO Rwanda has welcomed over 300 volunteers with skills in education (leadership, methodology, resource development, early years), policy advocacy, organisational capacity development, constituency building, sign language, audiology, speech therapy, livelihoods and business development. At present there are 89 VSO international volunteers in Rwanda from 11 countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Canada. In 2013-14, VSO volunteers gave over 12,600 volunteering days towards Rwanda’s development.
VSO and other members of the Network of International NGOs in Rwanda will gather for a Walk to Remember on 14 April.
To request further information or to arrange an interview with a VSO spokesperson or volunteer please contact the international Press office on + 44(0)20 87807381/ +44 (0) 7810 658133 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
VSO brings people together to fight poverty through the lasting power of volunteering. We work alongside communities worldwide to create positive change. Our programmes are in some of the world’s poorest countries reaching millions of people through improved access to services in education, health, HIV and AIDS, disability, and governance. VSO’s vision is of a world without poverty, but we can only achieve this by working together.