Rwanda: No Orphanage
There are orphans, but there is no orphanage. The development agencies do what they can. The children live in their parents’ houses. They are given money to buy a pig or rabbits or chickens, they receive assistance with food and health care, but they are on their own to make their way. The oldest, often only 13 or 15, takes charge of the younger siblings. I ask how they do it. My friend says, “There is no choice. People do what must be done.”
A few families do what they can to help. My friend, whose husband has passed, has 3 children of her own, and has taken in another 6, paying their school fees. All ten of them squeeze into her small house during vacations from boarding school. The government has set up schools with children from all over the country to avoid the separation that caused the genocide. Children are taught not to think of themselves as Hutus or Tutsis, but as Rwandans.
Paying school fees and attending school are compulsory. A parent can be jailed for not paying school fees. But what to do if there is no money?
My friend is not wealthy, but she is powerful and giving. She works to get by, and shares what she has, and her small banana plantation, sweet potato garden, and cow provide enough for her family.