Our project “Kigarama”, founded in 1994, is located about 200 km west of the capital Kigali at an altitude of 1800 m at Lake Kivu, one of the largest lakes in Africa. Until 2015 it offered a home to about 100 orphans.
After the government implemented its decision that children and adolescents under 18 may only be educated in private families and not by institutions, and all children were taken away, we opened a vocational school. It maintains a training farm on 18 hectares for practical training. There is also the possibility to participate in tailoring courses.
In April 1994, an estimated one million people were killed in Rwanda in a conflict between Hutu and Tutsi populations. Countless children lost their parents.
After the civil war, the new government was able to take over the south and west of the country in August. At this time, L’ESPERANCE began distributing food from our children’s village in neighboring Uganda.
L’ESPERANCE then became the first children’s charity to go to the insecure region in the west of the country. In December 1994, we were able to take in the first 100 orphans in an abandoned building of the STA hospital in Mugonero. During 1995, vacant houses adjacent to the hospital were renovated and put to use.
Finally, in 2001, the move to the present site took place: Kigarama on Lake Kivu. Soon a beautiful village complex with seven residential houses, a tailoring workshop and a teaching farm with about 12 hectares of horticulture had been created there, giving children a home. There, where about 9000 people had been murdered in one day, 107 orphans found a new home in family groups.
Thanks to God’s help, the children, who had seen their parents and siblings slaughtered before their eyes, were gradually recovering.
Unfortunately, the government of Rwanda ordered all orphanages to be closed by the end of 2014. The children and young people were to be taken to distant relatives where possible. Those with no known family members were to be adopted or placed with host families. Uncertainty and fear spread among the children of Kigarama. However, the government’s pressure on our orphanage as well as on relatives of the orphans grew, so that more and more children were taken away, most of them into inhumane conditions.
At this time, we were made aware of a particular need where help was urgently needed.
In western Rwanda, there are many cases of raped underage girls. They usually have no school-leaving qualifications, no education, no income and, with their babies, no future prospects. Often they are abandoned by their family or the family is not able to support the young mother with her child. We decided to take in such desperate girls in the houses that had become vacant, to give them the opportunity to graduate from school and to get an education, thus preparing them for an independent life. However, after a few months, a higher government authority also banned this project on the grounds that it was a kind of children’s village, too.
Now the decision had to be made how we could best use the beautiful village for the benefit of the poor. Because of the large acreage and dairy and chicken farming, it was decided in consultation with Rwandan friends and government authorities to open an agricultural school. This happened in March 2016.
The school has since received government recognition as a four-year senior high school specializing in agriculture, where children from poor families are given the opportunity to graduate from high school and to continue their studies at a college or university. More than 200 students are now taught here.
Our General Manager Théomistoclès Turihokubwayo miraculously survived a tragic bus accident in December 2018. Now, however, he is confined to a wheelchair. Since then, the paths on the grounds have been reconstructed to ensure accessibility. This means that even students with walking disabilities can attend school in Kigarama.