Supporting vulnerable families in Kigali
“Since I was a young girl, I had a dream that when I grow up; I will give a hand to families living in miserable conditions. I have always had compassion for children born to poor parents and for courageous mothers who raise their children alone”
Founder and Director
Grown to Help (Rwanda)
Founder Tour 2022 in Kigali-Rwanda
Kigali, the capital and largest city of Rwanda, was our second founder tour stop. We spent two weeks witnessing how Grown to Help’s team is driving change in the lives of women and children in Nyarugenge, Kigali. Grown to Help is among the seven organisations that earned the Lightup Impact Badge and were shortlisted to take part in a joint crowdfunding campaign and in the Founder Tour Program. The tour aims to initiate collaborative research and impactful projects between Lightup Impact and member organisations with the donations that were jointly raised during the crowdfunding campaign.
Founder tour activities – a collaboration between Lightup Impact and Grown to Help
Grown to Help (GTH)
Grown to Help (GTH) is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Kigali, with its headquarters in Nyarugenge District. Kigali as a capital is divided into three administrative districts Nyarugenge in the south west, Kicukiro in the south east, and Gasabo, which occupies the northern half of the city’s territory; Grown to Help operates in Nyarugenge district but it is not limited to work in other districts as well. Founded in 2020 by an avid young lady called Mugabekazi Denyse, who envisions a world of justice and equal opportunities. Grown to Help envisions a country in which all children access quality education, and women can influence decision-making, to participate fully and effectively in society’s development. Denyse and her team carry out various activities that result in poverty alleviation, women empowerment, education, sanitation and hygiene, sexual reproductive health, gender-based violence eradication and family welfare.
Founder Tour Begins………..
Lightup Impact team was thrilled to start the Founder tour activities with Grown To Help, which began with both teams meeting at the Grown to Help office space in Nyarugenge District, Gitega Sector. In this session, a brief introduction took place where both teams exchanged what they do, their motivation and their mission and vision.
Aimable Niyikiza, Executive Director of GTH, took us through the organization’s vision and mission behind their work. Denyse explained that the name Grown to Help came from her father’s name, which means ‘Grow and Help’ in English. In a gesture of honor, Denyse decided to name her NGO after him. After his passing, Denyse witnessed her mother struggle to raise her and her siblings, fueling her desire to help children to be able to complete their studies and, securing them better opportunities.
Pads distribution and training on hygiene in menstruation and gender based violence
As the first activity the team met at Ecole Primaire de Gitega, in Gitega Sector for a session with the beneficiary girls and women of the Grown to Help program. This was a training session with 22 adolescent girls between the ages of 13-20 years, 9 women and 3 teen mothers who are beneficiaries of Grown to Help from Gitega Sector, Ecole Primaire de Gitega and Groupe scolaire Kimisagara. Opportune Uwacu, a member of Grown to Help, and a representative from Kosmotives (a member of Lightup Impact Community) delivered the training on menstruation, hygiene and self-care. Grown to Help chose this specific topic because, period poverty can expose girls and women to violence. By providing free sanitary pads to a marginalized group of girls and women, they protect them from sexual exploitation and abuse, and prevent girls from missing school during their menstrual period, which often affects their academic performance. Ensuring that girls have access to menstrual hygiene products also protects them against diseases that may occur due to poor hygiene during menstruation.
Opportune Uwacu training the adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene
Being an organisation keen on family welfare, they engage both boys and girls to become agents of change, to speak out against gender based violence and to take informed decisions concerning their bodies.The second training of the day was on gender based violence prevention by a professional from the partner RODI Organization (a member of Lightup Impact Community) Gloria Dadyne. She trained the girls on the existing forms of violence, its causes and how they as young adolescent girls can actively help victims of gender based violence. During the discussion it was really interesting to see the girls engaging and sharing. They shared ways to help victims of gender based violence by; listening to them, accompanying them to hospital, encouraging and helping them to ask for help and seeking justice.
As the training on gender based violence concluded the Grown to Help team shared the details of different places to reach out in case of any gender based violence:
Training of women in business on financial literacy
In theory, African women can start a business, but in practice, they are not as well-equipped to expand and secure their enterprises in the long run. Therefore the success of a small-scale business is largely determined by the skills and knowledge of its owner. A financially literate business woman understands how money is made, spent and saved in her business. Furthermore, financial literacy empowers women to make independent decisions. With this knowledge and mission to improve their beneficiary’s economic status, Grown to Help conducted a training session on financial literacy to 12 businesswomen (women in business) in Gitega Sector, Nyarugenge District, Kigali City.
The Women in business program run by Grown to Help, supports the mothers of the children who also receive assistance by Grown to Help by paying for their school education. These women have been sponsored with capital to start businesses that empower them financially to provide for their families. They run businesses such as selling charcoal, fruits and mandazi (a small cake made of sweetened dough fried in oil) in the city center. Since most households are being run by women this training was beneficial to help them make sound financial decisions for themselves and their families, budget and plan ahead, build up some savings, invest prudently and understand their rights and responsibilities. The trainer Hyacithe Mizero, through an elaborative breakdown, helped them to identify the first and last needs for their families and make informed choices between different financial products and services such as power, fees, food, rent and savings. She emphasized on the need to save as much as possible since the beauty about savings is that it gives one room to grow and provides capital for the future.
Meeting with beneficiary Children
Education is an important aspect of economic growth and development. The Government of Rwanda, Education Sector Strategic Plan 2018/2019-2023/24 (ESSP) gives a blueprint for an education system that seeks to “ensure that the young generation has the skills and competences required to become productive members of the society; so as to contribute to the growth and development of the nation”. However, Rwanda like any other country in the world is still experiencing some challenges in their implementation of achieving quality education. There are a number of major challenges that need to be overcome in order to achieve this impact. Some of these challenges include high dropout rates, nutrition, and poverty among others.
Organisations such as Grown to Help are taking up the role to address these challenges in Kigali. Denyse explained that the majority of children in her neighbourhood are vulnerable due to the extreme poverty. Girls get married underage and without economic independence, vulnerable children are exposed to all kinds of abuse, some of them dropout of school to become prostitutes, house helpers, drug addicts, thieves, street children etc.
Beneficiaries of the sexual reproductive health (SRH) and gender based violence (GBV) training program
It’s because of such experience that Grown to Help is empowering vulnerable families by supporting their children’s education and helping them to develop self-reliance. Through their projects they support 36 children from 10 vulnerable families in Gitega Sector by enrolling them in schools, paying their school fees, provision of school supplies and all necessary school materials. In addition, they organize meetings and events with them, with the aim of encouraging them to succeed in school by emphasizing the vision of becoming competitive on the labour market. Moreover, they educate heads of families, parents and caretakers, on their role and contribution to their children’s academic performance.
On this particular day Lightup Impact team got an opportunity to interact and listen to the stories of the 26 beneficiary children from Gitega Sector who are being supported by Grown to help. The children shared how their lives have changed so far because of the support they have received to continue with their education. They shared how; they have peace of mind and are confident about completing their primary and secondary level studies. According to them, they are hopeful for the future, they are experiencing peace at school and at home as parents no longer stress to look for fees and are now focused and disciplined with good morals.
Mirriam (in uniform) daughter to Isabella Ndagano and the team on their way to their home in Kabeza
Visit to one beneficiary woman in business
To understand the impact of Grown to Help in the community, the Grown to Help and Lightup Impact teams visited Isabella Ndagano at her home in Kabeza cell, Gitega Sector. Isabella is a beneficiary from the women in business program run by Grown to Help. She is a single mother of three – two girls and one boy. Before Grown to Help supported her she used to live a difficult life. Her children couldn’t attend school due to lack of finances to pay for their education. She was struggling alone as her husband had left her with all the responsibilities. The family used to stay in a single room which could not house all the four of them; meaning it was hard as a mother of teenagers as they had no privacy. She was always stressed because of how difficult life was and often could only afford one meal per day. All this changed when Grown to Help visited her home. Together with other women, they were trained on sexual reproductive health, gender equality, saving and small business creation. After presenting her mandazi project she was chosen among other women to receive financial support to start her own business in order to be economically empowered.
In December 2021 Grown to Help provided her with 70,000Rwf capital to start a mandazi business. In a day she makes between 200-300 mandazi which she sells wholesale in the market; 1 packet of 12 for 1000 Rwf. The business has changed her life and she is now a happy woman. Together with her children she now lives in a three roomed house with enough space for the four of them. Her children go to school and have the necessary materials to study without any stress. Previously she couldn’t even afford the luxury of sleeping in a mattress but today her children and herself can sleep comfortably at night. She also bought a television set which she enjoys watching with her children as family time together. She is forever grateful to Denyse and the Grown to Help team who have been a constant motivation for her and other women to change their lives and take their children to school.
The challenges that young founders in Kigali face when implementing their projects and how they overcome them.
Lightup Impact is keen on understanding the challenges that founders of Community Based Organizations and NGOs face to scale their impact. To have a better understanding of the challenges in Kigali, we carried out a focus group discussion with 11 young founders from Kigali in Hotel Baobab, Nyamirambo Sector, Nyarugenge District. Most of them are young founders working with women, girls and children in Kigali.
They all agreed that in the starting stage of the organization often visibility and credibility with external stakeholders is lacking. At times the registration process is also challenging and often organisations do not have all the required documentation. Education, experience and networking plays a big role in regards to credibility as a founder of an early stage social organization. Sometimes, donors question if they are knowledgeable enough to run an organization or if they have the experience required. An example is when one has an education background in political science yet they are running an organisation dealing with children and teen mothers or gender based violence.
Founders of Social organizations during a focused group discussion at Baoba Hotel, Kigali
From the discussion, they expressed the need to be trained on proposal and grant writing as this is key when applying to donors for support. In addition, they expressed the need to collaborate, partner and secure funding to run their projects. They shared the different channels they use to raise visibility and credibility. They also shared that it was very important to work with like-minded individuals in order to network and build relationships.
Some of the channels they use to be visible include:
Meetings , Workshops,
Connections (who do you know)
Umuganda (the public cleaning day event)
Joint Action for District Forum (JADF) group. where you have a stand and showcase your organisation’s activities
Umberral groups e.g. Women empowerment, Youth, Children depending on the project you’re working on.
After the discussion Lightup Impact was glad to welcome five new founders- namely Umuhoza Amina –Saye Cmpany Ltd, Muhire Jean Claude – Love the kids Rwanda, Migambi Jean Paul – Upchild Organization, Ruhumuriza Patrick- Precious You and Uwimana Chrysostome – RODI Organisation Rwanda into the Lightup Impact Community increasing our organization numbers in Rwanda from three to eight.
Grown To Help (GTH) Organization, was founded with the aim of empowering vulnerable families by supporting their children’s education and helping them to develop self-reliance. This team is very motivated and driven by their wish to see actual change in the lives of women and children in Kigali. On a volunteer basis, they are committed to social impact within their society. As Lightup Impact we were delighted to experience this journey of impact in the lives of vulnerable families in Nyarugenge District. We are glad to have participated in the Founder tour activities together with Grown to Help. Through the joint crowdfunding donations 22 vulnerable adolescents girls received one packet (seven pieces) of sanitary pads that would take them for two years alleviating the stress they experienced during their menstrual cycle. The girls can now focus on their studies with confidence to excel. As we ended the tour Denyse shared the good news of her partnership with SATO toilets as part of her projects “to promote an improved sanitation, health and hygiene culture,” we congratulate and wish Grown to Help all the best in their new partnership.
As Lightup Impact we’re glad to see the social impact we could drive together!