Meddie*, 11 years old, escaped his home because of the constant beatings. His mother Ritah* is a single mother of four who works as a street vendor and earns about $41/month to support her family.
“ She used to beat me for playing too much, when I was eating the maize that was left at night, or because I was not doing work at home!” remembers Meddie.
Meddie lived on the streets for two days and endured more beatings, coldness and the constant search for food. The following day, Meddie went to Retrak center. Retrak is a local partner of AVSI for the Family Resilience (FARE) project implemented by AVSI and funded by the ASPIRES project of FHI360. Meddie had heard of the center from a peer.
When Meddie arrived at Club House, one of Retrak’s centers, all he had eaten since leaving his home was a chapatti and beans. At the center, he was reserved and had a hard time making friends. When asked about his home location and his family, he had a negative attitude and was reluctant to answer. It was only with time and through different rehabilitative programs that the center offers that Meddie started opening up and sharing. Through life skill lessons, counseling, and story sharing, Meddie began to look at his life in a more positive way.
Meddie, started making friends, getting along with others, doing chores and learning how to communicate. The center helped Meddie identify and learn positive ways of dealing with his problems and making decisions. Eventually, the Retrak counselors began to ask about his interest in going back home.
“I need to go home and apologize to my mother, she lives alone and I am sure that she has no one to leave my siblings with when I am not home,” concluded Meddie.
FARE is centered on the process of reintegration; of bringing families back together. In order to reintegrate a child with his family, the family is first located and the child brought back to the family. While the family is initially being reunited, the social workers help mend the wrong done, helping the family and child accept each other again. The social workers also ensure that it is a safe environment for the child. This is a process of healing and restoring relationships. The reintegration of the child in school is also an important aspect. While the children are in the centers, waiting for the process of family reintegration, they receive life skills lessons and “catch up” classes to help them bridge the gap and not get too far behind in school.
In Meddie’s case, his mother came to pick him up from the center, after having reported a disappearance case to the Nabweru police that managed to trace Meddie at Retrak center. His mother broke into tears when she saw him. Meddie, upon seeing his mother, immediately knelt down in tears saying, “Mummy I am very sorry, I am asking for your forgiveness and acceptance back home.” Ritah confessed that one night when she was looking for Meddie in the slums, she got a tip-off from other children, who came and slept late at night on the streets. That same night, the police rescued her from men who were going to rape her.
After they were reunited, Ritah received Meddie with love and promised to take good care of him. She warned him about the negative influence of peers and urged him to always be disciplined back at home.
Part of the reunification process are the follow up visits done by social workers to ensure a good situation for the child and the family. Meddie was first followed up in March 2016, and the social worker continued family dialogues on parenting with Meddie’s family. Yet, Meddie was not in school so Retrak agreed with Ritah to cost share the school fees. Meddie was placed in Abbey Foundation Primary School in Nabwery in Primary Four.
On the recent follow up on August 2016, the social workers found Meddie in school at Abbey Foundation Primary School. The teachers reported that the child is well disciplined; he cares for others and currently is the head prefect at school. His mother Ritah confirmed his accomplishments and stated that his behavior was very good.
Meddie’s story is one of many. Every week, children find their ways to Retrak and other local partners like COWA and after receiving life skills lessons, counseling and the correct assistance and attention, they can finally rediscover their path. Through finding the family, allowing for a good reunification and with the power of follow-up visits and individualized support, the project ensures continual family dialogues on parenting, respect and child welfare. The family situation is looked after more closely and guided towards being economically strengthened and sustainable.
* all names have been changed for privacy reasons
From a distance, Minembwe, a territory near Uvira, South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is almost postcard perfect, green and peaceful. But the landscape is a sharp contrast to the daily routine: life here is far from easy. Minembwe can only be accessed by helicopter on a weekly basis from a city a few hours away. The alternative is to arrive on a motorcycle taxi, a trip that is very uncomfortable, or to walk.
“Here, there is no power, and we have to use bucket showers. There’s not much food and it is always the same: rice, beans and foufou, which is made of cassava and is the main food among the Congolese. Fruits and vegetables don’t grow because it’s too hot. Rebels are hiding in the forests nearby and the area is still very dangerous,” explains Diego Filopandi, who works with AVSI in DRC. “Getting ill here is terrifying, giving birth an odyssey. There are no operating theaters. We don’t have access to basic medical infrastructure. There are only a few clinics here able to provide basic care, but if there’s an emergency, you have to rely on luck”.
This is all about to change for the 80,000 people who live in the region. On October 27, the Minembwe General Hospital was officially opened. With funding from the European Union, AVSI built a hospital with six pavilions covering 13,000 square feet. The hospital has a male and female ward, a pediatric intensive care unit, a maternity ward, a general surgery ward, a laboratory analysis building and an administrative block.
The official opening was celebrated enthusiastically. It took years for the hospital to be built and involved many contributions, which were all essential to the construction. AVSI officially handed over the hospital to the DRC Ministery of Health, who in turn will manage the facilities and ensure its access to as many people as possible. At the opening ceremony, members of the Taioli family and major donors from Cesena, Italy were all present.
During the construction, many people living in Minembwe would come to see the progress of the building. Among them, there was Maman Aimee. She is almost nine months pregnant and has never had access to any pre-natal care. “Kuwa Nguvu, Maman Aimee, Be Strong!”, kept wishing her friends. They hope she will be able to give birth in the new hospital.
By ROBERTA ALVES AND MARIE L'HERMINE
Photos taken by AVSI staff in Ivory Coast
In a country where only 56.9% of the population are able to read and write, AVSI found an easy and exciting way to bring thousands of new books to children’s doorsteps: foldable mobile libraries. As part of the project implemented by AVSI under the leadership of the World Food Programme (WFP), “Integrated Support for Sustainable School Canteens and Early Grade Reading in Ivory Coast” (2016-2020), 80,000 books will be distributed to 613 schools in seven program regions: Cavally, Bafing, Bagoue, Poro, Tchologo, Boukani and Gontougo. Each school will receive a mobile library which can hold up to 30 books and will include titles written by Ivorian, African and Francophone authors.
The project aims to improve the literacy skills of children attending primary school in Ivory Coast by assisting the Ministry of Education with the implementation of its new early grade reading curriculum including training teachers and facilitating parent and community involvement in literacy related activities. The World Food Programme (WFP) will be implementing a school feeding program in the same 613 schools with the intention of improving the nutritional status of children. Both sets of outcomes—nutrition and early reading skills—will complement each other for greater impact on the lives of these children in Ivory Coast.
Research has shown the importance that access to books has in promoting a love of reading and fundamental skills at a young age.
“We want to give children a broader understanding of the French language,” explains Elly Bahati, AVSI Education Officer and Program Manager in Ivory Coast. “We began by choosing Ivorian authors as a priority and then we expanded with titles published in African Francophone countries and finally we included other books written in French”.
In July, the first step in this five-year project funded by the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program through USDA, came to a close. AVSI, in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Ivory Coast Ministry of Education, and the National Statistical Institute (INS) carried out a robust baseline assessment of schools targeted for the project. AVSI brought on board the services of IMPAQ International, a DC based firm with plenty of experience in education evaluation, to test the reading skills of students in 100 primary schools in the seven regions. 1,181 students went through the testing—a combination of a reading assessment and school and household surveys. The main goal was to understand how many students can read according at grade level at the beginning of the project.
The results were poor, but not unexpected. Very few students can read at grade level: only 5% of first graders passed the acceptable reading threshold for their grade. Reading proficiency levels were low across all grades and the numbers seem to get worse as the children grow older: 14% of second graders, 22% of third graders, 11% of fourth graders, 6% of fifth graders, and 8% of sixth graders read at grade level. Across all grades, girls demonstrated lower reading skills than boys.
One positive finding was the widespread interest that children expressed towards reading. “Although there is a low presence of books outside of schools and low parental engagement in reading at home, children show a positive attitude towards reading and a growing desire for having access to more books,” says Bahati.
In the next few months, children at these schools in mostly rural regions of the country, will have the opportunity to be introduced to the mobile libraries through interactive activities like story time, music, theater and individual reading. The mobile libraries have already been used in big cities like the capital, Abidjan, but this will be the first time they are introduced in these regions. They were created with the idea of introducing books to children in a fun way.
AVSI Network was able to collect 30,000 books around the World
Once the project is completed, 125,000 children will have access to 80,000 books. 30,000 of them were donated to AVSI from francophone countries like Switzerland and France. The other 50,000 will be bought. Once each school has their library, children will be able to take books home on a regular basis to read with their families.
As part of the project, teachers working in the seven regions will also receive training on how to use improved tools to teach math and reading. The main new tools are a series of booklets designed to help students have a better understanding of letters and sounds in order to decode words and be able to read.
“This project is fundamental to deal with the current struggle with illiteracy in Ivory Coast and we are confident it will bring positive changes,” says Coulibaly Adama, General Adjunct of the National Ministry of Education.
Prepared by Jackie Aldrette, AVSI-USA. Please send comments and suggestions to Jackie.firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, the OVC Task Force and AVSI-USA co-sponsored an event entitled “From Vulnerability to Resilience: Promoting Graduation in OVC Programs.” The event was designed to facilitate a dialogue among practitioners and with policy-makers and researchers with the goal of taking stock of how graduation approaches to OVC programs are being used today, what the variations in application of the model look like and what results are emerging.
The organizers laid out to the group of 65 participants representing a number of NGOs and donor agencies a preliminary task of clarifying the definition of graduation in terms of OVC programs. As implied in the event title, the dialogue began from a shared framework that the goal of OVC programs is to reach highly vulnerable children and their families and facilitate their transition to greater well-being and stability, with the ideal goal of resilient households providing the conditions for children to thrive. OVC programs have evolved over time and now incorporate economic strengthening of the household has a key element of the effort to build coping and caring capacities of caregivers of children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Central to the structure of the event were two project presentations. These presentations explained how the implementing organizations, AVSI Foundation and FXB, are utilizing graduation concepts and putting them into practice, as well as the results which have emerged.
From the first discussion guided by Jason Wolfe of USAID, it was clear that while a number of central concepts of the graduation approach are clear and shared, there are differences in opinion as well. One axis of debate was around whether graduation is a project-specific concept that involves a clear threshold that a person or household must pass in order to graduate from direct project support, or to a less intense level of support. Alternatively, graduation could be considered as a vision of the ideal end-state of empowerment, self-sufficiency and the capacity to access the services that a person or household needs to maintain a satisfactory level of well-being.
The AVSI SCORE project in Uganda has operationalized the graduation model as a programming tool, intrinsically linked to the project’s case management system and on-going vulnerability assessment. In SCORE, a household graduates when they demonstrate reduced vulnerability across a number of domains and successfully over at least 2 years. Resilience is used to define the status of a household who has graduated and maintained the same reduced level of vulnerability for at least another year.
The FXB Village model in Rwanda and elsewhere uses a classic approach to graduation in which the program is designed with an end-state of empowerment and self-sufficiency in mind, and with gradual reduction in project inputs over time. Graduation does not refer to satisfaction of certain conditions, but to the general theory of change underpinning the capacity building approach and gradual weaning of project support.
By Andrea Bianchessi
Photos by Brett Morton
The face, marked by age, betrays all her 55 years. But the smile and the eyes of Daphrose shine joyously through the deep lines. The three terrible months of genocide in Rwanda, approximately 100 days between April 7 and mid-July 1994, when more than one million people were massacred in her country, have marked her life forever. During that time, she lost her house and saw friends, family, and neighbors brutally assassinated, while she and her 5 children had to flee far from the capital.
Today, some twenty years later, Daphrose has become president of a cooperative that produces and sells coffee in the capital, Kigali. It’s a group of 140 women of all ages, both Hutu and Tutsi, the two ethnicities that faced each other during the genocide. Also known as the genocide against the Tutsi, the Rwandan genocide was a mass slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. Now, they help one another overcome life’s small challenges. When one of the mothers needs to pay a medical bill for her child, or to repair the roof of her home, Daphrose’s cooperative find ways to cover the costs.
“We’ve been working together for ten years now,” recalls Daphrose, “We harvest the coffee, oversee the first drying process of the seeds, and then we sell them - at an honest price. We no longer sell to the first merchant that offers to buy it, often at prices lower than market rate.”
Daphrose’s cooperative is not an isolated case in Rwanda. Her example has been followed by the Urubohero, a group of 90 women who, together, make artisanal products and, never miss the opportunity to welcome visitors with songs and dancing. They produce agaseke, traditional Rwandan colored baskets, as well as bags, soaps, and natural products. They also export their handcrafts abroad, thanks to a collaboration with the local Ministry of Commerce.
The project was an unhoped-for success until 10 years ago, when the Urubohero adventure began with the launch of a self-managed nursery: the mothers would take turns in caring for the children, allowing the others to work to support their families.
Born from the necessity to respond to the great daily challenges that this small country in Sub-Saharan Africa presents them, these little experiences have become examples of success. Thanks also to the work of Lorette Birara, herself a Rwandan forced to flee to Belgium during the genocide, who then returned to contribute to the rebirth of Rwanda. Today, Lorette is the AVSI Foundation Manager in Rwanda. She is in charge of the projects that AVSI, an Italian organization, has been carrying out since 1994, and looks with pride at the fruits of the work of this cooperative that she has helped to support.
“A few years ago, it wasn’t even possible to imagine a peaceful meeting between even ten of these women” Loretta explains. “Now, more than one hundred are working together. A community has been reborn.”
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