URINZIRA COMMUNITY CENTER is based on the traditional Rwandan concept of “working together” which AVSI-RWANDA has adopted as a model for integrated community development and social support.
AVSI Rwanda has been in operation since 1994. In the months immediately after the infamous Rwandan genocide, UNICEF asked AVSI to begin working to assist in the international response.
Ever since then, AVSI Rwanda has continued to focus on the needs of children, youth and rural communities with a holistic approach that favors the development of local solutions to pressing needs.
Today, AVSI Rwanda works in 6 districts in the country, with multi-sectoral programs and a range of donors and institutional support.
Rural communities in Rwanda are most often disconnected from quality services, information and main markets. Poor infrastructure, low levels of literacy, and other cultural factors present barriers to reducing this disconnection and opening opportunities for improved health, economic growth, education and employment. AVSI Rwanda understands this as a “last mile problem.” In other words, one focused on how to effectively connect the most marginalized and disadvantaged persons with the government and social services needed to improve their living conditions.
AVSI Rwanda’s outreach activities and social-educational interventions were, by 2013, making a difference in a number of districts, including Gicumbi. But these activities needed a “home”. As a result of AVSI Rwanda’s close relationship with the community, the local government of the Gicumbi district awarded AVSI use of an old building to house the Urinzira Community Center located near Kinyami. The new building was both an opportunity for stability and growth, as well as a challenge to fund both rehabilitation costs and operational expenses.
Since 2010, AVSI-USA has partnered with AVSI Rwanda and the Urinzira Community Centers to strengthen their innovative methodology. An Urinizra center brings together local resources from the health sector (local clinics and nearest hospitals), the social sector (schools), and the public sector (local government representatives) into one collaborative platform that is accessible to the entire public, including the most marginalized.
AVSI-USA actively seeks US partners to support AVSI Rwanda and the Urinzira Community Centers to respond to the concrete needs of marginalized Rwandan populations, and to build a solid foundation for a future of continued service.
In the Urunizira Community Center of Gicumbi, all walls were rebuilt and painted, windows and doors were replaced and the roof was reinforced.
Furniture, books, play equipment and other resources were purchased or made by the community.
306 children and youth, and 583 families from the areas around Kinyami and Rukomo now use the space on a regular basis.
The center has expanded its services to include a community managed early learning center, a community library, literacy classes, tutoring, and women’s’ self-help groups.