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Profile

The "Rwenena Kids" program provides education-based services to vulnerable children in a marginalized village in the volatile Ruzizi Plain of South Kivu, DR Congo. Children served include those associated with sexual violence, orphans, those with physical disabilities, and those living with a serious illness or potential illness, such as HIV-AIDS. Money is scarce; local commerce uses exchange of goods rather than payment in cash.

This scholarship program will provide one year of comprehensive services for the education of 20 vulnerable children entering first grade in September 2016. The cost of educating a child in the program this year is $200, which includes school fees, uniforms, shoes, and supplies, a supplementary after-school instruction program, an after-school sport-play program serving the entire school, administrative fees, and regular reporting featuring photos and interviews with teachers, parents, and, when feasible, children. We anticipate significantly lower costs in every subsequent year:

-The current year includes one-time costs for acquisition of new classroom desks and concrete flooring (to prevent parasitic foot disease).
-We plan to increase enrollment with new classes of 30 new first graders every year until at least 2023, funding permitting.

We are particularly proud of our new after-school sport program for the entire school, which provides another unmet need: the joy of running freely in an organized environment playing with a ball. Trained coaches include a female teacher to provide a role model for girls as well as boys, and the local male pastor, a well liked and respected leader in the community.

History

Inspired by a U.S. social justice class she taught in 2009-10 to 7th graders, Annette Scarpitta recognized an unmet need to recognize, inspire, and provide assistance to overlooked and marginalized communities in eastern DR Congo. Mothers reported that after income-generating activities, their top request was for education of their childrenmost born as a result of sexual violence. During her first field visit to the village in 2013, the community welcomed Annette not with customary upbeat songs and dances but with skits to demonstrate their realities. Older children acted out scenes of war, sexual violence, and finally, the provision of education through Annette's efforts.

In 2015, Annette formally joined forces with the Synergy of Congolese Women's Associations (SAFECO), a grassroots, local Congolese organization founded in 2012. SAFECO provides a variety of opportunities for young and old in marginalized communities, including women with disabilities.

Impact

The SAFECO team works directly with the Rwenena community including school leaders, teachers, the village chief, church leaders, parents, and children. Since the program began, the community has reached a deeper understanding of the limitations that this program has and the need for them to take initiatives to sustain themselves. Many families served earlier can now pay basic tuition fees without assistance.

Although many needs remain in the greater community, one of the most powerful components of this project is the social acceptance of each student regardless of gender or life circumstances as a valued, accepted member of the school and, by default, of society. Parents have agreed that to receive scholarships, their children especially girls - must spend time studying even if it means sacrificing traditional household chores. Students realize that education is the key to a better future for themselves and for their families, and they are motivated to succeed. We are reaching where no other NGO works, and we are contributing to UN Global Goal Number 4, to provide education for all.

Team Credentials

Founder and program director of Rwenena Kids, Annette Scarpitta came with prior experience and board membership in educational initiatives in Kenya and Afghanistan. She has developed a U.S. team consisting of experts in international development and early childhood development, along with former students, parents.

Neema Namadamu, founder and president of SAFECO, has gained international recognition and accolades for her work. Stany Nzabas, SAFECO program manager, works effectively to bridge the gap between international development expectations (including fluent English, solid accounting and budget-balancing skills, and training and interpretation of and for local communities. He works closely with Rwenena Kids field manager Jean Paul Elongo Makambo. Having graduated from the Advanced Institute of Rural Development in 2009, Jean Paul served as Project Director for Initiatives for Local Reconciliation and in 2011 founded the Youth for Peace Center. Jean Paul worked extensively and effectively in Rwenena before joining our team and integrating Youth for Peace components into our program.

Updates

  • Student Profile Update: Hekima

    [font=sans-serif]The Congo project (Rwenena Kids) is going very well.[/font] [b]Out of Low Expectations Emerges A New Leader[/b] In June 2014, some 39 villagers in the eastern Congolese village of Mutarule perished in an ethnic-based massacre. Among the survivors were Hekima and his parents, who found their way to Rwenena as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Hekima was born with Madelung's deformity, leaving his left hand without functionality. His parents are subsistence farmers and his father is blind in one eye. IDPs and those with physical impairments are two categories of vulnerable children in our program. At age 7, Hekima came to Rwenena Primary School last year as an incoming first grader. Neither his parents nor his teachers believed he could succeed with the use of only one hand, but he proved them wrong. As school progressed, he scored second highest in his class. Hekima had been placed in our after-school supplementary education program for struggling learners. Hi...
  • Photographs from Rwenena and Rwenena Primary School

    [font=OpenSansRegular, arial, sans-serif][img]/images/user/50300_6503509669067170339.png[/img][/font] [i] Rwenena kids wave "hello"[/i] [i] [/i][font=OpenSansRegular, arial, sans-serif][img]/images/user/50300_1453136703343104717.png[/img][/font] [font=OpenSansRegular, arial, sans-serif][i] Who knows how to play soccer?[/i][/font] [font=OpenSansRegular, arial, sans-serif][img]/images/user/50300_3588922296356835550.png[/img][/font] [font=OpenSansRegular, arial, sans-serif][i] A passionate student, Nyota, in her school uniform[/i][/font] [i] [/i][font=OpenSansRegular, arial, sans-serif][img]/images/user/50300_9129799383417522679.png[/img][/font] [i] A Summer Tots class[/i]

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