Those who have been following this blog will be familiar with our porridge project which started at Rutonde in 2013. Using a daily meal of porridge given to malnourished and underfed children as a base, the project enabled the children's families to start generating their own income through the distribution of goats and rabbits.
Earlier this year we started another porridge project in Rugende to the east of Kigali. Whereas Rutonde sits some way out of the city on the slopes of the Nyaburongo river valley, Rugende is less fertile and has distinctly less economic activity by way of shops and markets. What the two communities share however is poverty. The houses in both districts which might politely be described as basic are easiy to spot.
We know from experience that these are the homes of families that don't eat every day. Very often the household is a mother bringing up several children. For some, what income they earn is by going to the fields early each morning hoping to find work, paid by the day. For others, prostitution in the city a way of finding money to pay for food. Whichever way the women earn their living, taking their children with them is a burden.
When we started the porridge at Rugende it was initially the children of women who worked in the fields who came along. After a few weeks however the numbers attending started to fall away. We discovered that this was largely because of the distances the women have to walk to get to the fields. Although the children were being fed early in the morning, the women had to get on with their day or risk not finding work.
Our answer to this has been to start a day-care facility, planned to open in January with the new school term. The service will be free and will take children of mothers who cannot afford to pay. Children can be left for the morning and collected in the middle of the day when their mothers have finished work. The children will be taught basic reading and writing, have toys for play and will be fed.
We are hoping that this approach will enable us to reach more underfed children while at the same time freeing their mothers to earn money.