Hello from Rwanda!
My name is Ellie Deshaies, and I will be bringing you updates and stories from Rwanda for the next few weeks. Before I jump right in, allow me to explain a little bit about myself and how I came to be here.
I’m currently in my fifth and final year at Northeastern University in Boston, studying International Affairs with a particular interest (and minor) in Social Entrepreneurship. This summer, I was a member of the Ride Against AIDS team, an experience that encouraged me to seek further opportunities related to HIV/AIDS and global health. At Northeastern, the university’s cooperative education program allows students to complete “co-ops” (a fancy and misleading word for internships) in order to gain practical experience in their chosen field of study. When the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance to complete my third and final co-op in Rwanda. I arrived in September, and will be here until mid-December serving as a Programs and Communications Associate for PIH, or IMB (Inshuti Mu Buzima) as it is called in Rwanda.
A note of clarification: FACE AIDS’ work in Rwanda is a program of Partners In Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima, and supports IMB’s work with youth development activities. In my posts, you’ll see me refer to FACE AIDS/IMB programs. FACE AIDS is not an independent INGO in Rwanda, and all of our work in Rwanda is under the leadership and guidance of IMB, in support of their programming.
FACE AIDS in Rwanda: A Brief History
Let me begin with a little bit of history. In 2007, FACE AIDS was invited by Partners in Health to continue their work in Rwanda following the closing of the refugee camp in Zambia where the organization was founded. Initially, FACE AIDS’ support of IMB’s programs consisted of partnering with HIV associations to employ HIV-affected individuals in the country’s Eastern province, providing association members with access to savings, credit, and business training. It also included a youth forum organized around World AIDS Day. After two years of engaging HIV-affected youth in prevention and education activities, the idea for a model of community-based FACE AIDS/IMB youth chapters was born.
Over 1000 people showed up for an initial interest meeting for youth affected by HIV/AIDS. From this initial gathering, over 30 chapters were established in communities throughout the districts of Kayonza and Kirehe. Since 2010, these chapters have all worked to improve the health of their communities through the FACE AIDS/IMB model of Practical Empowerment, which unites leadership development and economic empowerment.
Currently, the IMB/FACE AIDS programming in Rwanda is centered on the 30+ community-based chapters. The HIV associations that were former partners were all transitioned to independence earlier this year. The team here in Rwanda is currently made up of two Program Managers, Eliza and Lilian; two Program Associates, Theophile and Jean Bosco; and for the next few months, me.
With Theo, Lilian, and our driver Alphonse
First Impressions from the Field
Soon after my arrival in September, I was able to accompany Theo, Bosco, and Lilian to the field for a Practical Empowerment training session with the Duhozanye chapter in the Kirehe district. After more than an hour’s drive from the town of Kirehe (during which our driver Alphonse expertly navigated many pothole-ridden, dusty roads), we arrived in Musaza. It was the second day of a two-day training designed to provide chapters with the basics of small business development and management. Topics covered by Bosco and Theo included saving, investing, and the importance of record keeping. Although I didn’t understand most of what was said because my Kinyarwanda is sorely lacking, it was inspiring to meet some of the chapter members and see the FACE AIDS/IMB team in action.
Site of the Practical Empowerment training in Musaza
Members of the Duhozanye FACE AIDS Chapter during the training
Please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com with content suggestions or questions about FACE AIDS/IMB’s work here in Rwanda.
Thanks for reading,