Sunday, 25 September 2011

Gisimba Orphanage

When we go out to Rwanda next April, one of the places we are due to visit is Gisimba Orphanage.

In 1994, the Gisimba Memorial Centre had approximately 60 orphans.  During the genocide as Rwandans fled for their safety, the Gisimba family opened the orphanage doors to protect and shelter over 400 people.  After a harrowing couple of months surviving for long periods without food and water these people were eventually saved with the help from an American Aid Worker called Carl Wilkens.  

After the genocide in 1994, the majority of the children that came to Gisimba were orphaned as a result of the genocide, however, today many of the children who have more recently come to live as Gisimba have been orphaned by AIDS and issues related to poverty. 

Presently Gisimba is home to approximately 150 children and youths between the ages of  2 and 22.  These kids and youths are bright, warm and have a curiosity for life. While their situation is tough, these children are resilient and you can't help but feel and sense a strong feeling of support and love within the walls of the Gisimba orphanage. Older children pitch in and act as older "brothers and sisters" to the younger children. Soccer and games fill the yard when school is out and children support day-to-day life doing chores and helping out.

The leadership and staff at Gisimba are committed and play a key role in providing a nurturing, supportive and safe place for these children to grow. While they are provided for in many ways—there is a great need for better food, programs of support for development, health and education. 

In spite of great challenges, there is a sense of hope and community that has been built at Gisimba. One that, given the support needed, will continue to flourish and grow providing for the children and youth there, but also to the community. 

We’ll be visiting the Orphanage on the second full day of our field trip next year.  I have no doubt that as a mother of two I will find this experience tough going, but just through the research and reading up I’ve already done on Gisimba I’m sure I will find the children there inspirational and can’t wait to have the privilege of re-telling their stories on here.

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