Stephen Ucembe watched as the head of his mother separated from her body. “It was on the floor over there” he said with an involuntary nod to the foreground. She was breastfeeding his baby brother. The murderer fled. Neighbours in the village found the children and took them to hospital. He stayed there a month. And then he was taken from his two siblings and driven to an orphanage in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, one hundred miles from his rural home. Noone spoke to him about what had happened. He was processed and then like all the other children he had to survive the institution. This is Stephen now after our conversation.
Rachel was sent to an orphanage because of her mother’s illness. When her mother visited to see her daughter she was beaten senseless by the guards at the gate of the orphanage and sent away. Rachel saw it all. At fifteen the orphanage owner raped her. Later on he took her and the child as his wife proclaiming his virtue as a pastor for marrying one of the people in his care. Eventually she ran away from him . This is Rachel after our conversation.
I asked both if I could share their story in this blog and I shared my story with them. In these two cases The Childrens Home needed the children more than the children needed the home. That’s the thing. There are well meaning people doing the best they can still there is no need for the institutions of children’s homes in Rwanda or Uganda (where I visited with Hope and Homes.) because there is an alternative.
Rwanda has closed all its children’s homes and replaced them with a programme where children are placed with foster parents through caring social workers. The childrens homes are transformed into community centres health and well being classes, child care and ante natal classes. One of the most famous African Proverbs is “It takes a village to raise a child”.