Situated in the African Great Lakes region, Rwanda is home to over 11 million people.  In recent decades, the country has seen many episodes of political unrest, including a civil war, a military coup and a recent genocide. As such, the infrastructure in Rwanda is wanting; one of the government’s largest objectives at the moment is the provision of clean water.

Rwanda is densely populated and the population is relatively young. Approximately 19% of the population are in the 15-24 year-old age range. This cohort will face major obstacles in entering the work force, in part due to lack of education. Moreover, adolescent girls face the added burden of widespread early childbearing rates, high fertility rates, and gender-based violence.  Young women are even less likely than their male peers to complete secondary education, limiting their opportunities and ability to work their way out of poverty.

The origin of Rise Rwanda

In 2010, I travelled to Rwanda as a volunteer for ‘Accounting for International Development’. Here I worked with Dufatanye Inshuti z’Abana (DIZA), Friends of the Children Association – a non-profit organisation based in Rwamagana in eastern Rwanda.  As an accountant, I worked to help DIZA put financial policies and procedures in place to bring transparency and efficiency to their finance function. Upon return from Rwanda I was inspired to continue to help DIZA and along with some close family & friends, I set up The Rwamagana School Children’s Fund (RSCF). A central tenant of the project was that 100% of donations go directly into the RSCF, and all administrative costs, travel costs and time are covered by the founders.

Having initially sponsored just three children, the fund is now able to sponsor over twenty. To date, most funds have come from donation based yoga classes. A steady stream of classes has developed in Ireland, the UK and North America, driven by Yoga instructor and studios that continuously step up to contribute.

This scope of the organisation has now widened and a new objective has developed – to foster sustainability. Rise Rwanda has been born and the focus is on implementing a microfinance scheme to support mothers and female guardians of vulnerable children, so they may support their children, contribute to the local economy, and stand as role models in the society.

Launch of Microfinance Project

We recently started another initiative;  To provide micro loans to the mothers (and in time, other women in the community) of the students that we sponsor so that they can start a small business that will increase the household income thus improving the lives of these children’s families.   This will also help the child’s wider community.

We are very excited about this initiative and about the empowerment that it will give to the ladies of this group and the effect that this initiative will have on their whole community!

We have identified a group of thirty women to form our first micro finance group.  Our intention is to validate their business plans, to put in place training for these women, to give constant mentoring support during the life of the loans, to introduce these women to savings and the benefits and planning opportunities that can come from regularly saving.  A couple of meetings have taken place with this group and the ladies have selected a fantastic Kinyarwanda (local Rwandan language) name for the group:  ABANYAMUGISHA MICROFINANCE, (Abanyamugisha =  The Blessed, abanya – umugisha which translates to people who feel blessed).

We want to EMPOWER the women entrepreneurs of Rwanda and help them to be in a position to provide for their families.  We know how the ripple effect of this work will have a positive impact on the whole community of these women through creating local employment opportunities & money earned is spent in the local community.  We want to assist these women to realise their entrepreneurial dreams & to become better ROLE MODELS for their children and community!