August 2020: A letter from Amahoro Builders on the conditions of the Gatenga Group during COVID-19

COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone in their daily lives. In Rwanda, it has deeply affected our children and their families.

During the month of April, we were able to support them with food. In May, it was difficult. We kept following up with the kids through phone calls with their mothers or guardians. By the beginning of June, we were able to visit some of them in order to know how they were coping with the situation of staying home. Here is how they are doing:

map of Kigali, Rwanda
Gatenga is a neighborhood in the Kicukiro district (akarere) in Kigali Province, Rwanda. Most of our kids reside here and have become friends outside of the Center both with their group and the Busanza group.

We met with each of the kids at their homes in an open space. In the short discussions we had with each of the kids, these are their testimonies on their experience with COVID-19. Amina told us that she is not happy having to stay home all the time. “It’s boring, we cannot move, meet our friends, go to the Center, or go to school. No more entertainment, said Amina.”

This sentiment was been expressed by all of the children at Gatenga.

child at home with family in Rwanda

Idrissa is also worried. In Rwanda, the Ministry of Education has put effort to making courses available through e-learning and has encouraged children to use the television and internet to follow their studies. Unfortunately, Idrissa does not have tools to facilitate home learning.

Eric voiced that it is not easy to stay at home all day, but that he is trying to help his aunt. “I enjoy helping,” he said.

Next we visited Line at his grandmother’s home where he is staying with his Mum. “I am happy because none of my family, friends, or myself have been affected by COVID-19. It is scary how it has killed so many people. We are safe and the progressing situation in Rwanda is good. I hope we will resume school as planned. I am full of hope to go back to school. Staying home is not easy, but I am trying. And if I have to go out, I always wear a mask and respect social distancing. Your visit is encouraging. I am happy with my family.”

After each individual conversation, we had a short discussion in a group. Prosper, a volunteer coach, encouraged them to enforce their discipline and effort to cope with COVID-19, to keep social distancing.

He reminded them to stay home and wear masks.

children wearing masks outside
In this photo, two of the children did not have masks. They were instructed that if they cannot get a mask to inform Amahoro Builders so that they could provide one.

The children were told that protecting their lives and the lives of their families is the reason why they have to respect these measures.

In all, the children are trying to cope with the situation, but is not easy.

“We are safe, our family members are safe, and we do not have COVID-19 in our homes. We are grateful for your support and encouragement,” the children said.

Editorial Note: Rising Above the Storms acknowledges the importance of wearing a mask in public to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are working with the kids to stress the importance of wearing masks and are providing masks to the kids without any. We are posting this blog to show the real hardships our kids are facing. The reality is, during the pandemic, our kids have even less access to the internet leading them to turn to in-person activities such as soccer to retain their connection to the world. At Rising Above the Storms, we aim to provide our kids access to the internet as a fundamental human right in hopes that our kids can value their health and the health of others above that of connection and connectivity.