Five years ago, my wife Janice and I went on an unforgettable Embrace Rwanda trip.
In 2006, Hilary King, a local Seymour resident, visited Rwanda and noticed that many mothers were unable because of malnutrition to carry their babies to full term. In response, Embrace Rwanda started the Healthy Mums Project, in which mothers from 11 districts of Rwanda receive a goat and materials to start a kitchen garden, using the goat manure to produce healthy vegetables. As a result, many Rwandan mothers are now able to bring their babies to full term, with a significant reduction in the death of mothers and babies.
After 17 team trips to Rwanda, King, the executive director of Embrace Rwanda, is seeing significant healing between the formerly warring tribal groups. Instead of bitterness and hatred, they are taking part in shared projects involving micro-businesses, early childhood education, and maternal health.
A Rwandan mother named Jeanne says: “I feel accepted now. I have learned many new things. We share stories about our lives and I have learnt how to improve my farming and to prepare a balanced diet for my family. I have seen my child gain weight. I see the importance of saving money and am even comfortable going to the bank now. The tailoring I learnt enabled me to make this dress and the shirt for my boy. I now have a dress shop business. We study the Bible. It has taught us how to live in our community in peace with one another.”
Embrace Rwanda not only involves goats, but also helping unemployed, impoverished mothers to earn a living through vocational training. A Rwandan official commented: “This is unbelievable, to give a student the required skills and knowledge and at the same time equipping him or her with the basic needs to start a job.”
One girl said, “When I joined this school of construction, I was fearing that I could not make it. Thanks be to God for Embrace Rwanda that empowered me. I will make sure I value the skills and knowledge I got.”
Embrace Rwanda also helps mothers by establishing preschools in local chapels, a significant innovation in Rwandan culture. With the active support of the local Rwandan Mothers’ Unions, Embrace Rwanda is assisting women in starting savings and credit associations.
“Embrace Rwanda is not about going into a community and telling them what to do. It’s more enabling them to decide what they need to do, assisting them to do it, and seeing that they can make the progress themselves. As a result, the mothers in the Embrace Rwanda Projects have ownership of their activities. They feel empowered,” said King.
You are invited to check out two well-produced films on Embrace Rwanda on this website under the “Films” tab at the top.
My prayer is that we will all be used in making a lasting difference in the health of mothers.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver, Anglican Mission in Canada. stsimonschurch.ca