Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Rwanda is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that was introduced in Rwanda by the Rwanda Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1978 as a humanitarian and development institution. ADRA Rwanda was established under the government of Rwandan laws with the purpose of assisting the neediest and underprivileged citizens. At inception, its focus was mainly on supporting children who needed to attend school for formal education. Thus, it supported them by providing school fees, educational materials, and school uniforms from primary level of education to secondary level1.
ADRA Rwanda Areas of Intervention
ADRA provides support in the areas of health, education, economic empowerment, and food security and relief services. Its mission is to function as an institution and community-based grouping (CBG) and a strong and vibrant civil society organization that supports the people of Rwanda.
In an interview with The New Times, ADRA Country Director Geoffrey Ngiruwonsanga revealed that this SDA NGO had supported more than 500,000 students since its establishment in 1978. It has also contributed in procuring the construction of classrooms, training teachers, support of adult literacy programs, and children sponsorship. ADRA Rwanda has enabled many families to be self-resilient in taking care of themselves.
ADRA Rwanda Intervention in the 1994 Genocide
The tragedy of the genocide against the Tutsi and moderate Hutu that happened in Rwanda in 1994 took more than 1,000,000 lives. ADRA Rwanda did not close its activities during this crisis, rather they continued and became the only NGO that stayed in Rwanda in April 1994 and provided food for more than 400,000 and medical treatment of more than 1,000 patients a day.
Immediately after the genocide in 1994, the newly established government needed more stakeholders in reconstruction of the country, both economically and socially. Thus, ADRA Rwanda doubled its outreach programs. At this time, Rwanda was having many people who needed support, especially widows and orphans, all of whom had little hope. ADRA Rwanda multiplied its contribution in its area of intervention.
Starting from 1998, ADRA Rwanda built Bethel Secondary School using funds from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). In 2002, this school was completed. At the time, it served more than 240 students in Central Rwanda Field known as Gitarama Province, the current Muhanga District, South Rwanda Province.2
ADRA Rwanda (2000-present)
Starting from the year 2000, ADRA Rwanda initiated the teaching of the English language in Rwanda and the upgrading of D4 (four years of high school). The next level is A2, which was funded by ADRA Denmark. The teachers upgraded and passed the National Exam to receive their A2 (high school certificate). This program started in Ruhango Southern Province and East Province. All the teachers graduated. It is ADRA Rwanda that initiated the planting of Watermelon in Rwanda, otherwise such a fruit had previously not been known in Rwanda.
By 2010, in partnership with UNHCR, ADRA Rwanda supported education for refugees in all camps in close collaboration with the government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Disaster and Refugees Affairs (MIDMAR) and the Inclusive Refugees Education Management Program (IREMP). In September 2014, ADRA Rwanda inaugurated its new office headquarters in Kigali. In 2016, ADRA Rwanda partnered with Impact Hope USA to provide quality education to both national and refugee students.3
Successful stories from ADRA Rwanda beneficiaries
In the report on successful stories kept in the office of ADRA Rwanda, Aphrodise Habamuremyi from the Gihembe refugee camp located in north Rwanda region said that since 2015, he is working for the ADRA Project that takes care of Congolese Refugee students with 2,584 students, where 51 percent are girls and 49 percent are boys. This project is called, “The School Feeding Program.” This program initiated by the government of Rwanda was taken by ADRA Rwanda into refugees schools. It yielded enormous contribution to the students’ lives, resulting in a total decrease in the school dropout rate that was caused by the poverty and hard-living conditions in refugee camps. The level of absenteeism also has reduced drastically as students each get a cup of porridge that they cannot get at home. They also do not have to go back home for the lunch. Students testified about the success of the school feeding program and that it has increased their motivation to continue their studies.4
Elysee Gasimba, a head-teacher in Mugombwa refugee camp, also indicated that the school feeding program in Groupe Scholare Mugombwa (found in Mugombwa Sector, Gisagara District of the Southern Province of Rwanda supported by ADRA Rwanda since 2014) has changed the students’ lives and promoted school retention. The school is a mixture of refugees and nationals that in total are 5,914 divided into primary and secondary school. They all get food from school. This program is successful compared to other schools without a feeding program. Students’ concentration is very high. Emile Mugisha, a student from refugee camp studying at Nyabicwamba primary school, mentioned that the school feeding program is very helpful in supplementing the small quantity of food they get in the refugee camp. Due to the school feeding, they often save a small portion of the food they receive to be their supper because they receive porridge for lunch at school. The families do not worry about the management of the little money they get from donors to sustain the families because the porridge replaces breakfast and lunch.5
In addition to the school feeding program established in different schools of refugees, ADRA Rwanda also diversified its intervention into a project called KURANEZA Project (translated as the Grow Well Project). This project started in 2014, and it targeted pregnant mothers, lactating mothers, and children under 5 years old. This project aimed at reducing the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM).
In the interview and reports from ADRA Rwanda officers and beneficiaries, the GAM was reduced from 29 percent to 3 percent within the three years intervention of ADRA Rwanda in collaboration with local governmental entities in Eastern Rwanda Province, Kayonza District, Ndego Sector. This area is a region characterized by high temperatures, long droughts, and little rainfalls--at times receiving no rainfall throughout the year. The testimonies from beneficiaries of this project are that since 2014, ADRA Rwanda has improved livelihood of the pregnant women, lactating mothers, and little children, and this project has seriously reduced the death of children during this period.6
This project has taught beneficiaries to grow their own vegetables, and each family is saving not less than frw 6,000 on vegetables budget per month. Some vegetables that can survive the sunny period have been introduced in the villages of eastern province of Rwanda. These include spinach, amaranth, beetroots, carrots, cabbages, and both white and red onions. The culture of growing and eating much of their vegetables has grown in families. Planting vegetables has become a business for families that took seriously the planting education from ADRA Rwanda where some families growing business has boosted their household income thus enabling to meet some of their basic needs. ADRA Rwanda taught them also how to preserve vegetables by drying them for future use without losing their value content.7
The beneficiaries were delighted by ADRA Rwanda’s intervention. The Community Health Workers and community members in general have been empowered and training in food fortification, making of drought resistance kitchen gardens such as Mandala, winken bed, double dig, cooking demonstrations. Through ADRA’s intervention, parents have been able to learn how prepare a balanced diet through the cooking demonstration session. They have learned about hygiene and sanitation, which has improved the health of the community members.
It is also important to note that, as a result of the project sensitization, many community members through their small groups have started savings and internal lending cooperatives (SILC), thus promoting the culture of savings. Through these initiatives, some members have generated savings enough to buy small animals (e.g. goats, sheep, chicken and other animals) to help them improve their farming and income sources. It is worth noting that these project initiatives reduced the number of households that would have migrated to neighboring countries during the long drought that hit the Eastern Rwanda Province.8
KURANEZA- Grow Well Project has improved children's lives. The results from interviews with families indicated that, before this project, children under five years of age and even old people had indications of malnutrition. So, the project started by making an effort to sensitize parents to bring their children to receive growth monitoring. It was then that children were found to be malnourished and thus were selected as the beneficiaries who were recommended to undergo nutrition rehabilitation sessions. ADRA Rwanda ran and supported 12 sessions of educating parents in the Ndego sector about nutrition and quality diets. The parents that fully attended these series testified that their children have gained more than 1.2kg and have now normalized. Parents said that many children in that region of Rwanda are now healthy. Parents gained skills and knowledge about how to improve the health of their entire families. They have learned how to make various kinds of kitchen gardens using different techniques that are suitable for droughts. They can now have vegetables from their gardens for almost 10 months in the year. Their household expenses have been reduced, so now families use the money to take care of other needs. This project also introduced the planting of Moringa trees that can resist any season. 9
Another project introduced by ADRA Rwanda was the EMBRACE Project that started in 2016 and changed lives in North East Rwanda, Nyabihu District, and West Rwanda Province. Dusenyimana Patrice, in an interview, revealed that this project came as a help for their wellbeing. Due to the prevailing low level of income of frw 1,000 per day, ADRA Rwanda taught citizens how to use their income to procure healthy foods for their children. One of the strategies ADRA Rwanda used to reach the population in this sector of Karago was mobilizing women with children under five years of age to form a saving and emergency group of 30 people each. They were taught how to have a kitchen garden in front of their houses with different kinds of vegetables as learned through the EMBRACE project since different vegetables have different nutrients. The families were taught about the culture of savings, where they divert some money from their daily income into small groups of savings that the people themselves called tontines. Mostly the parents learned how to prepare a balanced diet and testified that ignorance had been killing their children. They proceeded to use the savings to buy some domestic animals such as goats, sheep, and cows.
Besides this, Joselyne Uwimanimpaye said during an interview that before the EMBRACE Project, she and her two children used to depend on her husband before joining the project in 2016. Since she joined, she is supporting her husband as they provide for their family. She said that planting vegetables has become her main source of income, that she is not only planning them for her family, but also for the market where she supplies vegetables to the market and get money to augment the small income of the husband. She and other neighbors indicated that they have received cows from the project and planted kitchen gardens. They are also empowered by receiving information on nutrition, sanitation, family planning, and how to be productive with the resources at their disposal. 10
The interviews with local administrative leaders pointed out that, when local leaders started working with ADRA Rwanda EMBRACE Project, they saw a lot of improvement in their community members. There had been an attitude change in sanitation, family planning, nutrition, and cooking of balanced diet both in men and women. Many families implemented kitchen gardens, with more than 75 percent of them being beneficiaries of the project. On the other hand, more than 35 percent of the non-beneficiaries also have kitchen gardens, too. Women have learned to be independent and have adopted the saving culture so that some save on a daily and weekly basis; when they borrow loans from the saving group, they buy assets--for example, goats, sheep, chickens, and farm seedlings that they need in their homes. This was not available to them before.
ADRA Rwanda has introduced another project in another Nyakabungo village, Nyawera Cell, in the Mwiri Sector in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. This region is also characterized by a long dry season. ADRA Rwanda brought a project called the PROMISE Project, which started by creating care-groups that wanted to reduce malnutrition in children under five years of age.
During an interview with Mukakamanzi Chantal, a beneficiary of this project, she indicated that this project taught them how to take care of their families through getting sufficient food and knowledge on preparing a balanced diet. From zero savings, she now has total savings of frw 320,000 in a local cooperative and has brought a plot of land for frw 120,000, renovated their house, and their children are in school without financial constraints. She made their garden a business, which gave her a much-needed income compared to before PROMISE Project was launched by ADRA Rwanda.11
Rutazigwa Martin, who worked in ADRA Rwanda before and after the genocide, said that it was difficult to talk about hope to the citizens that lost their families as well as their properties. However, ADRA continued to work hard and serve the nation, changing many people into good citizens regardless of their sad history.
One of many strategies employed to support many people is the use of small businesses that were supported by ADRA Rwanda by grouping the citizens into cooperatives and providing them with small start-up funds to run such businesses and share the benefits at the end of a certain period.
Transformation manifestation in Rwandan Lives is seen through the testimonies of Rutazigwa and other staff who worked with ADRA in the late 1990s, early 2000s, and today. ADRA current and former staff members are very happy to be attending the wedding and graduation ceremonies for the children that benefitted through the programs provided by ADRA Rwanda. They were so excited to see the families blossom from children who used to live without hope, and now there is much hope and transformation for those who were affected by the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. ADRA Rwanda has contributed much to national programs building unity and reconciliation, togetherness and trust with the purpose of improving social cohesion and economic development empowerment.
In conclusion, ADRA Rwanda aims to continue the implementation of a large variety of relief and development programs that are people-centered, and they look to empower citizens of Rwanda to self-reliance.
ADRA Rwanda. Success Stories. Kigali: ADRA Rwanda, 2017.
ADRA Rwanda. Annual Report. Kigalu: ADRA Rwanda, 2021.
Manda, L. “Spurring sustainable social change interventions with dialogic communication: An assessment of ADRA Rwanda’s Action for Social Change (ASC) Communication for Social Change (CFSC) Program. International Journal of Education and Research 2(4), (2014): 59-74.
Rutazigwa, M. “ADRA: Supporting Rwanda’s rebuilding effort.” New Times, May 27, 2019.
Rwamapera, K. “ADRA: Supporting Rwanda’s rebuilding effort,” New Times, May 27, 2019.
Rwamapera, K. “ADRA: Supporting Rwanda’s rebuilding effort,” New Times, May 27, 2019.↩
M. Rutazigwa, “ADRA: Supporting Rwanda’s rebuilding effort,” New Times, May 27, 2019.↩
ADRA Rwanda, Interview with the author, Kigali, 2017.↩
ADRA Rwanda, interview with the author, Kigali, 2017.↩
Michel Ntihinyurwa, interview with the author, Kigali, 2017.↩
ADRA Rwanda, interview with the author, Kigali, 2017.↩