Families that read together...

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On the International Day of Families, REAP joins the Musha community and other stakeholders - our local government, nearby schools and other educational NGOs - in celebration. REAP uses the holiday to promote literacy as a catalyst for the socio-economic development of families, and thus, of the nation at large. We use interactive components, such as storytelling, community readings, and games illustrating Rwandan proverbs, to illustrate how family literacy activities can be fun and create stronger family bonds.

This year, to build the motivation of the community and to promote the International Day of Families, REAP organized a reading and read-aloud competition. Community members came to the library to practice reading and then gathered children in their neighborhoods to read stories to them. Winners of the competition received literacy-based prizes (such as a copy of their favorite book) and were able to demonstrate their reading before the live audience on May 15.

Mothering the Mother

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The field of early childhood development is rife with research establishing direct links between nutrition and children’s cognitive development. Furthermore, it has been shown conclusively, that the critical period of brain development is age zero to three.  

At REAP, we understand that proper prenatal care and adequate nutrition for children are necessary support for the neurological and physical development of our future. In short, it sets children up for a good start on their path of education.

With this at the foundation, we started our monthly prenatal and early childhood development program. Pregnant mothers and mothers of children under five gather at our Center to learn about parenting and nutrition – both in theory and in practice. In addition to the workshops, nurses from Musha Health Center provide services such as vaccinations, family planning and vitamins.

Yesterday, REAP hosted 12 women in the first of these workshops (4 currently pregnant and 8 mothers of babies under five months of age). The mothers invested their time in learning about the importance of a balanced diet, cooked a meal, and ate — together. To make a complete meal, the families contribute food supplies such as bananas, potatoes and fish while REAP contributes vegetables from our garden. Parents are invited to attend until their children turn five and begin school. There is an opportunity for data collection and comparison here through a longitudinal study that compares academic and social-emotional performance of our participants’ children to the that of children who did not go through our program. If you are interested in funding, or running, a study of this sort please contact us for collaboration.

Remembering in Musha

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In April 1994, Rwanda was devastated by the world’s most brutal genocide where, in under three months, over a million Tutsis were brutally put to death by Hutu extremists. Even 25 years after the genocide, the scars of survivors are physical and psychological.

Every year in April, Rwanda commemorates the tragedy with community building activities and events like walks of remembrance, community-wide discussions, commemoration nights, and the provision of socio-economic support to survivors.

As a member of the Musha Community, REAP of course took part in the 25th Tutsi Genocide commemoration. On April 12, the REAP team walked from the INEZA Community Learning Center and Library and joined the entire community in a walk down to the Musha mines, a site where an estimated 5,200 Tutsis were killed and buried — all of them from Musha area.

After talks and testimonies at the site, the REAP team joined the District officials and the larger community at Musha Genocide memorial for a commemoration night.

The 25th Commemoration emphasized the mantra “Remember, Unite, Renew”, which summarizes the need for continued reconstruction of the country through its community-oriented socio-economic programming, with a special focus on family union and wellbeing as the foundation of a peaceful society. This is also at the core of REAP’s beliefs and practices and our staff are honored to represent this mission each day.

REAP Hosts a Learning Consortium! 

REAP, as a member of the Rwanda Education NGOs Coordination Platform (RENCP), was selected to host a learning visit for the other community-oriented NGOs of the coalition. Eight NGOs, including Save the Children and Wellspring Foundation, spent the day observing and learning from REAP’s stellar educational programming. 

Our Community Learning Center and Library was selected to host this consortium though we have only been open seven months! We are extremely flattered and proud of the effort that our educators pour into the programs.

Amongst other commendations, the group appreciated REAP's integrated model of community education and development as well as strong collaboration with the government and other NGOs. One of the member organizations was particularly interested in collaborating with REAP through our garden project. We are looking forward to creating a mutually beneficial relationship with another one of our neighbors and will be sure to share updates!

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REAP and Girl Guides Rwanda: Supporting Female Leadership and Empowering Girls in Musha!

With the aim to continuously foster the empowerment of women, REAP has formalized a collaborative relationship with Rwanda’s Association of Girl Guides (AGR).

AGR is an international nonprofit working to enable girls, and young women, to acquire skills leading to their development and autonomy and to become agents of positive change as responsible citizens. As part of the collaboration, AGR uses REAP’s Community Learning Center and Library to conduct a ten month training for fifty young girls, ages 6 to 18—all hailing from Musha. This training has been designed to equip the young Rwandans with leadership skills, life skills, and tools for social as well as civic engagement. In the course of the training, the girls are expected to conduct practical projects in the community to showcase their skills and leadership.

On Wednesdays, the Girl Guides’ weekly meeting and activities are lead by REAP staff members.

Jérôme Kayiranga and a Community-driven Model of Sustainable Farming

Behind the success of our fruit and vegetable garden at the Community Learning Center and Library stands Jérôme, the village leader of the last three years, who is also trained as an agronomist. Jérôme has committed himself to bi-weekly community service with REAP where he supervises small teams of community members and demonstrates modern farming techniques. This past season, our half acre garden was producing in surplus! The abundant, crisp cabbages and fresh green peppers were able to be sold to local schools for mealtimes.

This means REAP and its dedicated volunteers are on track to meet our goal of self-financing the agriculture programming, and generating income with agriculture sales by 2020. Through a combination of vegetable sales, and community service, we have been able to make leaps forward toward financial self-sufficiency. In the near future, the garden has the capability to contribute its profits to the cost of running REAP’s Community Learning Center and Library.

REAP High School Scholarship Program: Giving Back to Community!

One of the requirements of REAP’s High School Scholarship Program is that recipients participate in community service projects at the Community Learning Center and Library (CLCL). Emmanuel Irafasha, a recent high school graduate and scholarship recipient, is doing his part through a six-month internship at the CLC where he is a teaching assistant in the classroom during the student-centered learning clubs. Emmanuel's favorite part of the internship is playing games with students and helping them to practice English.

Accolades, Visibility … and Books!

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REAP’s Community Learning Center and Library (CLCL) was recognized by the Rwanda Education Board (REB), of the Ministry of Education, as a valuable community library.

Even more exciting are the 400 books the Kigali Public Library donated to REAP’s literacy programs!

REAP also joined the Rwandan Community Libraries Platform, which brings together the nation’s 68 community libraries to expand opportunities for collaboration, knowledge building, resource sharing, networking, and advocacy that nurture a national reading culture.

REAP Recognized

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Upon completion and operationalization of the Community Learning Center and Library, Musha Sector (local government entity) recognized REAP’s efforts to promote literacy and community welfare in Musha.

The certificate was issued last month in a ceremony at the Sector where all government partners were invited. Around 200 people representing various organizations were present. 

Celebrating Success

On the stunning shores of Muhazi Lake, under the beautiful sunset, REAP staff and the INEZA Community Board celebrated the board’s 2018 achievements.

Emmanuel Karemera, board president, highlighted the board's accomplishments at the Community Learning Center and Library. These achievements include:

  • Kinyarwanda literacy and numeracy classes every Saturday and Sunday

  • The Community English Program

  • A weekly community-led parent meeting

  • The thriving vegetable garden

Mr. Karemera gave gifts to everyone as he urged the team to keep the momentum going and work harder for even better results in 2019.

Jean Paulin Mutatsineza, REAP ‘s country director, underscored the importance of the board. He praised its unparalleled voluntary efforts for the betterment of the Musha community and assured its continued collaboration with REAP.

Scholarship recipients give back

Part of our community engagement philosophy is that children and their parents, who receive support from us or benefit from REAP program, are required to partake in monthly community service to give back to the community. This month, students in our scholarship program with their parents helped planting vegetables in the vegetable garden at the REAP Community Learning Center and Library. The vegetables and fruit from the garden will be used in our nutrition program to fight malnutrition and stunting in the Akabare Village as well provide daily lunch to 100 students that participate in our English Literacy Program.

Taking Ownership: Starting from Within

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REAP, in partnership with the local government, established a 12-member community board to promote community ownership and sustainability. The board comprises community volunteers and teachers from the Duha School who design, implement, and sustain community projects at the Community Learning Center and Library as well as ensure the center’s security and maintenance

To model ownership and sustainability as leaders, board members started a community service program that engages each member in activities of choice (farming, cleaning, telling stories to children, etc.) every mont. Last month, the priority was to plant vegetables in REAP’s vegetable garden on the grounds of the center.

The Vegetable and Fruit Garden: Blossoming

With the aim to fight malnutrition and stunting (impaired growth and development in children), REAP started a nutrition program for children under five in Akabare village. The long-term initiative will benefit around 1,120 children during 2019. On Saturdays, around 50 families gather at the Community Learning Center and Library to work on vegetable gardens and learn how to cook meals using the vegetables to supplement the food they bring from home. We are very proud of parents who delightedly cultivate the land and panting crops for healthier children!

The Power of a Caring Teacher

Early in the afternoon, Yvonne, the youngest first grader, shows up at the REAP Community Learning Center and Library two hours before the start of the student-centered learning clubs. As the only child in the library with three teachers, she is nervous and starts crying when a teacher asks her why she came very early and what she wants to do while waiting for her classmates.

Eugene, one of our teachers, approaches her and teaches her an audio game that builds English language skills. They play the game as he soothes her. She plays the game happily, smiling all the while.

Our teachers are trained to establish a supportive and caring classroom environment. As you can see from Eugene’s interaction with Yvonne.

Scholarships that Expand Possibility

Thanks to the generosity of donors, these young people each received a scholarship to attend a boarding school (“school of excellence”) that has bolstered their educational and career options. They are so pleased to have the opportunity to study subjects that they love and that will propel their forward movement.

The Gift of Literacy

Thanks to donor sponsorships, several young people had the chance to participate in REAP’s literacy enrichment program at our new center. In addition to learning reading, writing, and the speaking of English, students receive a full meal. This provides an opportunity to increase instructional time of a half day of school to basically a full-day program with explicit literacy instructional methodology that the children would not receive at school.

A Partnership to Promote Reading

Thanks to the generous donation by NABU of 15 tablets with embedded reading content, REAP and Nabu staff will hold monthly reading events at the Community Learning Center and Library. All students are invited to read as many tablet-based books (with teacher guidance) as possible each month. At the end of each week, the student selects a book to talk about with their classmates, parents, and teachers in a story evening. The REAP team and community board selects 7-8 best presenters every week. The top 30 winners of this “competition” will read with selected Rwandan celebrities, local government officials, and REAP and Nabu staff at the end of the reading month ceremony.

Presentation at the International Conference on Genocide

Ed with J ean-Paul Samputu , a fellow presenter at the Genocide Conference and a well-known Rwandan singer.  Best, Ed

REAP’s Executive Director Ed Ballen recently presented at the 5th International Conference on Genocide in Sacramento, CA. The theme of this year's conference was Forms of Genocide Across the Globe: Challenges, Responses, and Accountability.

Ed's workshop, Restoring Hope One Child at a Time, traced the history of REAP, its strategic efforts, and interventions, in fostering educational growth and social cohesion. Ed's talk addressed building community and connection, aligning with and encouraging locally based initiatives, and strengthening inter-generational learning. Routledge Press will publish the proceedings of the conference.

A Graduation First

For the first time in the history of Duha Complex School, a graduation ceremony was held for 30 nursery school students. Duha School is the only public school in the Eastern Province to ever hold such an event.

Parents, students and teachers proudly marched the streets of the Akabare neighborhood before going back to school for celebration. The REAP Early Childhood Specialist initiated this project to help boost parental involvement and students excitement about school, two important issues in rural public education in Rwanda.

A Visit from Ready for Reading

Ready for Reading (RFR) is another local nonprofit that owns a community library that has been in operation since 2009 in Rwinkwavu, Rwanda. Last week, RFR staff visited REAP’s Community Learning Center and Library. They played with teachers and students and taught them many new games that build community and keep students engaged in and excited about learning.  They also actively participated in our student-centered learning clubs. The RFR team was impressed by how the center is busy after only three months of operation.