With financial aid from MSAADA, a hospitality centre was built at AVEGA East in 2011 to allow the widows' association to fund its own activities.
The centre incorporates a craft area to display and sell products made by the various widows’ co-operatives, a history centre, a restaurant with modern kitchen, and a bar.
These facilities, coupled with the conference centre, turn over about £100,000 each year, securing at least 10 fulltime jobs and making a major contribution to the work of AVEGA East.
Msaada began its work in Rwanda in 2005 in partnership with AVEGA East, a widows’ support group formed after the genocide to help some 4,000 widows and 11,000 orphans to overcome the ravages of that horrible time which left them traumatised and impoverished.
Msaada still works closely with AVEGA East in the running of the current dairy cow programme.
Msaada’s work to date
Subiruseke Vocational Training Centre
Msaada’s first intervention in Rwanda was to fund salaries at the Subiruseke Vocational Training Centre for the head mistress, two teachers, a night watchman and a janitor.
This enabled 41 genocide orphans to complete training courses in building construction and garment making, giving them the skills to earn a living.
When the students finished their courses Msaada provided funds for tools and equipment for them to set up worker co-operatives in Rwamagana.
Msaada then funded a new intake of students to carry out rehabilitation work on genocide widows’ houses. This gave the students first-hand experience of building work.
Teachers whose salaries were funded by Msaada
Primary and Secondary School Students
Msaada provided bursaries for 113 genocide orphans to attend school at various levels, as well as funding the fledgling Excel Bilingual School, paying salaries and other school costs from the school’s inception.
Msaada also funded educational trips for the students to visit the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where they visited historic sites and major industries to give them a better understanding of Rwanda's progress in recent years.
Msaada's involvement with Excel ended when another UK charity began funding the school. The Minister for Education had requested Msaada not to double fund one school while other, very deserving schools, were recieving no external funding.
The first 13 students whose school fees were paid by Msaada in 2005
Msaada provided monthly payments to 15 elderly widows in Rwamagana who were unable to fend for themselves due to ill health. These funds meant that the widows could take care of their basic needs.
Once initiatives funded by Msaada to generate funds for AVEGA East began to make a profit, AVEGA took over the financing of these widows.
Two of the widows (left & right) who received financial support from Msaada
The Count D’Angerville Honeybee Project
In 2007, Msaada funded an extensive honey-for-money project.
This project involved providing dozens of families in the Nyarabuye Sector with beehives to enable them to earn an income from the production of honey.
Honey production was carried on in this area of Rwanda but with traditional, low-yielding hives.
The Count D’Angerville project provided families with modern top-bar high-yielding hives.
As well as providing a vitally important income to the families, the bees also pollinate surrounding plants and crops increasing the yield for the entire community.
Rwamagana Secondary School
Msaada funded the construction of a science lab at the Rwamagana Secondary School in 2008.
This was one of the first such labs to be built in Rwanda since the country received its independence in 1962.
The finishing touches are put to the science lab (right)
School for the Visually Impaired
HVP Gatagara in Rwamagana is the only school for the visually impaired in Rwanda. Its aim is to integrate the visually impaired back into Rwandan society so they can be independent both economically and socially.
The girls in particular, had a real problem in their dormitories as their clothes were getting mixed up with others.
Msaada has provided an individual storage space for their belongings through installing wardrobes in each of the dormitory rooms in the girls’ block.
The project was suggested by the girls at the school and was completed during 2011.
The photograph on the right shows one of the students at the school using the storage space for her personal belongings.
In 2007 Msaada funded the construction of a conference room (left), which seats up to 120 people.
This was at the request of AVEGA East who saw the chance to generate some funds for themselves which they could use to meet their needs.
This facility is used for weddings, seminars, workshops, training sessions and so on.
It currently generates about £10,000 a year, which is being used to assist widows and orphans who are needy, old or disabled.
Dairy Cow Project
The Msaada dairy cow project began in earnest in 2013, following a trial over a number of years prior to that.
The scheme involves securing high-yielding in-calf dairy heifers in Europe and distributing them to impoverished families in Rwanda.
The families are provided with full training in animal husbandry and land management and receive veterinary support for three years to ensure the cow remains healthy and productive. After that they have sufficient income to pay their own way.
Contrary to popular belief, European cows thrive in many parts of Africa.
The average lifespan of the cows in Africa is between 8 and 15 years. In Europe, they are usually culled after about three or four years.
European cows give an average of 20 litres of milk per day when relocated to Africa, whilst local African breeds usually give two or three litres, just enough to feed their calf.
The sale of milk gives the family £2 - £3 per day and the increase in crops, resulting from the use of cow manure as fertilizer, can add another 40p - £1 per day to the family's income. This lifts the recipient family well above the UN-recognised poverty line of about 80p per day.
Each recipient in turn passes on the first female calf to a neighbour. The cost of the cow, its airlift to Rwanda, training for the family, veterinary support and three years monitoring is £2,500.
The initial costs seems high, but over time the relative cost of transforming an impoverished family into a small self-reliant family business is diluted many times as the passing on of the gift multiplies the number of families lifted out of poverty.
After 10 years, with the birth of new calves, the average cost per cow in Rwanda has dropped to £250.
Milk brings protein to the diet. Each family's overall health improves. Some of the surplus is shared with neighbours improving their diet – the rest of the milk is sold to provide income for the family. School fees can be paid for the children.
Manure is also used in a simple biogas converter to provide fuel for cooking and lighting. No more trees cut down. No more charcoal burned. Respiratory disease from cooking-fire smoke eliminated.
The manure is still excellent fertiliser and local crops improve, adding to the family's income.
Grass and legumes for feed are grown on tiered, managed pasture protecting against soil erosion in the rainy season.
The project provides certified AI straws from UK and Irish AI stations to ensure pedigree offspring.
Hospitality Centre, Restaurant and Bar
Groupe Scolaire Rwamagana A
Following discussions with the Education Authority in Rwamagana, Msaada was requested to provide support to the 2,200-student Groupe Scolaire Rwamagana A School, which was in dire need of assistance.
Msaada began by funding the construction of a new school kitchen and the rehabilitation of several classrooms at the school.
In 2014, Msaada secured a major donation of £20,000 to construct eight new classrooms at Groupe Scolaire Rwamagana A School.
The funds were donated in memory of philanthropist Peter Carr, a former director of Saga.
The partnership between Rwamagana A School and Msaada will be continued in the coming years.
In 2007 Marcelline, a widow living in extreme poverty, received an Irish dairy cow. The sale of milk has lifted her well above the poverty line.
In 2010 Marcelline's first female calf was passed on to Victoria. She had lost her husband and five children in the genocide. She is now self-sufficient.
In 2013 Victoria passed on her first female calf to Eliphas and Foreunee and their 5 children. They now look to the future with hope.
School headmaster, Evariste Banzubaze, above, outside the eight new classrooms and, below, next to the rehabilitated classrooms that were funded by Msaada.
Below is the new school kitchen which was funded by Msaada.
The Avega East complex in Rwamagana