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Rwandan newspaper The New Times (Kigali) wrote the following article chronicling the country's decision to empty all their orphanages and place children into families. The article features Mary Kamanzi, who heads up the Orphan Care efforts for the PEACE Plan in Rwanda. Read the full article online or check out the except below:


While on a visit to Nyungwe National Park, I found a group of children milling along the road. Some appeared as if they were playing while waiting for their parents tilling a nearby garden. But the children, the oldest being about six, were on a mission to beg.

I confirmed this when Darmascene Byukusenge paused to ask: "Wampaye ijana nkagurira umwana irindazi," (Please, give me Rwf100 so I can buy my younger brother a cake.)

Byukusenga and his brother are not alone in destitute life and it is their plight that the government is addressing through on-going efforts to reform child care policies and programme in the country.

Under the new reforms, the government is refocusing the system by transforming Rwanda's current child care and protection into family-based system. The aim is to support vulnerable families to remain together and promote positive Rwandan social values that encourage all Rwandans and their communities to take care of vulnerable children, through fostering or adoption.

The reform also states that children living in institutions should be integrated into foster families or alternative family-based care systems as opposed to orphanages.

Zaina Nyiramatama, the executive secretary of the National Commission for Children (NCC), says child care reforms are not only meant to encourage fostering and adopting in Rwandan society but also to emphasize "Rwandan identity in these unlucky children and break adverse stronghold in their lives." 

Nyiramatama added that children not only need material care but psychological care that she describes as software-care. It is this type of care that enables them to grow well and become responsible citizens.

"For a child to become a responsible citizen, they need software-care much more than hardware-care. Food, clothing and shelter are good for a child but beyond that (is the need for) affection and sense of belonging that determine a child's character and personality. This is what every child needs and it's hard to find affection in an orphanage," she added.

The National Population Office estimates that pregnancies as consequences of sexual abuse during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi resulted in the birth of children who bring back bad memories. There is also a problem of abandoned children due to mass displacements during the same period - all resulting in over 3,000 of unwanted and abandoned children. The main challenge therefore remains rebuilding lives of these children and providing them with good health facilities.

According to Nyiramatama, over 1,000 children have since been integrated into family life. Able families are being encouraged to embrace adoption and fostering policy to give vulnerable children a chance to grow up in family life.

The church has bought into the idea and has come out to promote the new policy as it starts to see family care as a right to life; suggesting that every child should belong to a family not an orphanage. 

In May 2013, the ministry of gender and family promotion in conjunction with Peace Plan Rwanda - an umbrella organisation that brings together all religious leaders - organised a consultative meeting to discuss the draft family policy. 

The religious leaders called for stronger families with good moral values as the best environment for children to grow in. The emphasis was to promote child care reform by encouraging Christian families to adopt or foster street children or those from orphanages.

According to Mary Kamanzi, the director of family and child care unit in Peace Plan Rwanda, this policy is aimed at preventing future child neglect and design appropriate preventive mechanisms for teenage pregnancies and other resultant problems.

"As Peace Plan Rwanda, we are committed to supporting and helping these children to grow well - psychologically, physically and emotionally. We hope that encouraging Christians to adopt or foster orphans will give these unlucky children a taste of home and a sense of family-belonging," Kamanzi said.

 

You can be a part of helping local churches get children in Rwanda get out of orphanages and into families on an Orphan Care PEACE trip. Email orphans@saddleback.com for more information.

Did you know that for $38 a month, you can change a child’s life? Saddleback’s Rwanda Orphan Sponsorship program provides hope for children in orphanages by sponsoring families who need a bit of financial support to bring a child into their home. When orphans gain a family they become permanent sons and daughters.

Listen here to Kay Warren’s message on how you can get involved:

Hi I’m Kay Warren. I’d like to tell you about a new kind of child sponsorship. Children need the love of a family, which is why we’re working in Rwanda to help them empty all their orphanages and place those children into permanent caring families.

Of the 3000 children in orphanages, 1200 now have families to call their own. There’s still more to be done. You can help empty orphanages by sponsoring a family in Rwanda, helping a child reunite with or regain a family.

Sponsorship helps a family provide school feels, food, clothes, and health insurance for the child. You can learn more at saddleback.com/sponsorship. When you sponsor you are helping an orphan become a son or a daughter again.

To begin sponsoring a family in Rwanda visit saddleback.com/sponsorship. Thank you.

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Mike and Brenda Crary are ordinary Saddleback Church members who responded to Pastor Rick’s challenge to step out in faith by going on an Orphan Care trip to Rwanda in the summer of 2014. They decided to bring their entire family, and together through Saddleback’s Orphan Care Initiative they learned how to help equip local churches to empty orphanages. They thought they knew what was in store for them, but as often happens on a PEACE trip, God used them in a way they never expected.

As part of their home visits made with local church members, Mike and Brenda stopped by to check in on a family prior to their reunification with their 17-year-old daughter. This family had placed their daughter in the orphanage long ago thinking it would be the best place for her. It wasn’t until they heard from their local church about the harm caused by institutional care that they decided to reunite.

The mother, Mama Evette, was tending to newborn twins as she waited with anticipation for her daughter to return home from the orphanage for good. As the Crarys held the newborns and chatted with the family, they learned that Mama Evette was a genocide survivor who had given her life to Christ at a local church sometime after the genocide. Soon after, she married her ex-boyfriend when he gave his life to Christ. They had recently had the twins whom the Crarys were now admiring.

Noticing the babies’ strong startle response, Mike shared how all babies have the inborn reflex to raise their hands when they feel the sensation of falling. Mama Evette was astounded. She told the Crarys how she had been praying about this behavior and was deeply worried her babies were experiencing demonic attack. Friends had even visited and advised Mama Evette to take her baby to the witch doctor for treatment. But in faith, Mama Evette had refused to go because she was now a believer in Jesus.

Brenda further explained how premature babies exhibit the behavior more frequently because their developing nervous systems are highly sensitive. Mama Evette confirmed that the twins were born prematurely. Excitement filled the room as this mother realized both her babies were healthy and growing normally. God had listened to Mama Evette’s prayers and responded by granting her the reassurance she craved through the Crarys’ visit.

God could have chosen anyone to answer Mama Evette’s prayers, yet He orchestrated that the Crarys would travel to Rwanda to be the vehicle of his love.  It didn’t take any special skills – just knowledge they already had, training they received, and a willingness to say “yes” to God. Because the Crary family had the faith to go, God used them in the lives of Mama Evette and her babies.

If you are interested in joining Orphan Care on a PEACE trip like Mike and Brenda, join us at the monthly PEACE night gathering on at 6pm in Tent 3 on the 4th Saturday of every month, or contact us at orphans@saddleback.com or by phone at (949) 609-8555.

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Rob and I started to seriously consider adoption in 2009, but it seemed as if doors were being closed to us in every direction.  We were told that we could not adopt from China.  Our ages disqualified us from adopting from several countries, and at the time Korea was also not an option for us.  We were very discouraged, and gave up pursuing adoption for a while. 

In 2010, we felt adoption tugging on our hearts again, and after listening to one of Pastor Rick’s “Just-Do-It” messages, we decided to step out in faith and look into different adoption programs again.  This time, we were told that we could adopt a special needs child from Korea.  I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing for our family, so I decided to visit my cousin who had recently adopted her son from China.  Her son was considered special needs due to his cleft lip and pallette. Over Labor Day weekend, I flew to Indiana to visit her. The instant I met her son, Isaac, I was in love.  He was the cutest, sweetest boy I had ever seen! He truly brought joy to his entire family. Alone in her guest room on September 6, 2010, I wept as I told God that I would do whatever He wanted. I was open to any child He would give me.

In October of 2010, Rob and I met with a social worker and we officially started the adoption process.  To our amazement, we were told that the laws in Korea had changed and they had re-opened the standard process to our agency.  That meant we would most likely be matched to a healthy baby boy!  We started the arduous process of home studies, fingerprinting, and filling out form after form after form...after form!  Seven months later we received the email we had been waiting for!  We were matched to a beautiful 8-month old baby boy! It was truly love at first sight!  We received 6 pictures and a general description of our son.  The second we saw him, we knew God picked him out just for us.  But it was even more confirmed when we saw his birthday--September 6, 2010!  It was the same day I told God I would do whatever He wanted!

Robert didn’t come home until he was 23 months old.  It was so difficult to wait for him for 14 months.  But now he is a happy, healthy, smart, beautiful 3 1/2 year old.  He is our greatest joy and our greatest gift.



Are you considering adoption but don't know how to get started? Join us the first Wednesday night of every month for Thinking About Adoption, or call us at 949-609-8555!

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In Orange County alone, around 3,000 in the foster care system, over 150 of whom are waiting to be adopted.

Court Appointed Special Advocates are ordinary people with the desire to make a difference in a child’s life. A CASA volunteer visits their assigned child in the foster care system regularly, interacts with social workers assigned to their case, and makes recommendations to the court. They ensure that the child’s best interests are protected and help them on the journey to a lasting, lifelong family of their own.

Children in the foster care system can struggle with low feelings of self-worth, difficulty in school and trouble relating to others – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Having the stable presence of an adult they trust can make all the difference. With a CASA volunteer, children are more likely to find a safe, permanent home, are half as likely to re-enter the foster care system.

Becoming a CASA is a great way to impact the lives of vulnerable children in our community. For a commitment of 2 hours twice a month, you can help change a life!

If you would like to learn more about becoming a CASA in Orange County, please visit their website http://www.casaoc.org/advocate/ or sign up for a local information session. Dates and times of upcoming sessions are below:

 

MARCH

Date: March, 11th 2015 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Venue: CASA Training Room

Address: 1505 E. 17th Street, Second Floor, Santa Ana, CA, 92705

 

Date: March, 28th 2015 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Venue: CASA Training Room

Address: 1505 E. 17th Street, Second Floor, Santa Ana, CA, 92705

 

APRIL

Date: April, 7th 2015 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Venue: CASA Training Room

Address: 1505 E. 17th Street, Second Floor, Santa Ana, CA, 92705

 

Questions about join the CASA Orange County program? Contact us at orphans@saddleback.com or call the Orphan Care line at 949-609-5555.

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