When you hear the word “orphanage,” what do you picture? For many of us, it brings to mind babies sleeping in cribs lined up against a wall, or perhaps small children chasing a soccer ball across a play yard. Many visitors to Imbabazi are surprised to learn that we, in fact, don’t have any of the babies or small children they imagined they would see within the walls of a Rwandan orphanage. Although we do have several young children and primary school-aged boys, we also have several older children who, in other cultures, would be considered “adults” ready for independent living.
Bakunzi making pizzas at Volcana Lounge in Musanze
However, because of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, many children experienced interruptions in their education and personal development. This has resulted in a generation of young men and women who are a little behind in terms of their ability to live healthy and successful independent lives – for example, it’s not that uncommon to find “children” between the ages of 18-21 in Rwanda who are still in middle or high school. That is why our care and support don’t end just because a child reaches a certain age; rather, they extend until their education is complete and they are ready to stand on their own two feet.
Mbabazi & Devota working at La Palme Hotel in Gisenyi

We continue to care for children within the orphanage as long as they are in school and continuing their education. Once their education is complete, they enter into a one-year program we established called Gucutsa (meaning “to be ready to live on one’s own” in Kinyarwanda) designed to support our children as they adapt to life outside of the orphanage and transition to independence. The program includes help finding an internship and/or job, advice from our coordinators and financial assistance to get them up and running on their own. Gucutsa is a huge part of our commitment to the kids of Imbabazi – not only do we provide them with material needs such as food and shelter as they grow up, but we aim to prepare them for meaningful lives as citizens of Rwanda and of the world.

Haruna & Djafari at a mechanics’ internship in Musanze

Today we are happy to say that many young adults from the Imbabazi family are leading successful lives outside of the orphanage – some are going to university, some are working in the tourism industry at hotels and restaurants while others have gone on to start their own businesses and/or their own families. These young adults in turn serve as role models and inspiration to our younger kids still here at the orphanage. Similarly, the continued support of friends and sponsors worldwide allows Imbabazi in turn to continue supporting our children as they pursue their studies and transition from Imbabazi to Independence!