The Opportunities for Youth Employment project in Rwanda has opened up a new area of work: supporting government efforts to rehabilitate former street children.
The Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Skills Development Centre is located on the Iwawa Island in the middle of Lake Kivu. The centre focuses on rehabilitation, cultivating healthy minds and providing vocational skills such as tailoring, building and carpentry. After completing the programme, young people can re-integrate in society and use the new skills to build better lives. Several Iwawa graduates have enrolled in the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) programme in Rwanda (funded by Mastercard Foundation). One graduate, Bonaventure Harerimana, chose to join the Improved Cookstoves programme and is now using his leadership skills to steer his cooperative towards profitability.
Bonaventure Harerimana was at the Iwawa Centre for two years
Bonaventure, 32 years old, is from Kigabiro sector in Rwamagana district. Losing his parents at a young age, he had to drop out of school at level 6 and started living on the streets. In 2012 he joined the Iwawa rehabilitation and vocational skills development centre and graduated in masonry. Later on, he started working for a construction company in Rubavu district. After some time there, he returned to his home district, where he started an apprenticeship with an Improved Cookstoves production unit. Bonaventure was a quick learner and became an expert technician.
Bonaventure molding a cookstove
Bonaventure and 21 other local young people were trained in the OYE project to mold improved cookstoves. They also received training on basic life skills, business skills and financial planning. Bonaventure was elected by his peers to be a youth advisor for the cooperative. His responsibility is to make sure all cooperative members are motivated and feel their voices are heard. Bonaventure says being part of the cooperative has brought out his leadership abilities. “I visit any cooperative member who fails to show up at the production unit. Maybe they feel demotivated. I encourage them and discuss with them that it takes work to build a profitable business. I take this seriously because the cooperative is like my family and I want to keep us together.” said Bonaventure.
Bonaventure is already thinking of ways to expand the group's sources of income. He is proposing that the cooperative buy a brickmaking machine. “The machine would cost only 35,000 Rwf (€35), but it would add value to our product offering and generate substantial extra income.”
Meanwhile, Bonaventure continues his part-time construction job. He has invested some of his income in equipment that he can rent out and has expanded his services to include tent installation services for events. He has even bigger dreams for the future. “I would like to build several houses on a plot of land I recently bought in Nyagasambu and then rent them out. I also want to grow my construction business and help the cooperative grow.”
Bonaventure’s story is one of full integration in society and is echoed by the experience of other 48 Iwawa graduates who are enrolled in OYE biogas projects. “After their training in the biogas field, they joined cooperatives. It helps that they were trained in masonry with the Iwawa Vocational Skills Development Centre” said Jean Claude Sendashonga, the OYE project biogas advisor who has taken the Iwawa graduates under his wing.