From the Hospital to Hope: Maria’s Story

This excerpt is one in a series of profiles commissioned by the SOS Children’s Village – Kigali in 2015 to highlight the Family Strengthening Program (FSP). 

The Family Strengthening Program, a project of SOS Children’s Villages Rwanda, was launched in 2005 to prevent children from losing the care of their family. The program empowers families to strengthen their ability to protect and care for their children through direct support and capacity building training. In 2015, FSP Kigali included 200 families, serving more than 900 children in the Gasabo District. More than 160 families had completed and exited the program.  Using a structured family development planning process, it takes a family between three and five years to complete the program with the help of FSP field workers who typically visit once or twice per month. The Kigali project implements interventions in three sectors – Kacyiru, Kinyinya and Gatsata – and similar FSP programs are at work in all four of Rwanda’s SOS Children’s Villages. These programs help build security for vulnerable children and their families, supporting them to become self-reliant and prosperous into the future.

Maria Uwizeyimana struggled to make ends meet after her husband abandoned the family.

Maria, a mother of four living in the Remera Sector, was caring for her two youngest – twins – in the hospital when her husband left. But she received a sliver of hope during that same hospital stay when she was told about a project that helps vulnerable families.

Shortly thereafter, in 2007, Maria joined the Rwanda’s SOS Children’s Villages Family Strengthening Program.

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Maria sifts through product at her shop. Photo by Meagan Doll.

“I was in a great difficult situation,” she said. “My family was very poor. I weighed only 30 kilograms. I could not pay the hospital fees.”

The project began by helping with the medical expenses, allowing Maria the chance to not just survive, but build security for the future. She then received direct support through the paying of school fees, health insurance and food.

Maria also received training in income generating activities and psychosocial health before receiving several microloans to start a small business

“I started a business selling mushrooms,” she said. “But it was not my passion.”

Maria then expanded her business to include a shop which sells vegetables, charcoal and other household goods.

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Many customers crowd the shop entrance to buy goods. Photo by Meagan Doll.

“I got great benefit from my business. I bought a piece of land, and I built a house to rent which brings me income,” she said. “I am now able to pay for school fees and health insurance for my children.”

Maria’s oldest daughter, 19, has completed vocational studies and now works in a salon, while the other three children are in the process of completing their studies.

Meanwhile, Maria looks forward to growing her business.

“I’m continuing to improve the business,” she said. “I plan to increase the products.”

And while Maria is improving the business, she is simultaneously improving her family’s future.

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Maria greets customers at her convenience shop in Remera Sector. Photo by Meagan Doll.

“The project has helped me – only God knows how much. The life is very good. I have the food for the family and all of the necessary needs of the children,” she said. “Even when I exited the program, I was able to continue with a good life.”

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