Restoring a Home, a Family and a Future: Thérèse’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.

When Thérèse Mukahigiro was admitted to the SOS Chlidren’s Villages Family Strengthening Program in 2006, she was in a dire situation.

“Before the intervention, we had a very bad life,” she said. “When it rained, we could not sleep because the rain fell through the roof into our house.”

Living in the Kacyiru Sector of Kigali, Thérèse struggled to find income to support herself and her five children.

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Thérèse stands with her oldest son outside a building she rents to earn income. Photo by Meagan Doll.

“We were not able to find even food,” she said. “Most jobs were only one-time.”

Through the Family Strengthening Program, Thérèse received immediate survival care including housing restoration and nutritional support.

But Thérèse needed a more sustainable solution, which is why the emergency care was followed by support for school fees and health insurance, but also training in income generating activities and psychosocial health. Thérèse also received a microloan to start a small business.

Before long, Thérèse was cultivating and selling mushrooms, as well as renting out restored housing as means of income.

Today, all of her children have either completed or are in the process of completing their studies, and the family enjoys electricity and running water inside their home.

“As you see, the program helped us to improve our life – electricity in the house, water in the house,” she said. “Everything you see is from the project.”

Thérèse and her eldest son are proud of their restored home and future. Photo by Meagan Doll.

Though Thérèse has now exited the project, her quality of life remains good.

“After exiting, I am able to buy a sack of rice for the house and pay school fees for the children,” she said. “I am able to buy everything, and I thank the project for everything that I have.”

Now that she is able to support herself and her family independently, Thérèse has new goals.

“My dream now is to buy a car,” she said. “I will come show you when I do.”