Together with Edward Makara, our Rwandan partner and founder of the Disaster Response Initiative, we work to develop projects with the community of Mahama Refugee Camp. Our work is guided by the shoulder-to-shoulder model, which to maximizes local impact and refugee empowerment. Our approach emphasizes what each community needs, wants, and is able to contribute. This results in sustainable programs that restore agency to the people of Mahama Refugee Camp.
Currently, refugees in Mahama Refugee Camp live on occasional food donations and a monthly stipend of around $8 (USD). A group of 14 Burundian and Rwandan women living in and around the camp approached us with the idea of creating a sewing collective to generate income, empower refugees, and provide a sustainable pathway to self-reliance. With $450, we are able to provide a sewing machine, training at a local vocational school, and a starter kit of linen, cloth, and needles for one woman. At the moment, 8 women have graduated from the training school and are making an income. The remaining 6 are currently enrolled in the training program.
Trees for Peace
Trees for Peace was REST’s first project, launched in the summer of 2016. With our local partner, the Disaster Response Initiative, we mobilized both Burundians living in Mahama and Rwandan communities around the camp to plant 4,120 trees outside the camp. To fuel their cooking fires, refugees in the camp had been cutting down trees around the camp, which lies in an already deforested region of Rwanda. This tree planting campaign was launched to foster solidarity and good will between the refugees and their Rwandan neighbors by showing the commitment of Burundians to make a positive impact during their time in Rwanda. Additionally, this campaign allowed us to identify potential Rwandan and Burundian leaders. It mobilized a cross-national community to develop and implement future campaigns.
Scholarship Fund in partnership with Rwamagana Lutheran School
Our women’s group in Mahama Refugee Camp has expressed concerns over lack of access to education for their children. In partnership with Rwamagana Lutheran School, a prestigious Rwandan boarding school, we have created a scholarship fund exclusively for Burundian Refugees who pass the school's entrance exam. Currently, we are providing scholarships and transport stipends for two sisters, Charcy and Ulrich, to attend Rwamagana Lutheran School. We thank our local partner, the Disaster Response Initiative, for facilitating this relationship, and our donors for sponsoring the education of these two girls. We aim, with the support of other donors, to provide additional scholarships for eligible students living in Mahama Refugee Camp.