SACCA’s work has four elements
The rehabilitation centres Centres provide shelter and care to children who wish to leave the street – some children stay long term, others stay on a temporary basis waiting to be reintegrated with their families. Children work and study in return for their three daily meals. Each child, in addition, is expected to help keep the centre clean and tidy, as every Rwandan child is in her or his home. No child is made to do anything for which she or he does not feel ready. If a child does not wish to sleep at the centre, she / he can still be involved and accepted as part of the programme.
SACCA appreciates that forcing children does not achieve the best results. Currently SACCA is providing care for just over 80 children in its centres. Reintegration programme Where it is possible, SACCA looks to help children return home and reintegrate in their families. SACCA’s team of social workers establish links and work with both child and family to ensure the appropriateness of such a move, facilitating reintegration where it is appropriate. Families may then be provided with material assistance (typically emergency food and educational equipment, school fees and small-scale income generating projects) and follow up activities to address the reasons for the original separation. Reintegration may be an option after various stages of involvement with SACCA.
Some children have settled into one of the care centres before reintegration is possible or attempted, others have just been accommodated temporarily or affiliated with the centres whilst on the street. A particular group is part of SACCA’s long term programme; children who have advanced into secondary education, board at term time and are supported to live with their families during school holidays. The number is growing annually as children move from Primary school into secondary education under SACCA’s care. Where reintegration with family is not possible or would be unstable and inappropriate SACCA will look to integrate children in their original home community, or in the communities around the centres, as semi-independent young adults.
Independent living programme SACCA’s independent living programme has successfully enabled children to leave SACCA’s centres and to re-enter the community as independent young adults. The programme has also been extremely successful in facilitating the process of independence for young mothers who once lived within SACCA’s centres, allowing them to re-enter the community and to bring up their children within a normal environment. This programme provides varying degrees of support, depending on the needs of the individual, which decrease over time.
Beneficiaries of this programme include children over 18 wishing and ready to enter the community, young girls and teenage mothers (often formerly engaged in prostitution), especially those living with HIV / AIDS; and child-headed households. The nature of support includes employment in income generating projects, monetary support (for rent or other living expenses), depending on the situation. Currently SACCA supports 20 children in this programme. Community based Prevention of Separation projects SACCA has pioneered 3 projects in rural communities aimed at addressing the root causes of children leaving home. SACCA worked within communities to establish local committees that are composed of elected community members and children, providing training to community members so that they might become community-based outreach workers.
The committees work to identify vulnerable children and families within their own communities and through a procedure of assessment, assistance and follow up are able to prevent many children from leaving home for the street. Each project has an income-generating project, which provides a monthly income that is used to cover administrative costs and provide funds with which to assist vulnerable youth on a monthly basis. These projects are now functioning largely independently. 50 vulnerable children and families are assisted in these projects. Education Many children came onto the street because they were prevented from studying for one reason or another at home; they appreciate the value of education, and SACCA looks to ensure that every child receives an education suitable to his or her temperament and ability.
Those who are not too old and who wish to study formally are sent to primary school. Those who are too old for primary school are enrolled in a vocational training course of their choice – examples are mechanics, welding, t-shirt printing and soap production. Through learning the children are not only given a chance to learn a skill, they are also taking a step to reintegration and reconciliation. By donning a uniform and running to school every morning with their peers children are able to see that they too can be a part of society and that they too can lead normal lives. An evolving success story is the number of children in SACCA’s care who have moved into secondary education – in the 2011 school year 35 in the long term programme are at secondary school.