Jean-Bosco Ntakirutimana and his wife Providence Nzayisenga opened the Blessing School for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) in Musanze, Rwanda in January 2015 under the Rwandan non-profit organization, Hillside Hope. Hannah Blessing, Jean-Bosco and Providence’s daughter, inspired BSVI. Blessing, as she is called, is the only surviving child of triplets that were born prematurely. Blessing persevered through enormous physical challenges to not only survive, but also to thrive. Due to her premature birth, Blessing’s eyes were not able to complete their development. Without access to the high quality medical care available in highly developed countries, Blessing is blind, only able to see some light. Despite her visual handicap, Blessing’s other senses are keenly aware and she is a smart and talkative young girl!
Children with visual impairment and other disabilities in developing countries like Rwanda face enormous challenges. At best, they are sent to a government school with sighted children in classes of up to 100 students. At worst, they are neglected and sent out to beg, seen as a burden to the family instead of as uniquely talented individuals that can thrive and have productive and meaningful lives. There is a higher incidence of blindness in children (and adults) in developing countries because of inadequate medical facilities and lack of treatment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 out of every 100 people in Rwanda is visually impaired, which is approximately 115,000 people. 42% of Rwanda’s population is 14 and under, meaning that there are nearly 50,000 visually impaired children in Rwanda. There are currently 2 other small schools for the blind in Rwanda serving only a few hundred children total. Neither of these schools is located near the Musanze district of Rwanda in Northwestern Rwanda. The need for a school of this nature in this community is clear.
BSVI officially opened its doors on January 26, 2015 with 7 students and now serves 15 students in grades Primary 1 through Primary 3 (the Rwandan school year goes from January to October). The school started with a small number of students, and more are added as the school becomes more established to carefully implement the plans and develop an effective institution before opening its doors to more students. BSVI is currently renting a facility, but would like to buy land to build its own building. All of the children live at the school because of the challenge of daily transportation from the rural areas. This also gives the school the opportunity to teach the children how to manage themselves with more independence.
BSVI recently applied for and received a grant for special equipment for the blind from the United Nations! The grant would better equip the school and will bring more awareness to the great work being done with the children.
Fashion & Compassion is also training some of the older children at the school to make bracelets from straw. For more information about Fashion & Compassion visit www.FashionandCompassion.com.
Because of the small size of the school and the costs of an effective education for these students, the cost to educate a student at BSVI is approximately $1,600/year or $130/month. Any amount of monthly donations to the school is welcome. We hope to implement correspondence between sponsors and students in the near future.
For more information about BSVI, please contact Michele Dudley at Michele@fashionandcompassion.com