Jean-Bosco Ntakirutimana, his wife Providence Nzayisenga and Jean Samvura (Bosco’s brother) opened the Blessing School for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) in Musanze, Rwanda in January 2015 under the Rwandan non-profit organization, Hillside Hope. BSVI was inspired by Hannah Blessing, the daughter of Jean-Bosco and his wife, Providence. 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 thrive. Due to her premature birth, Blessing’s eyes were not able to complete their development and without access to the high quality medical care available in highly developed countries, Blessing (now age 3) is severely visually impaired, 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 children. At worst, they are neglected and sent out to beg, seen as a burden to the family instead of the treated as the unique creation they are. In addition, there is a higher incidence of blindness in children (and adults) in developing countries due to 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… in a country of 11.5 million that 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 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 (the Rwandan school year goes from January to October). They are starting with a very small number of students as they establish the school to carefully implement the plans and develop an effective institution before they open the school to more students. They are currently renting a facility that they use as the school. 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.
In October 2015, Bosco and Jean will attend the 6th annual Africa Forum for the Blind in Kampala, Uganda to network and learn about best practices in serving this population in Africa. This will be a key time for them to develop contacts for supplies, curriculum, fundraising and other needs.
Because of the small size of the school and the costs required to effectively educate the students, the cost to sponsor one of the 7 students is approximately $120/month. As the school grows, the cost per student will decrease. We will however accept monthly donations of any amount beginning at $35/month. 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