The global coronavirus pandemic is causing significant change around the world, but some things remain constant — including the generosity of the American people and the many partnerships between Rwanda and the United States.
While the U.S. government has committed more than US$5 million to date in emergency funding in support of Rwanda’s COVID-19 response, private American citizens, U.S. companies, and non-profit organizations based in the United States have also organized private contributions to support the Rwandan people during these difficult times.
“I am pleased to see so many American citizens and U.S. organizations getting involved in coronavirus response and relief here in Rwanda,” said Peter H. Vrooman, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda. “It truly is an ‘All-of-America’ fight against coronavirus for us, both at home and around the world.”
“The private sector showcases America’s ‘can-do’ spirit and illustrates the depth of the partnership between our two countries,” said Vrooman. “I want to thank these U.S. citizens and organizations and all others making a real difference in the lives of Rwandans all across this country.”
Pennsylvania-based Azizi Life partners with rural Rwandans to lift lives through fair trade. The nonprofit raised more than US$10,000 in contributions from online donations, mostly from the United States, to support more than 500 artisan and beekeeping partners and their families for one month.
U.S.-owned Impano Sportswear has shifted its Kigali production line to face masks, in support Government of Rwanda guidance requiring cloth face masks in public. In addition to custom designs and branded masks, Impano is also producing sports masks.
In coordination with local partner Abahizi Rwanda, U.S.-based life and style brand Kate Spade New York has shifted local production in Rwanda to face masks, while still continuing its seasonal handbag production. The company has donated 24,000 masks to community members in Masoro.
USAID’s Power Africa advisor helped blended-learning leader Kepler to apply for a US$50,000 grant for portable solar chargers for laptops so that 163 undergraduate students at Kiziba refugee camp can attend class online.
Kids Play International, established by a three-time U.S. Olympian, promotes gender equity through sport and the Olympic values in post genocide impacted countries. Due to COVID-19, the non-profit raised over US$9,000 to supplement its current after-school sports-based programming in Rwanda and Cambodia. Kids Play has providing almost 3,000 kilograms of food to the families of 300 youth involved in its programming, feeding more than 1,500 people across both countries. Kids Play will also bring water and sanitation solutions to more than 10,000 community members.
Atlanta-based Kula Project is a non-profit that has been empowering Rwandan coffee farmers through business and leadership training since 2015. Thanks to an online fundraising campaign and an awarded food relief grant, Kula has worked with Kayonza, Gakenke, and Nyamasheke districts to provide food, masks, and soap directly to 1,060 households. It has also given additional financial support to the districts as they continue their community response.
MindLeaps, a U.S.-based non-profit that uses dance to develop the cognitive skills and social-emotional learning of at-risk youth, has donated more than 2,000 kilograms of food to more than 230 families in Nyamirambo and Rwezamenyo.
Atlanta natives Erin and Colton Parks live and work in Rwanda. The Parks Family collected donations from more than 100 family and friends in the United States and worked with Rwandan friends and local government offices to distribute food to more than 10,600 families.
Partners In Health, locally known as Inshuti Mu Buzima, has worked with the Government of Rwanda to strengthen primary and chronic care services in the public health system since 2005. PIH directly supports the National Joint COVID-19 Task Force by providing staffing expertise in data management, communications and analytics. PIH also bolstered national COVID-19 testing capacity by providing an RT-PCR machine that conducts 73 tests an hour to the National Reference Lab and strengthened facility readiness for COVID-19 response in the District hospitals of Kirehe, Rwinkwavu, and Butaro. In addition, PIH is ensuring the continuation of care for cancer patients in the lock down context by distributing oral cancer treatment by drones in partnership with Zipline.
Thanks to US$60,000 in donations from people in the United States and other countries, U.S.-based Rhoda Consulting helped local NGO Dufatanye provide emergency food and soap distributions to more than 5,000 households in Nyanza. This is more than 91 tons of food impacting more than 31,000 individuals.
Boston-based Shooting Touch uses the mobilizing power of basketball as a tool for health education, intervention, and improved well-being for rural communities. Unable to take to the court, Shooting Touch is providing weekly phone credit to 15 women at each court they have built, in order to establish a “buddy system” to maintain camaraderie during these isolated times. This calling task-force offered an open ear, recording the concerns of their teammates, as well as provide them with at-home stretching routines, fitness exercises, mental health coping strategies, and phone numbers for free support – to more than 1,000 families.
TEACH Rwanda is a Pennsylvania-based organization for American educators to help Rwandan preschool and primary teachers learn to use modern, research-based teaching methods. Their exemplary school in Muhanga, Bright School, includes many students from vulnerable families, so the school has provided food to 67 families to date, with even larger food distributions to come. Teachers regularly call students’ families, as well, to check-in and to encourage project-based learning at home.
The University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) is a global university based in Rwanda. An initiative of Boston-based Partners in Health, it offers a unique community-and facility-based approach to medical training that centers on vulnerable populations. UGHE presents a long-term solution to pandemic preparedness and response in training students to build, repair, maintain, and grow resilient health systems capable of preventing and withstanding future outbreaks, as well as contributing to critical research in this area. Currently, its alumni are well-trained to contribute to frontline efforts in contact tracing, testing operations, delivering medical supplies and training community health workers, in Rwanda and other countries. Campus resources are being allocated towards the response, including redeploying drivers to transport patients to facilities facing interruption like the Butaro Cancer Center.
Matt and Andrea Miller, along with parents and friends of Virunga Valley Academy, an American international school in Musanze, raised more than US$15,000 for food relief, which helped more than 1,000 families in Musanze district.
Kentucky-based Word Made Flesh invests in women living in vulnerable communities in Rwanda, providing access to dignified work, vocation and life skills, financial literacy, counseling, and deep friendship through community. Since the start of the COVID lockdown, Word Made Flesh has worked with local government leaders to distribute food to 450 households in Kangondo, more than half headed by a person living with HIV.
U.S. tech start up Zipline is using drone-based delivery to support medical response to COVID-19 in Rwanda and Ghana, delivering testing samples in-bound from rural areas and distributing outbound PPE and other medical supplies like cancer meds.
This “All-of-America” approach is helping people around the world. American private businesses, non-profit groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, and individuals have now provided more than US$4.3 billion in donations and assistance globally, more than any other nation, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.