When we started, many organizations were already working on issues related to children. But we called ourselves “Root Foundation” because our fundamental belief was: We wanted to solve the issue of children living on the street not only on the surface, but from the root. We wanted to understand the root causes of this problem. We wanted to find an answer for this one question we had always posed ourselves: Why do children go to the street in the first place?
Of course, there were some existing approaches that involved taking children from the street to school or taking them from the street to their families. But we wanted to conduct research first in order to understand the root causes. And we actually did it for many years then. In the beginning, we had more programs than the three main ones which we have today. But as soon as we had fundamentally understood the problem, we started developing and transforming our existing programs in a way that would make them better help to really solve the root causes. Finally, we concluded that there are three main reasons why children go to street: Poverty, family conflicts and ignorance. This third root cause is very significant as well; for it is all about how not only the children, but especially their parents perceive education. How do they perceive their duty of parenting, how the potentials of a child? How do they communicate and how do they relate to their child?
We have seen so many very poor families in Rwanda who don’t decide to let their children go to the street. There is this example of a child coming from a family with eight children whose dad has always been a primary school teacher and therefore got very, very low salary. But for this dad, it has never been even an idea that one of his children could go to spend the day on the street without going to school. It means he had the attitude: “We try as a family. If we don’t succeed as parents, children accept that, and then we go on and find a way together.” This case also shows us that if a family lacks such belief, such understanding of commitment, there might be an increasing impact on a child ending up on the street.
After all that experience we have made, after those years of getting to know the real circumstances, we believe in these three programs that we are realising today. We believe: If you really want to change a child, you should build his or her character. On top of that, you should train his or her parents on how to live with a child and how to provide for a child. And finally, you should encourage the whole family regarding the importance of school attendance as well as pay school fees for that child. Thus, it should be possible to help a child find a way out of poverty, family conflicts and ignorance.
This is our belief which makes us keep striving for the fulfilment of our Vision.