In 2012 Kigali city was counting over 7000 children who were living on the streets instead of being raised in families and attending school. During this time, Patrick who was a film-making student had been working on a short documentary(on youtube as ‘Nzitukuze’) about a vulnerable single mother who had refused to be a street beggar or prostitute but was working hard day and night to keep her daughter in school. When Patrick shared this story with his friend Muragwa Cheez, It triggered his passion to create a better community for vulnerable children and youth. From their first conversation to their first street visit, to their first workshop in partnership with local community leaders in early 2013, Root Foundation was built on the idea of understanding and addressing the root causes of this challenge which had also been declared one of the national emergency by the president of the Republic of Rwanda following the statistics showing that 3% of children were not able to enroll in primary school but even worse was that 40% of enrolled children could not complete primary education. With their friends, Patrick and Muragwa spent the following 12 months visiting different streets and suburbs of Kigali to meet the street children, before they initiated any programs.
“We had burning compassion and we were very committed to doing something for these children, but this was simply a moral responsibility. Both Patrick and I had no experience as street children and we both had been raised by two responsible and caring parents despite their financial barriers. So, We had to be authentic to ourselves and to the children we wanted to serve… We believed we could not develop the right solution to this profound problem until we get to hear the perspective of these children, their families, and the community. That was our primary reason to spend our whole first year learning and shaping our strategy” Muragwa says.
It is during this first year that they understood that actually most of the children on the streets have left their families because of the following reasons: Inability of parents to provide the basic needs, family conflicts, and the poor perspective towards the value of family and education. It is also during this time that Patrick and Muragwa developed friendships with 47 street children from the streets of Batsinda and Gakinjiro suburbs who then became the first members of the Root Family. January 2014, Root Foundation was first approved as a Non-governmental organization by the Rwandan Governance Board (RGB) to provisionally operate in Rwanda. June 2016, Root Foundation was officially issued as a Legal Personality with the official name ROOT FOUNDATION.
As reflected in its name, Root Foundation came to existence from the belief that the issue of the street children should be responded from its root causes. Therefore, as much as it is important, the real fight is not to help many children to leave the streets but to protect every child from having to end up living on the streets in the first place. As of January 2020, Root Foundation serves 309 children and their families. Root builds character, talent, and confidence through the personal development program builds the mind and passion for learning through the scholarship program, and builds the parental and financial capacity of the parents through the parents’ empowerment program.