June 27, 2020

Mukantibenda Agnes, keeping her community united
 AVSI Series: “Behind the Mask” 

Meet one of the 91 community volunteers engaged in the project “Support to vulnerable families in 5 districts of Rwanda to mitigate COVID-19 impact,” funded by the European Union to support 2,000 vulnerable people 


Agnes Mukantibenda, 50 years old, is married and has five children and three grandchildren. We met her in 2013 when AVSI Rwanda launched an Early Education Center in her village, Munyinya, in Gicumbi, a district in Northern Rwanda. Since the beginning, Agnes has been one of the most active parents involved in the activities of the center. In 2015, she became the chairperson of the committee “Tumurengere.” One of Agnes’ children was part of the AVSI distance support program. She was so glad that her son could study that she decided to volunteer to help other children receive the same opportunity. Her job is to regularly visit 12 vulnerable families in two villages (Kabeza and Rwamushumba). During her visits, she learns and checks on how children and parents are doing, and if they have any specific needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped her commitment. 

Agnes is one of the 91 community volunteers involved in the new AVSI Rwanda project funded by the European Union to support around 2,000 people in five districts (Gatsibo, Gicumbi, Kamonyi, Ruhango and Nyanza). The goal is to provide emergency support during the COVID-19 pandemic and guarantee a  sustainable development once the crisis has passed.

Agnes distributes food kits to the families and monitors the children who are out of school until September 2020 through helping them follow the radio lessons broadcasted by the Ministry of Education. Thanks to the EU-funded project, if families cannot afford a radio,  Agnes provides them with one.

"To reach the families, I have to climb a very steep hill of about 1,700 meters but it’s worth it. People need food, parents need radios to stay updated about new prevention measures, and children need to listen to the show so they can continue their education path. Due to the lockdown, many people have lost their job; this is a great time to stay together to prevent COVID-19 and to cope with its impact on our families, especially the poorest."

When living through a crisis, AVSI wants to ensure no one feels alone and abandoned, surrounded by difficult circumstances. Volunteers like Agnes are key players and are particularly important as they  accompany our beneficiaries every day.

"Our volunteers are men and women of different ages,” explains Lorette Birara, AVSI Rwanda Country Representative. “We trained them also with some psychosocial skills, particularly useful in this context. They are recognized by the local authorities and their respective communities: we trust them as families do.”

Thanks to the European Union for the next four months:

• AVSI will provide food to 374 families (more than 2,000 people, every week for 3 months) deeply affected by the crisis.

• AVSI will equip 392 families with a radio, the first media to be updated about the outbreak (prevention, measures, etc…) and also to follow school lessons broadcasted by the Government.  

• AVSI will boost the production of masks, soap and detergents involving 408 young single mothers and 54 women members of the cooperative Urubohero.

“The European Union recognizes AVSI commitment to development and we are glad to work together in this hard challenge to stay close to the most vulnerable communities,” says Nicola Bellomo, Ambassador of the European Union in Rwanda.