By Marie Curie
There are so many vulnerable children in the world who are at risk of being exposed to dangers and ending up on the streets.
Amani Alexis, CEO and Founder of Rukundo Foundation, is doing his part to make sure this doesn’t happen.
A former street kid himself, Alexis’s journey to start the foundation began when he was in high school. He developed an understanding of life and vision for the future. He knew that he was interested in supporting street children, but he did not know how to go about it.
“There was a young child in the neighborhood that was on the street and used to stop and beg while we were coming from school every evening,” he recalls. “I used to stop and talk to him. I led him to his home and loved talking to his family. He is the first child who I helped to leave street life.”
This was only the beginning. In Kigali, he would see other street children where he used to stay. He would invite them and share his lunch with them, especially on holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Day. During that time, he was able to learn to further love and understand them. It helped him to know exactly what it takes to support a street child. He could reflect back on his life when he lived on the streets. He could relate to the mistakes and this gave him a clear picture of how he could support others. He used his time and love for the children and convinced them to leave street life and go home.
“I did not have the intention of starting the Rukundo Foundation,” he said. “But I saw that I was able to help the children; alone and I had already done so for five children. I was in college in 2016 and started sharing my idea with my friends to start the Rukundo Foundation. It officially began in 2018.”
Rukundo Foundation provides a safe haven for street children that equips them with the resources and support they need to leave life on the street, return home or to a family that cares for them, and receive an education. Rukundo Foundation has three main programs. Family Empowerment consists of a monthly meeting with all parents with the aim of sharing experiences and learning from each other. The Education Program helps children to go to school and provides them with the necessary materials and resources. Part of this program also involves follow-ups with the schools, coaching and tutoring support. Children learn how to read and write at Rukundo Foundation Learning Centre. The Visual and Performing Arts provides an opportunity for the children to do physical exercise, develop resilience, foster a desire to win and succeed and build healthy relationships with others.
About his everyday motivation, he says: “I am always grateful to the people and the community around me that have supported me to be the person I am today and thus I treasure that. I have nothing much to pay these amazing people. I alone have little that can help my fellow street children. But together, our collective time, money, smiles, love and stories can help to change their lives. I do this because it is the best way to pay back to everyone who has managed to support me. Nothing makes me happier than supporting someone else in my life. As someone who has been on the street, the first person to come to my mind is a child that is left there trying to make life possible. I love being part of their journey of success towards reaching their dreams.”
Alexis says that it is not always easy. There are challenges such as the lack of commitment among the team members who support the idea but can’t be as actively involved. Another challenge is funding which sometimes may scare anyone from starting an organization. It is hard to get people to understand your vision.
Advice to Young Generation and my Takeaways
“I would let the younger generation know the importance of community and social development work,” Alexis said. “Everyone, day, situation, family and community is unique. You just need to continue learning and use that experience. You can’t know all the best solutions to all the challenges. You need to learn every step and situation. Let the people around you help and give you advice.”
My goals are to serve my community as a social worker and this interest grew from my volunteering activities which I have started in 2019. Regarding my career goals, my main takeaway from Amani’s ideas is that I should not expect myself to be the center of every solution. There are many people out there supporting and doing amazing things. Together, we can improve the community. The more you let other people help, the stronger you become.
Learn more about Rukundo Foundation’s Website
Marie Curie Uwase is pursuing a Bachelor's of Arts in Healthcare Management with a concentration in Global perspectives at Southern New Hampshire University at Global Education Movement. You can connect with her on her Linkedln Profile. She wrote this article after taking part in Global Innovation Academy’s Interview, an Innovator online course.