Two compassionate and passion-driven Rwandan students studying in the United States have come together to support school feeding programmes in their home country.
Olivia McAtee, a Wartburg College alumnus, and Jean Bikomeye, a Rwandan Public and Community Health PhD candidate at the Medical College of Wisconsin, came together to raise funds on GoFundMe to support their common goal of improving access to nutritious meals for students in Rwanda, these young individuals have successfully raised funds to make a positive impact.
Motivated by their personal experiences and a desire to give back to their communities, they embarked on a mission to create sustainable solutions.
The Groupe Scolaire Bare (GS Bare), a 12-year basic education school in the Mutendeli sector, Ngoma District, in Eastern Province, received $6,000 (approximately Rwf7 million) to support the school’s feeding programme.
The duo met in the USA during their studies. The genesis of the fundraising to support the lunch programme was a visit to the school by a delegation of Wartburg College students and alumni on May 19, 2023.
The visit was a much-anticipated reward for the students who were at the end of an 18-day learning trip tour in Rwanda, during which the students met and interacted with President Paul Kagame in his office at Village Urugwiro on May 21.
Bikomeye, a native of Ngoma District, came up with the idea to mobilise funds to support children who cannot afford school feeding contributions.
Students at the handover event.
Father Jean Damascene Maniraho, the school’s headmaster, had told the Wartburg scholars that some of his students come from families that struggle to afford the $20 per term for lunch fees due to financial limitations.
According to the Rwanda’s Ministry of Education, the government provides 90 per cent of the funding for the school feeding programme, while the role of parents is only 10 per cent for pre-primary and primary levels.
For secondary students, the government provides 15.7 percent and parents contribute 84.7 percent.
McAtee said her family, church, and friends were very supportive of the fundraising idea. She said she was invited by the church’s preacher to speak to the members of the Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in her hometown of Stuart, Iowa. Members of the church played a big role in mobilising the contributions.
“The donation we have received is enough to support over 100 students from families with financial limitations for the entire 2023/2024 school year,” said Father Maniraho.
McAtee stated: “It is only with the support and positive influence of these donors that this dream was made possible. Bikomeye created the idea, I created the GoFundMe link, and countless people created the successful outcome.”
“We are very grateful for GS Bare to have good partners supporting us. Our children will now focus on their studies in full tranquillity,” said Marcel Nzabonimpa, one of the parents who is a caretaker of three orphaned children.
Donat Nyirimpeta, Education Inspector at Mutendeli Sector, said the support is a boost for the school feeding programme.
“This support covering school feeding fees for 100 students is highly appreciated as both the government and parents continue working hard together to provide nutritious food to all students,” he said.
The cash donation was accompanied by over 2, 000 kilogrammes of dry beans, all locally produced to support not just GS Bare, but also local farmers.
The dedication and resilience displayed by these US-based Rwandan students have not only made a difference in the lives of Rwandan children but have also inspired others to join the cause. Local communities and businesses have rallied behind the initiative, further strengthening the movement to ensure every child has access to nourishing meals while pursuing an education.