We have asked the Rwandan government to build a clinic in this area since 1973. When we get sick, we break immigration rules and cross the river Akagera at night. An average of 15 expectant mothers and children die per year on the way to hospital.
PICO Rwanda (formerly Congregations Rebuilding Community in Rwanda-CRCR) was formed by Pastor John Rutsindintwarane, a native Rwandan, who began organizing in Rwanda in 2006 after a one year internship with the US PICO affiliate Oakland Community Organizations. For Pastor John, the devastating effects of the 1994 genocide and the overwhelming barriers faced by the survivors fueled his search for tools to rebuild his country, combining faith with action, and building from the ground up.
PICO Rwanda was born in a small, all-but-forgotten part of southeast Rwanda called Mumeya, a stone’s throw from the Tanzanian border. Pastor John was invited to work in this village after he held a series of introductory workshops of the PICO community-building/leadership development model. He told Mumeya residents that he had no money to offer, but he was willing to give them his brain and his heart. Mumeya villagers from five different congregations began leadership training in a space that was open to everyone, a grassy area under a big tree. Soon, community leaders began holding one-to-one conversations to identify the major needs in the community.
After hundreds of these conversations took place, Mumeya residents decided that a health center was their top priority. They organized their own labor and resources, gained supplies and medical staff from public officials, and in 2009 after completion of three rooms, they opened their first fully functioning health center.
PICO Rwanda believes that lasting improvements are dependent upon Rwandans working side-by-side, developing capacity as they take on critical community needs. We envision a future Rwanda where Rwandans are equipped with the skills to solve any and all problems they face; a Rwanda where people hold themselves accountable as well as their religious and public leaders; a Rwanda where people use power constructively to transform themselves and their institutions.
Leadership development is at the heart of our work. Through the guidance of Pastor John, ongoing training takes place that helps Rwandans turn faith into action, gaining skills in peace-building and sustainable civic, economic and social development. Training supports their leadership in negotiations with public officials leading to clinic construction, improved water/electricity access and environmental protection. We believe that PICO-Rwanda is resulting in a model for Rwandan/African development that moves war-torn communities from crisis to sustainability.