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Rwanda - Supported since 2008

In part owing to the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has a disproportionate number of physically and mentally disabled people. Most have no option but to live as street beggars. The Ubumwe Center is a place where adults with disabilities and their children are given an alternative; where they can be educated, work and ultimately take control of their own lives. John Banovich first visited the Ubumwe Community Center (UCC) in Gisenyi, Rwanda in 2008, with the guidance of Partners in Conservation (PIC). UCC is a non-profit committed to providing assistance, food, shelter and education to the handicapped population and to the street children of Gisenyi.

Banovich met one of the center’s founders, Frederick Ndabaramiye (also an artist) and it was Frederick`s life story that inspired Banovich to visit again in June 2010 bearing four large boxes of art supplies for the center. Frederick Ndabaramiye is a young man who lived at the Imbabazi Orphanage, and was maimed in 1998 - by those responsible for the genocide - when at the age of fifteen he refused to kill 18 other people.  Frederick was in the hospital for almost a year, and afterwards was brought to the Imbabazi where the PIC team met him.  In 2002, the Columbus Zoo arranged for Frederick to receive all medical and prosthetic expenses pro bono.

Frederick told PIC members, "The Columbus Zoo gave me a chance to be independent again and now I want to help other people who are just like me." In 2005 Frederick and Zackary Dusingizimana, a teacher at the Imbabazi Orphanage, founded the Ubumwe Community Center with their own money.

The goal of the UCC is to respectfully assist the handicapped as well as street children, and in 2007, the UCC started a new program to help deaf children.  These kids have never been able to attend school, but now come to the center every day to receive classroom instructions in sign language.

In 2008, 14 children and adults received new braces and prosthetics with funding from PIC. PIC is also providing operating expenses for the center and is funding a hot lunch program for more than sixty children and adults who attend the center every day; for most of these people this is the only meal of the day. The construction of a new building for the Ubumwe Center began in February of 2008, which is being funded by the Columbus Zoo, individual donors and PIC.

The Ubumwe Community Center has extended their mission execution to also include a preschool and primary school. The Ubumwe Preschool is one of the only schools in Rwanda to enroll children with disabilities and has proven to be innovative in inclusion education.Special programs offered include:

*Sign language courses for hearing and speaking impaired children.
*Mentally challenged children/adult program
*Inclusive education program for children with disabilities. 

The Banovich Wildscapes Foundation would like to thank BOB & VICKIE ZOELLNER for their generous donation of art supplies to the Ubumwe Center.