“My heart is to see women empowered,” reflects Naomi Scott, actor, singer and Compassion UK Ambassador.
Earlier this year Naomi travelled to Rwanda to see Compassion’s Child Survival projects in action. Naomi has been a long-term supporter of Compassion and while in Rwanda, saw first-hand how Compassion Child Survival projects provide vulnerable mums and babies with nutritional, medical and community support, through the local church.
“On my trip to Rwanda with Compassion, I met Eugenia, Mediatrice and Ernestine, three women who are thriving in the midst of hugely challenging personal circumstances. They taught me so much about the significance of women encouraging and supporting one another.
“It was humbling to meet women embodying resilience and courage. Their voices and stories need to be heard. That’s why, through the Different Path appeal, I’ve been raising awareness of the challenges mums in poverty face. We’ve been raising funds to run more projects just like this in Togo, giving even more women a voice and a healthy future. A huge thank you to everyone who donated!”
Ernestine: the power of a courageous spirit
35-year-old Ernestine lives in a slum in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city. When you meet Ernestine, you’re struck by her gentle but fiercely courageous spirit.
Pregnant with her third child, Ernestine recently lost her job as a market trader. In Kigali, new legislation has restricted food sales to official markets and the taxes are now beyond Ernestine’s reach. Affording her high rent each month, while also feeding her family, was already challenging enough.
Yet, when Ernestine shares her story, she uses words marked by hope, not injustice.
Ernestine has recently been registered in a Compassion Child Survival project. The support is already bringing her stability and community.
“Because of being in the project I have seen the gynaecologist two times. They found that my baby is in a good condition,” says Ernestine. “When I got to the project, they welcomed me immediately. They showed me love.”
“As soon as Ernestine talked about the Child Survival project, she just lit up,” reflects Naomi after spending time visiting Ernestine’s home. “And so much of that was the community of women she found there.”
“Yes, Ernestine’s practical needs are important and yes, her medical needs are important and that is all taken care of by Compassion. But ultimately, I think what changes Ernestine’s perspective and gives her hope is the time spent with other women and being educated and feeling like she belongs. As part of the project, the women do so many different activities together. They have fun together and they talk, just like any friendship group would.”
Mediatrice: the power of kindness and porridge
“When I fell pregnant I visited this Child Survival project and they were kind to me,” shares 30-year-old Mediatrice from Modagudu, a remote mountainous community in Northern Rwanda. “They started giving me food supplements and they gave me lotion and soap to wash. They provided me with small fish, peanuts and flour for porridge.”
“When I was 8 months pregnant I had a problem. My baby wasn’t in a normal position. Compassion took me to the hospital to see a doctor. They provided transport. The doctor followed up all the way to me giving birth. I am so thankful that I gave birth to Rebecca normally. After giving birth the Compassion social workers came to me to give me the baby kit and all that I needed for my baby. They brought clothes for Rebecca and even this shawl.”
Here, Mediatrice with three-week-old Rebecca sits alongside mums in a nutrition class, where she learns about the importance of a balanced diet and how to prepare food safely and hygienically. “I really like to attend the Child Survival project because of this nutrition class,” says Mediatrice. “When we come we learn how to use food products. They are so supportive and I am very thankful. Now my hope is that Rebecca will be a doctor when she grows up!”
Compassion social worker Priscilla, pictured on the right supporting another mum, is part of the Child Survival team who supported Mediatrice during her pregnancy. “The challenge is that the families live far away from the health centre, in the hills,” she explains. “But [thanks to the Child Survival project], we’ve cared for 128 mums in the last 7 years. What I’m proud of is now there is a small percentage of miscarriages compared to before. Now the mums are healthy and the babies are ok.”
“These projects are making a huge difference, but there is more to be done,” reflects Naomi.
“Compassion’s Different Path appeal is hoping to raise funds to run projects just like this in Togo. And there is desperate need. According to the UN, 1 in 20 babies in Togo will die before their first birthday.”
Eugenia: the power of sacrificial compassion
Baby Moses was found abandoned at a church in Kigali when he was just a few days old. With little hope of survival unless he was adopted, the church pastor asked if anyone would be willing to care for this precious child.
Despite already caring for four children with few resources, 32-year-old Eugenia stepped forward. “I decided to bring Moses home because of a compassionate heart. There was no other person to take care of him. I committed to taking care of him with my own children.”
“Moses does not lack for milk because Compassion provides it. They give 2 litres a day. When Moses is sick, Compassion covers his medical costs and they also provide me with food rations.” Here, 7-month-old Moses receives his monthly development check at the Compassion project in the local church.
“Eugenia is one of the most inspirational women I’ve ever met. She responded to seeing a baby in need, a baby abandoned. She took that baby in as her own. She loves Moses like her own, and so do her kids. She’s just such a bright light. She is the perfect example of a mother’s sacrifice,” shares Naomi.
Naomi: inspired by the power of community
“Spending time with Eugenia, Ernestine and Mediatrice taught me so much about the power of community.”
“That was the underlying theme of the trip — the universal language of women coming together, helping and empowering each other.”
“Mothers are the source of life, so I saw how beginning to educate women and help women at that stage of life has such a positive knock on effect to so many different aspects including poverty and economic growth.”
“I met women who are so strong, they are so resourceful, they can take something so small and make something of it. But often they lack choice, and hope, which is so important. And at these Child Survival projects they are loved, they are accepted and they are empowered to secure a healthy future for them and their families.”
Discover more about Compassion and the work they do
Compassion’s Child Survival projects reach at-risk children even before they’ve been born. The projects support women during their pregnancy and help vulnerable babies get a healthy start in life.
Trained community workers, based in the local church, work closely with mothers and caregivers to help them access life-saving medical support, health screenings, hygiene supplies, nutritional supplements and education. Community workers also visit families at home and lead group activities at their local church where caregivers learn how to prepare nutritious food, monitor their children’s health and development, create a stable home-life and develop skills that will help them generate an income. This focused, personalised support helps families to be independent and build stable, healthy, hopeful futures for their children.
The beauty of Child Survival projects is that once children reach the age of one, they transition to the Child Sponsorship Programme. This ensures they can continue to make great progress throughout their childhood and adolescence.