Family care: Foster mother Mukarubuga shares her story

By Félicie Tombola
On 12 January 2018 at 05:48

Jacqueline Mukarubuga smiles and sweeps tears on her face –tears of joy –as she recounts changes her adopted son has undergone since October 2016 when she took him from the Gahanga orphanage in Kicukiro District, Kigali city.

“My son (adopted) was engulfed by sorrow and solitude the time I found him in the orphanage and in the first days living with us here. I feel so happy now that he can freely interact with us and other children. I sometimes tear up happily when I see him smiling. His life has quite changed,” said the foster mother.

Mukarubuga lives with his husband, their son and fostered 14-year Patrick Cyubahiro in Gahanga Sector of Kicukiro. She makes Rwf25,000 (about $30) monthly while her husband repairs mobile phones, the job that some days earns him with no single coin. They live a moderate life but their limited financial means did not scare them of adopting a child. In fact, the family attempted to adopt three when the couple visited an orphanage back in 2016 but later decided to take in one after deeply planning how they can help the adopted and their own son.

Speaking to IGIHE’s Félicie Tombola, the foster mother says she decided and proposed her husband to adopt a child because she had noticed that children in orphanages were lacking family care. The family has been selected, among other families countrywide, as ‘model parents’ locally known as ‘Malayika Murinzi’ under the National Strategy for Child Care Reform which seeks to transform Rwanda’s current child care and protection system into a family-based care and family-strengthening system.

Approved by the cabinet in March 2012, the strategy targeted to phase down all orphanages in the country and place all children into families by 2015 but statistics show that 2,714 children had been fostered while 1,244 were still in orphanages in June 2017.

Not means but goodwill

Mukarubuga encourages families to adopt children, saying it doesn’t matter which means the family has but it just takes a loving and willing heart to have mercy for the hopeless children in orphanages.

“I learnt of his (Cyubahiro) story and got pity for him. His mother abandoned him at CHUK (referral hospital in Kigali) when he was three months old. He since then lived in four orphan centres and has never known any of his parents,” she says, adding that if adopting was for families with good financial means, hers would not have adopted a child.

“I felt I could play role in shaping his future as I can do for my own son. I felt ready to share with him the little I earn and my husband has a similar mindset. Since we adopted him, we have not declined financially; instead God has blessed us with means to rent house, for meals and we have recently bought a land plot where we want to develop our residential house.”

Cyubahiro is happy in the family and has got a blissful face. He says he can go to visit his friends in orphanages but never wishes to go back into orphanage life.

“I am better off here. They help me to revise my school lessons; I have got people to interact with and joined a church choir which helped me get rid of fighting and insulting other children as I used to do before. I love my mum and dad (adoptive) because they helped me to know my history and are treating me well. I lived in orphan centres expecting my parents to come and pick me because I didn’t know why I was living there,” he says.

Cyubahiro is doing level five of primary school.

Article 19 of the Constitution of Rwanda amended in 2015 stipulates that a child has the right to specific mechanisms of protection by his or her family, other Rwandans and the State.

Mukarubuga, Patrick Cyubahiro (C) and her biological son (L)
Jacqueline Mukarubuga Patrick Cyubahiro's foster mother