Ubaka U Rwanda (Ubaka) is one of our incredible partner charities based in Rwanda. Ubaka provides much-needed shelter, education and guidance for young people in Kigali who have been have been orphaned, abandoned or mistreated.
Rebecca Usabyamahoro co-founded the charity with her husband Evode in 2008. A street child himself, Evode started the initiative 5 years previously; organising events, clothes and food for boys who had been subjected to living on the streets. After meeting Rebecca in 2008 they set up the charity Ubaka U Rwanda together, which now provides shelter and also guidance for 50 disadvantaged children and young adults in Kigali.
We spoke to Rebecca about what the festive season is like in Rwanda and how they’ll be celebrating with the boys at Ubaka this year…
What is a typical Christmas Day like in Rwanda?
Christmas in Rwanda is almost exclusively a religious holiday, it’s a real church-going nation for regular Sundays so most Rwandans attend a service on Christmas morning. Christmas decorations and Christmas presents are really Western ideas, so even though most kids here have heard of “Père Noël”, most are familiar only with the image and not the story accompanying him.
Despite it being a religious day, religious traditions that we would relate to (in Europe) aren’t around; there are no nativity plays or carol services. They do have a lot of the traditional English carols in the local language (Kinyarwanda), but only the more traditional churches sing them, and then maybe only one on Christmas morning. Some decorations do go up, but mainly only a day or two before Christmas Day.
What is the festive season like at Ubaka U Rwanda?
At Ubaka we do things a bit differently, we have a tree and put decorations up (which the boys help me with). And we spend a lot of time together…especially as the boys break up for the academic year at the end of October and don’t start again till mid-January!
We also try to do some kind of Christmas craft fun as a group family activity – over the years we’ve done a handprint Christmas tree with all our hands and names on, made angel hats, made our own Christmas decorations from paper and made Christmas stockings from brown paper bags.
How will you be celebrating Christmas Day this year?
To our boys and most Rwandans, celebration food is beef in a rich oily tomato sauce with pilau rice and deep fried potatoes, with a “fanta” (what they call any soda) to wash it down. Even better if there’s enough left over to take in the evening with ubugali (a type of sticky bread), the ubugali is distinctly Rwandan as it’s made with cassava flour rather than maize like in the rest of East Africa. So that’s what we give them!
We also give the boys Christmas presents, which for the past few years is a gift of shoes from us (not boring ones but cool, trendy Nike look-a-likes!). In the build-up we take them shopping to choose their own which they love. Sadly, we can’t afford to do more! We tend to do or read the nativity story Christmas Eve, followed by carols in Kinyarwanda and English. Their favourite song is ‘We Three Kings’, they really shout that out!
As well as general living costs and education fees for the boys, the charity is currently working on building accommodation for their resident boys, providing them with a stable place to call home. When finished the space will also be used as a place to educate disadvantaged young people and as a safe place for them to drop-in, off the streets.
You can support the charity in a number of ways, one of which is by volunteering on our Rwanda Summer Project in July 2017 and helping to construct the much needed shelter for the boys (pictured left): https://www.questoverseas.com/event/rwanda-summer/
Alternatively you can support the charity through a donation, sponsoring one of the boys or through a gift, visit their site to find out more: