“I used to call them by their names. Now, I call them Daddy and Mummy.”
Abandoned by his birth mother, Manzi found a new family when UNICEF support and Rwandan social workers connected him with loving foster parents.
NGOMA, Rwanda - Manzi was abandoned at a local hospital by his mother when he was just two days old. No one knew who his family was.
Hospital staff had no choice but to give him to an orphanage, where he grew up with 33 other boys.
“There were only two nuns to care for all 33 of us."
“They were loving people, and they did everything they could for us, but there were too few of them and too many of us.”
Social workers attempted to find Manzi a foster family, but multiple efforts proved futile.
It was as if he was waiting for a specific family to fulfill certain criteria that he refused to compromise on. But one thing was certain: Manzi yearned for a loving and nurturing family. He admired his classmates when they attended church with their parents and went home to their families. As more and more children from his orphanage were placed with foster families, he yearned more and more to experience family life.
As part of the Government’s Tubarerere mu Muryango (TMM) programme, implemented with technical and financial support from UNICEF and other partners, social workers attempted to place Manzi with a family. This programme – which means “let’s raise children in families” in Kinyarwanda – has brought thousands of children out of institutional care and into loving families.
‘’We had many families willing to adopt Manzi. Once we even took him to visit one of those families, but he was clearly not interested in living there,” recalled Cyriaque, one of the social workers assigned to Manzi's case.
Manzi had secretly adored the family of his two closest friends. He noticed how his friends’ parents were always kind to him when he visited. Noticing the existing bond between Manzi and his friends’ parents, TMM social workers approached the family to discuss the possibility of fostering Manzi.
Initially, the family had reservations about their ability to provide for another child, but they loved Manzi as their own, and agreed to foster him. After a few familiarization visits with TMM case workers, Manzi was officially placed into foster care in 2017.
His friends have become his brothers, and everyone calls him “firstborn” in the family.
With support from UNICEF, TMM professionals continue visiting Manzi in his new home, and other children like him, to make sure they are adjusting and integrating well.
“I am so happy my friends’ parents have become mine. They really love me, and I am very happy,” said Manzi confidently. “I used to call them by their names. Now I call them mummy and daddy. I love them, too.”
Manzi's name has been changed to protect his identity.
The Tubarerere mu Muryango programme is made possible in part by funding from the United States Agency for International Development Displaced Children’s and Orphan Fund, (USAID/DCOF), implemented by the Government of Rwanda with support from UNICEF and civil society organisations.