By Nancy Okwengu
Claude Rubibi is one happy man. Gone are the days when he had to struggle to find the funds to keep the doors of the Red Cross office in Gatsibo District of Rwanda open. Now, with support from the Swedish Red Cross and the government of Rwanda, Rubibi is running an operation which can afford to keep the lights on.
The Rwanda Red Cross Society had previously been renting an office at the cost of 50,000 Rwandese francs (73 Swiss Francs) per month. The majority of funding they received went towards paying the bills. That is when the Swedish Red Cross stepped in and offered to provide funding to build an office. The Rwanda government followed suit by providing the land. “We now have a store, office rooms, a large hall, toilets and a large vacant piece of land,” says Claude Rubibi, district coordinator for the society.
The organization also rents out the hall to external organizations, bringing in some much needed cash. Some of the extra offices are also rented out to staff members at a nearby primary school, while women’s groups use the compound to make baskets.
The income generated allows the Rwanda Red Cross Society to offset various expenses such as transportation to field projects, stationery, and wages for a security guard and an accountant.
Youth volunteers have also been given space to carry out their activities, and in return look after the grounds. “They see this office as theirs, since it supports their own initiatives,” says Rubibi.
The building also provides a permanent home for the society’s blood donation campaigns, as well as meetings and training session for non-governmental organizations and government ministries. Plans for the future include the opening of a stationery shop, internet café, and a cafe, targeting students and staff at a university that will soon open nearby. Rubibi also hopes to purchase tents and chairs so the hall can be rented out for large functions such as weddings.
“The initial funding we received from the Swedish Red Cross has served as a catalyst to help us gain knowledge, cooperation and new relationships within the community,” says Rubibi. “Our office is now self-sustaining and it has become a model of what empowerment can achieve.”