With the initiative of Madame Rosine DUQUESNE Kamagaju – Founder & Director of Autism Rwanda, the awareness campaign and social intervention in helping families with Autist-children began in 2014 in Rwanda.
Before the establishment of Autism Rwanda, the autisim was not unknown, posing a very critical issue and depression to the families of these children where they were discriminated and called names depriving them of human rights.
In a detailed interview with founders of Autism Rwanda, The Express News compiled pieces of the elements that made Autism Rwanda to exist and to get to the current achievements where they have to date supported over 200 children from 200 families since the beginning.
Anicet Kayumba, Vice-president and member Co-founder of Autism Rwanda said that Autism Rwanda has great and long history for him since 2012 when he went to visit Madame Rosine DUQUESNE Kamagaju in Normandy/France.
He then saw a child with Autism, which he considered abnormal at his first observation.
Anicet Kayumba, Vice-president and member Co-founder of Autism Rwanda
“When I went to visit Rosine in 2012 in France, I had no idea with Autism, a France woman with an Autist child came there, I saw the child’s behaviours as unusual comparing with Rwandans, then I asked Rosine what the disorder is, then she told me it is Autism, I thank Rosine and her husband Sebastian to explain me about Autism, we later decided to come back in Rwanda and start the initiative to support Autists, we briefed the idea to 6 to 7 people in Rwanda and we decided to establish Autism Rwanda.” Kayumba said.
Creating Autism awareness in Rwanda
“Children with such a problem in Rwanda were called various names including ignorant because some had mental disorders, when we started the initiative in Rwanda, Rosine taught parents about the symptoms of Autism and she used experts to consult children and explain more, then parents got to know that and many of them brought their children for assistance.” Kayumba added.
Autism Rwanda is now 7 years operating and helping Rwandans to address the issue of Autism, the centre plans to support many Rwandans and export the initiative beyond the nation.
Kayumba tells Rwandans to seek information from healthcare providers when they have children with such an issue.
Vision in 30 in Future
“I wish in 30 years ahead to have the entire country covered and go to the African region with our services where all people will have awareness of Autism and treat all children the same.” Said Kayumba.
Sebastien DUQUESNE, the husband of Rosine DUQUESNE Kamagaju is the Co-Founder of Autism-Rwanda. He said that Autism Rwanda is a local NGO that aims at creating awareness and advocating for children with Autism.
He explained how the centre was introduced in Rwanda.
Sebastien DUQUESNE co-Founder of Autism-Rwanda
“I knew Rosine in 1994, I was a volunteer helping vulnerable orphans children, we were married in 2010, Rosine was invited by Migrant des Gland Lacs, a UN program to intervene in mental disorder centre, she was trained, she gained an opportunity to live with a family with children with Autism and had experts who helped them to cater for these children, then we decided to bring the idea to Rwanda and take care of children with such an issue.” Sebastien said.
He said that they started with no idea as autism was not known in Rwanda.
He said that Rosine has taken all possible training in Europe and got a University degree in Associated Autism Disorder which also enabled her to implement the initiative.
Sebastian is a Sociologist and Social Entrepreneur Development Specialist. He noted that they had a vision to make Autism very important subject in Rwanda and bring sustainable solutions in the country and beyond.
Challenges at the beginning
“It was not easy at the beginning to start Autism Rwanda as it became necessary that the mother of children, my wife Rosine left us alone and came to Rwanda, which was far from us, the second challenge was financial constraint where Rosine quitted a salaried job in Europe.” Sebastien said.
Rosine DUQUESNE Kamagaju, Founder of Autism Rwanda said that they cater for children from 2 to 15 years old.
Rosine DUQUESNE Kamagaju – Founder & Director of Autism Rwanda
She explained that they started the services in 2014 at the beginning, where Autism was not known and everyone could understand it as new word.
“To date people are aware and they can search on internet and call us for more explanations and advice, we had 6 children at the beginning but now are over 200, who have approached us, many other people country wide keep calling us and come to seek for interventions, they now know Autism but there is still a journey to go as many still fear to expose the issue,” Kamagaju said.
She said that they are now happy to have supported many children and families at the higher extent level.
“Parents and us can be happy to see the improvement of the status of children, helping them requires much efforts and this is a challenge we have, but we are trying to cope with that and support our children efficiently.” She added.
She noted that Autism Rwanda has local partners including the Ministry of Health the Ministry of Education that they collaborate in seeking for sustainable solutions to Autism.
“We have partners including Sterling Foundation and we have many projects with them to be able to achieve a lot in 5 years ago in creating awareness of Autism, ensuring brighter future of our children with autism.” Kamagaju said.
She said that it is a long procedure to approach parents with children who have Autism symptoms to understand the status before they get support as it is not easy to tell a parent that his/her child has a health problem.
“Therefore, helping a child must be done earlier since parents reveal that they have the symptoms, it prevents of course the increase of crisis. Some of the symptoms include failure to speak at the early age until 5 years, social behaviour and collaboration with other children, etc. Many parents are not aware and they are advised to seek for medic assistance.” She noted.
The role of every Rwandan
“I call up on every Rwandan to be aware of Autism and help families and children with this issue to come through by avoiding hurting words as these children have rights as others.” Kamagaju said.
Autism Global Situation
Current global estimates state that about 1 in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This estimate represents an average figure according to the World Health Organization, which states that some well-controlled studies reported findings that were higher and the prevalence from low- and middle-income countries is still
By The Express News