Interview with CEO Anne Baraza

What is your name?

My name is Anne Baraza, and I am the CEO of RUWEPO.

How did you get involved in women’s empowerment and come to run RUWEPO?

That was in October 2008. We were a group of 14 women from Riruta United Methodist Women. We served together, and thought of doing something as a group to empower the women. This idea came across because of the children we had in the community. They were facing stigma in the school, so we had to come up with a school that we felt was a safe space for them– a friendly and inclusive place no matter your status. We reached out to the pastor at our church and he helped us start it.

How many people do you think you have reached/assisted/helped through RUWEPO this year? Since it began?

This year we have reached around 2,000+ people through communication efforts on Facebook, through the school, and at workshops here. They are empowered here and then they take the information back to their community and spread that education.

Since RUWEPO began, we have helped 10,000+.

How many kids do you serve in the school? What do you provide for them apart from education?

We serve 188 students. Apart from education we provide 2 meals a day (porridge at 11 and lunch) and also psychological support. We also give them clothing, which to us is a plus because some of these kids don’t have clothing or shoes.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

I enjoy being with the children most. Being in this place feels right. You know when you interact and you feel like these are my people –they are a part of me.

In your opinion, how is RUWEPO perceived in the community?

Actually, it is perceived positively because it is bringing hope to the community. It is bringing sensitivity on HIV/AIDS, malaria, gender-based violence. They feel that this is a program that has come to alleviate some of their worries and give them some hope and a way forward in life.

What RUWEPO program are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of the school because these are children who have perhaps not seen the doors of a classroom, but because of RUWEPO, they are not able to be in school. We teach them and guide them in school, guide them in their talents, and give them a future.

What are your challenges as the director of RUWEPO?

One is finance. We have limited resources, but we are trying to help many. Sometimes we are stretched too thin, and often the staff salaries suffer first.

What are some of your success stories?

Children have passed and gone to high school. The first lot is sitting for their examination this month (Sept. 2018). We have gotten some children from the street and they are learning now which is a success. We have had success with HIV/AIDS programming. People who used to hide their status have felt ok coming out in the community and we have helped them see a future living with these diseases. In the community, HIV+ women are giving birth to HIV free children.

How would you plan to use additional funding?

One, I would have to take care of our staff and increase their salaries so they can pay their rent and support their families. Then, we would make sure that the children in the school are taken care of — a feeding program that runs steadily. I would also buy more land because I have a bigger picture for this organization with more programs, but we need more space.

What RUWEPO program do you think could use additional funding the most?

The school.

Where do you see RUWEPO in the next year? The next five? The next ten?

In 2019, we will expand more on HIV/AIDS. If we had a visiting camp once a month, we could sensitize people to the topic. The moment they know their status they can start to move forward with their lives. I am also looking for land.

My strategic plan for the next five years, we should have gotten land by then. We would build a boarding facility for this school and developed a high school.

In 2028, we would have graduates from our high school, and so we would hopefully create a vocational school for those that don’t go to local universities. There they could learn skills applicable to the world. I am also thinking of a clinic there on the land, so the community and the school could benefit. Then instead of referring people away from us we could help them in the same place.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Sometimes stigma is high, so someone feels the moment I talk about my status people will laugh at me or not accommodate me which becomes a threat to our programs. Then, adherence: people are given medication and they don’t adhere to that so they keep on going back. So they feel like they are making five steps ahead, three behind. That really demotivates you; you feel like God what is this? Another thing is our LGBTI ministry. A lot of the time people think that inclusive ministries are bad ones and they do not want to associate with you. This is frustrating, but we are pushing against the stigma in order to give hope to more people.