For children in Rwanda, the combined effects of the 1994 genocide and the HIV/AIDS pandemic have been devastating, resulting in one of the world’s highest percentages of orphans among children 17 years or younger (17 percent) (UNAIDS, UNICEF, and USAID 2004). There are also large numbers of child-headed households—with estimates ranging from 65,000 to 227,500—leaving many children living without adult care and supervision (Human Rights Watch 2003). These young people are “left behind,” not only by parents and other caregivers who have died, but also by extended families, communities, formal structures, and the government who fail to adequately provide for their protection and care.
The scale of the problem requires innovative solutions to support community members and child caregivers. One model of community-based psychosocial support is the mentorship model, which utilizes trained adult volunteers from the local community as mentors to children and youth living without adult care. Mentors not only assist with provision of basic needs, but also more
importantly develop a stable, caring relationship with children through regular home visits, and emotional and social support. Psychosocial support through this mentor relationship is intended to mitigate the consequences of disrupted care-giving structures, and to provide a supportive environment for children’s well-being. However, there is little empirical evidence on the effectiveness of mentoring programs.
To respond to this gap, Tulane University School of Public Health, Rwanda School of Public Health, World Vision Rwanda (WVR), and the Horizons Program formed a partnership to assess the impact of participation in an adult mentorship program on the psychosocial well-being of youth living in Gikongoro province of Rwanda and of the adult mentors. In addition, the study aims to develop, pilot, and refine a reliable and valid instrument to assess community-based psychosocial interventions. This report presents key findings from the baseline data collected as part of this collaborative project.