ASFA Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation Centre

Muganza village, Nyaruguru District, Southern Province, Rwanda

Our Vision

Established in 2014, our vision remains to provide sustainable inpatient and outpatient physiotherapy treatment and rehabilitation services. Early intervention to facilitate independence and maximise function is key to everything we do to fully realise every patient’s potential. We support and encourage social inclusion of all our patients and their families so they feel valued members of society.  Attitudes towards people with disabilities are slowly changing as they become more active and skilled members of the community. There is much work to do but by working together, disability or no disablity,  we can Make a Difference

Our main focus is on paediatric care and providing treatment and rehabilitation for children with disabilities and some adult outpatient care. Demand is great and we hope to be able to expand our over-subscribed clinical services once our centre is complete. See Future Hopes for more information.

Small beginnings…

Sr Josephine Nyiranzanwayimama, a member of the Rwandan Franciscan sisters, Congrégation des Soeurs Pénitante de Saint François d’Assise, had been co-ordinating sewing activities since 2005 in the remote village of Muganza – about four hours south west of Kigali by car.

She took over co-ordinating outpatient services for children with disabilities in 2008 serving a population of approximately 300,000. The needs were, and still are, many and with the support of Margie Salem and donors, in partnership with Global Development Group Australia,  ASFA Centre (Amis de Saint François d’Assise/Friends of St. Francis) opened its doors in January 2014 to provide a multi-purpose hall with guest accommodation, office and a dormitory room where families could overnight before catching the early morning bus to town to receive medical treatment for their children at distant hospitals.

We are often amazed by the distance people travel to get to ASFA, with patients walking up to 20km – or being carried on a stretcher to reach us.  We had a wonderful father who walked for six hours carrying his 20-year-old daughter and a mother who held her child on a motorbike journey for five hours. There are many other humbling stories like this…

In July 2014, we joined forces with our local partners, the sisters, to help train two newly qualified Rwandan physiotherapists. Over the course of 10 days, 100 patients were assessed in three rural clinics. This trip confirmed the pressing need to establish a physiotherapy centre in Muganza where we could provide early intervention for disabled children. Highly experienced nurse and physiotherapist Sister Josepha Uwumuremyi moved to Muganza in September 2014 to welcome the first patients at ASFA Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre. We were overwhelmed from day one with the acute demand for such services.  

Diogene Murwashyaka is the Clinical Lead of ASFA Physiotherapy Centre and works alongside a small team of one Physio Assistant and five Therapeutic Assistants (residential carers).  To date, ASFA Physio has treated nearly 400 patients and currently has, on average , 10-12 paediatric inpatients and 174 outpatients, the vast majority being paediatric. We see children with developmental delays and disabilities including cerebral palsy, club foot, Down’s Syndrome, genu valgum, autism, developmental delay and many congenital syndromes.  ASFA Centre provided a home to the physio service for six years but by 2019 was bursting at the seams.  Our new dedicated building, located next door to ASFA Centre, was completed in August 2020 so please do read all about our plans in Future Hopes ….

 

ASFA Physio is a place where…

The physio team provide full-time treatment and care for a number of paediatric inpatients on a short-term basis
Carers and parents are taught ‘hands on’ tools to help their children develop and achieve their potential
Children and adults are actively involved with their own learning
Parents learn to incorporate the practice of new skills into everyday life
The needs of the whole person are considered including communication, social and physical skills

 We know that, with the right help, people can achieve wonderful things. This message is the foundation of everything we do at ASFA

  Therapeutic Exercise ASFA style!

ASFA is the only centre (we think!) in Rwanda that provides physiotherapy treatment through engaging and fun therapeutic exercise. Focusing on developing gross motor skills such as rolling, sitting, crawling, kneeling, standing and walking, the aim is to facilitate each patient’s normal development and independence.

A stimulating environment is created with toys and therapy equipment and different learning activities are devised to meet the treatment needs of each child. Supporting parents and carers to carry on therapeutic exercise at home is a vital part of what we do in addition to building a supportive network for families of disabled children.

Please read on to learn about a few of our case studies

ASFA Centre’s Projects and Facilities

Inpatient accommodation

For those travelling from remote villages for treatment and medical assistance, ASFA Physiotherapy provides accommodation for inpatients and full time carers.

Sewing courses 

As of April 2018, 10 women had graduated from the ASFA Centre sewing programme that gives young women the chance to learn a skill and, ultimately, the ability to earn a living. Of these, five now own their own sewing machine and work full time, one hires a machine when she has freelance work and four woman work on a freelance basis and use the ASFA machines when needed.

The courses started life on the verandah at ASFA Centre but have now moved to a shop on Muganza High Street where the students can sell their products and services more easily. The centre is managed by one of the ASFA graduates. 

It costs approximately £80 to buy a sewing machine which allows a graduate to be income generating immediately.

Crops

ASFA Centre grow crops including bananas, avocados, strawberries, beans, cabbages, potatoes, sweet potatoes and the most delicious passion fruit ever known (!) on the projects own land.

It costs approximately £5 to buy a selection of seeds for cultivation and sale.

Staff and community education classes

Malnutrition has long been a pressing issue in Rwanda. We run classes on how to sow crops more efficiently and how to cook to maximise nutritional value. We also run child protection classes for ASFA staff.

Continued Professional Development and Safeguarding (Child Protection)

ASFA Physio hold monthly safeguarding sessions and weekly reviews. Visiting UK physio’s run CPD sessions accredited by the Rwanda Allied Health Professions Council.

Animal husbandry

The pig programme was temprarily suspended due to construction of the new physio centre but we hope to restart this soon. 

Farmers are given one pig, commit to pass on the first female offspring from their animal to another local family and agree to provide training for its care. At Feb 2018, 11 families have benefitted from the programme with families with disabled children registered at ASFA Physio being given preference. Farmers who complete the training successfully are often able to provide better nutrition for their families, take out basic health insurance, send their children to school, raise income from produce and often buy further livestock.

Our 50 chickens retired during construction of the new centre but used to lay eggs for ASFA staff and inpatients with excess eggs sold at market to generate income. We hope to re-start our chicken project now that construction has finished. 

It costs approximately £10 to buy a chicken.

Guest accommodation and catering

ASFA has four guest bedrooms with ensuite facilities and full board for visitors. This is an income generating project that is normally rented out to volunteers, NGO workers and local business people. It is also available to inpatient parents and carers who are visiting or enroute to further medical treatment for their child.

Cultivation of fruit and vegetables and basic animal husbandry (pigs and cows) also contribute to the project’s sustainability with excess produce sold at market.

It costs approximately £40 to buy a pig.

We currently have six dairy cows whose milk is given to ASFA Physio inpatients. Excess milk is sold at market to generate income and any by-products are used as compost to help cultivate crops.

It costs approximately £500 to buy a cow.

ASFA Centre has a multi-purpose hall that can be hired out for events, with income earned from catering services.

2021 and Future hopes…

Make a Difference 4 Africa completed a dedicated residential physiotherapy centre in August 2020. It is located next to ASFA Centre where disabled children can stay, with their carers, for short-term inpatient treatment and care. 

The new building comprises:

  • approximately 30 paediatric inpatient beds
  • carer accommodation 
  • 3 dedicated spaces for therapeutic exercise
  • 4 consultation rooms
  • internal bathrooms
  • toilets (inside/outside)
  • kitchen 
  • laundry
  • separate outpatients department
  • waiting/reception area
  • garden and car parking

Already, the lives of many children have improved immeasurably as a result of the intervention and physiotherapy treatment received at ASFA.  With a properly staffed, dedicated facility this number can increase and can help participants become more active and skilled members of their family and broader community. Negative stereotypes of people with disability are changing in Rwanda. We want to work with the inspiring local team to help them deliver this incredible project and then replicate the model in other areas of Rwanda.

If you would like to support this vital work please do get in touch to find out more or if you are able, please kindly consider make a donation.

Kate & Diogene

Charlotte

Training

The results

Hydraulic hospital beds

Shoes & specialist Piedro walking boots

Wheelchairs

Medical books

ASFA Physiotherapy Centre in numbers

We shipped (or lugged!) a total of 1,500kg of physiotherapy equipment including…

  • 200 pairs of shoes and specialist Piedro walking boots
  • 200 pairs of socks
  • 70 medical books (in collaboration with Book Aid International)
  • 60 walking sticks and metal crutches
  • 40 pairs of arm/leg gaiters
  • 35 metal walking frames
  • 20 postural wedges and supports
  • 22 boxes of Plaster of Paris
  • 15 postural management chairs
  • 20 wheelchairs
  • 10 hydraulic hospital beds
  • 2 hydraulic physiotherapy treatment couches
  • 10 leather helmets
  • 10 standing frames
  • 7 plastic floor mats
  • 4 toilet and washing chairs
  • 4 pushchairs
  • 4 bean bags
  • 2 wooden climbing frames for muscle development
  • 2 sleeping management systems
  • 2 full-sized physiotherapy couches
  • 1 interferential therapy machine
  • 1 filing cabinet

Troy Aitken

Founder, Chairman & Trustee
Troy is an experienced project manager who has had a love affair with Africa since 1999 when he worked at a primary school in South Africa. In 2006 he started...

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working with Oasis Africa in Kenya and the following year spent four months in Rwanda as a project manager building eight classrooms in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province.

“Since volunteering in Rwanda many years ago I’ve been passionate about Africa. I founded Make A Difference 4 Africa with the aim of making a real difference to people’s lives through education and healthcare projects. I live by the mantra 'Be the change you want to see in the world’."

Jette Jakobsen

Consultant Paediatric Physiotherapist & Trustee
Jette holds a Graduate Diploma in Physiotherapy from University College Lillebaelt in Denmark. She has over 25 years’ experience and works as a paediatric...

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physiotherapist at Achieving for Children where she is part of the Integrated Service for Disabled Children.

Jette has visited Rwanda a number of times and her paediatric expertise has been instrumental in establishing ASFA. Her dedication and can-do attitude are inspirational and there is nothing she can’t do with duct tape!

“The ASFA Physiotherapy Centre is so much more than ‘just’ a centre that provides treatment; it has become a unique hub where children with disabilities and their families can get advice, support and meet families with similar needs. It is a place that enables and opens up possibilities of independence, inclusion and improved quality of life.”

Jacinta Darrant

 HR & Communications Advisor

Jacinta is originally from Rwanda but now is a full-time mum living in the UK. Her dream is to make a difference to children's lives by meeting their educational and medical needs. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Human Resources from Middlesex University.

“It’s amazing to see how a small change can create a big impact to an individual and to the community as a whole.” From teaching English, sewing, carpentry, bricklaying, cookery and physiotherapy ...the list goes on! Thanks to MAD 4 Africa these programmes have made huge impacts on people’s lives! We are a small team with big dreams and I’m so proud to be part of it”.

Alison Hawksley

Chief Operating Officer & Trustee
Alison worked in commercial property before venturing into the entrepreneurial world as a co-owner of Lush and Balmonds and co-founder and director of Steamcream.

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One of her most rewarding jobs, however, was working with a child with learning differences at Barnes Primary School. It was here that she first became inspired to set up a partnership in 2009 with a school in Rwanda and help establish ASFA so that children in Rwanda with learning differences could reach their potential too.

“On my first visit to Rwanda in 2008, I was moved by the children’s industriousness, resilience, zest to learn and their ambition to achieve. I felt we in England had much to learn. I love that when two communities in different cultural settings plant the seeds of a vision together, something truly spectacular can grow and have lifelong benefits for many people.”

Margo Rodrigo

Educational Adviser
Margo is a Year 6 teacher at Barnes Primary School, a Leader for Learning and a member of the School’s Leadership Team.

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Margo has over 20 years experience in both the state and independent sectors and is also involved in working with teachers from other schools through Richmond Borough’s school partnerships programme. She has made numerous visits to Rusuzumiro Primary School and has played a lead role in fundraising, teacher training and strengthening school partnership link.

“I have had the privilege of visiting Rwanda on two separate occasions and in July 2018 I will be making my third visit. It has been a remarkable experience being part of this positive partnership whereby both schools - Barnes Primary and Rusuzumiro Primary - can learn about each other's education systems and cultural differences. Working together and learning from each other are the first steps to help 'Make a Difference' for people within the school and wider communities.”

Kate Hunt

Consultant Physiotherapist & Trustee
Kate holds a Graduate Diploma in Physiotherapy from King’s College London and an MSc from the University of Surrey in Counselling and Psychotherapy

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She runs her own practice in London, Hunt Physiotherapy,  where she provides a full musculoskeletal physiotherapy service to employees at The Telegraph and News UK newspaper groups. She has a specialist interest and expertise in the treatment of work-related upper limb and spinal disorders, posture and postural-related problems and is an expert in core stability training. Hunt Physiotherapy was accredited by the Rwandan Allied Health Professionals Council in May 2018 as an official provider of Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Kate also holds a Foundation Degree in art and manages to combine her love of physiotherapy and art wherever she goes. Kate first visited Rwanda in 2014 to help train two newly qualified Rwandan physiotherapists and has been hooked ever since.

“Even with 31 years’ experience as a physio in the UK, it still amazed me, on my first trip to Rwanda, to see the impact physiotherapy can have. The simplest of interventions based on clear clinical reasoning and individual treatment planning can have the most incredible results and truly ‘'Make a [huge] Difference’ in the life of a patient. We have seen first hand how our physiotherapy input has helped a child to walk unaided, meaning they have been able to attend mainstream school for the first time.”

Richard Cooney

Treasurer & Trustee 

Richard is a Chartered Accountant with over 10 years experience in financial services. He  holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Otago, New Zealand and first  visited Rwanda in February 2020 to see the charity’s work first hand.

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What stuck with me most from visiting Rwanda was the pure joy and appreciation that I felt from the children.  Their smiles were infectious and I saw first-hand the life changing impact the charity was making.”

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UK registered charity number: 1127976