Boys and girls from poor and disadvantaged families deserve a fair chance for a happy, productive, and independent futureShelter Them is all about providing Rwandan children with the skills necessary to lead productive and independent lives. That all begins with a good education, starting as early as possible. In Rwanda, primary education is provided by the government to all Rwandan children, but many families, often headed by single mothers, cannot afford the cost of private and expensive early childhood education

So, what did Shelter Them do? We created our own Early Childhood Development Centre in Gateko.

The school opened in early 2021 in the community centre built by Shelter Them with the ECDC in mind. In 2023, there were 96 students, three to six years of age, enrolled in our ECDC. The play-based program, designed by our Education Coordinator, gives these youngsters the basic skills to prepare them for primary school. They are also provided with exercise and two nutritious meals each day, because healthy minds need healthy bodies. Not only do these children benefit, but adult caregivers we employ are receiving training, giving them new skills that will give them too an opportunity for an independent future. So, everyone benefits from the program. 

                                     The Five Pillars of the Gateko ECDC

     1. Learning    This is the most obvious pillar of the ECDC, and in fact of all we do at Shelter Them. Around the world, children who experience early childhood education stay in school longer and are more likely to be employed in high skill jobs. Their future earnings are increased by as much as 25%. In 2023, a library was established on the school premises to encourage among the young children an understanding of the value and joy of reading. ECD children participate in weekly reading sessions facilitated by the librarian. Additionally, a reading program is open to primary and secondary students as well, promoting literacy and a love of reading.

    2. Protection   Before our ECDC was built, parents had to lock their children inside their homes while parents went to work, to be sure their children were safe. Now there are many caring adults - teachers, caregivers, and other staff - to provide a safe environment in which to learn and grow. Shelter Them also has a clear and detailed Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct to guarantee the safety of all the children in our care.

    3.  Nutrition   A healthy mind needs a healthy body. All of the ECD children receive two nutritious meals each school day, so they can concentrate on the skills they need to learn. In developing countries, improved nutrition enables children to achieve to their full cognitive, physical, and social potential. In 2023, a 70-square-meter kitchen garden was created for the ECDC. Shelter Them has also purchased two cows, to provide fresh milk for the children. These initiatives not only provide high quality food for the children, but also significantly decrease the daily expenses associated with their meals. They also foster a more self reliant and resilient approach to nourishment.

    4.  Hygiene and Sanitation   This was a major problem in Gateko before the ECDC was built, not just for children but their parents as well. There was no reliable, convenient source of clean water, but Shelter Them has provided that source, and one of the water points in the village is right outside the ECDC. The children were at first reluctant to drink the water from the taps because they had never known safe water. Now each has his or her own drinking bottle which they can fill whenever they need to. And our hardworking caretaking staff ensure that the ECDC is clean and sanitary every day.

    5.   Health  Our Education Coordinator has planned a play-based curriculum for the ECDC, so students are active while they learn, in order to develop healthy bodies as well as healthy minds. This approach continues even over the summer holidays. A summer camp is provided for the children in ECDC as well as for primary and secondary school students. Healthy nutrition is provided for all, as well as new experiences in different arts, sports, and fun games




Shelter Them understands the importance of teaching the whole child. Only in this way can we ensure that each child can achieve, to his or her abilities, a productive, satisfying, independent, and sustainable future of their own choosing!

Do you want to help these children to have a fair start in life? Then you can join our ECDC Club. The title means Every Child Deserves a Chance. Here is how it works. We ask members of the club to commit to providing $15 per month to go exclusively to the operating costs of our ECDC in Gateko. $15 doesn’t seem to go very far for us these days, but in Rwanda, $15 per month can provide a miracle.

  •   $15 can provide the books and toys and learning tools that will start these kids on their adventure in education.
  •   $15 can provide the salaries for the teachers and caregivers and cooks and cleaners who provide a safe, clean learning environment for the students.
  •   $15 will provide all of the food to give these children nutritious, well-balanced meals each day
  •   $15 will pay for all the cleaning products that will provide these children with a clean, hygienic environment in which to learn, and that example will be a model for cleanliness and hygiene in their homes.
  •   $15 per month can transform the lives of these young children, not just now but for the rest of their lives.

Do you want to transform a life? If so, go to our donate page and Join the ECDC Club!