Meet Maria

Did you know Maria is the youngest village leader in Rwanda? Well, sort of…

Do you know the word umudugudu? Don’t worry, when I joined Wellspring, I didn’t know what it meant either. My Rwandan friends quickly taught me that umudugudu means village. In local umudugudus, everyone knows everyone, and that’s exactly the idea behind a new initiative that is fighting—and winning—against student dropout at Rubona Primary. 

Student dropout is a critical issue in Rwanda. When you missed school as a kid, it might have been because you had a cold and needed to rest. That usually isn’t the case in Rwanda. When kids aren’t in the classroom, it’s because they’re harvesting tea leaves, watching younger siblings, or even being forced into exploitative work to provide for their family. 

When kids are absent from school in Rwanda, they often don’t return.

When over 100 students dropped out of Rubona Primary—a Wellspring partner school—the community realized the next generation’s future was at risk. A crucial component of Wellspring’s training focuses on empowering communities to use their own strengths to support education. These workshops, which are only made possible through your support, made all the difference for Rubona Primary. Parents, community leaders, and teachers used their new skills to develop a unique initiative: villages in the classroom. One day, they gathered students in their umudugudus and asked them to elect a village leader. Enter Maria!  

Each day, Maria checks on the kids in her umudugudu. She sits with the parents of absent students—as any village leader would—and explains that their child deserves the same opportunities to thrive and grow as every other kid. This is often enough to help parents understand the value of education, but sometimes, things go a little deeper.

When Maria recently checked on a missing classmate, she discovered her friend, Carene, had left school because her family needed to sell her uniform to put food on the table. Maria knew Carene deserved an education just as much as she did, so Maria sacrificed one of her own uniforms and asked fellow classmates to donate notebooks. These gestures may seem simple, but their impact was life-changing. With Maria’s support, Carene is not only back in school, but has graduated to the next grade! 

Maria and Carene in class.Maria is an inspiration to me, and I hope she is to you too. Maria is doing everything she can, with the support of Wellspring-trained teachers, to make sure every child in her umudugudu has the opportunity for a quality education. With village leaders like Maria taking responsibility, Rubona Primary now has a 0% dropout rate. That’s 135 kids who are back with their friends in classrooms that are now safe spaces of learning and fun. That’s 135 kids who are getting the chance to learn to read and write and break the cycle of poverty that has been thrust upon them.

That’s pretty incredible.

But dropout is still an urgent issue in Rwanda. Rubona Primary has succeeded in bringing every child back to the classroom, but what about the kids from other schools and umudugudus? Don’t they deserve the same chance at a quality education that treats them with dignity and worth?

Jesus calls us all together as a global umudugudu—you, me, Maria, and everyone in between—to care for our neighbours. Every day we stand by is a day that a child loses in their education. We have an uphill battle ahead of us, but it’s worth it for every one of those kids. 

In this global umudugudu, will you join Maria’s team and fight with her to make sure every child gets the education they deserve? When you give a tax-deductible donation today, you’re not just supporting Wellspring, you’re linking arms with Maria as she brings kids back to class. You’re building vibrant and inclusive classroom environments for the children who need it most. You’re shaping the future.

Thank you for fighting alongside Maria! We appreciate you more than words can say.


Andy Harrington,
C.E.O.