Continuing our series of articles from our Annual Report 2020/21, we outline here our work on our Legal and Counselling Helpline.
The Legal and Counselling Helpline (Helpline) was established in August 2013 as a partnership between Survivors Fund (SURF) and AERG to fill the gap in support for young survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi with legal and mental health challenges, and other related vulnerable young persons, so that they can access support regardless of where they are located in Rwanda. Funding for the Helpline has been contributed principally by INSPIRE!africa.
By providing legal and counselling support services countrywide, the Helpline filled a necessary gap in support for vulnerable young people with outstanding legal disputes or suffering from trauma. This is one of the only free and accessible services for those unable to afford to take their legal cases to court or lacking the confidence or ability to find someone to talk to about a mental health issue. In addition to providing telephone-based support, the helpline also has field staff who conduct outreach and provide support to clients through legal education and orientation, advocacy and representation in court.
The Helpline was launched with the intention of primarily providing telephone-based support. However, due to the demand for legal and a counselling support, the helpline has grown from a small pilot telephone-based service to an innovative, all-encompassing legal and counselling support service, which includes outreach visits to schools and universities to raise awareness of legal rights, as well as the services available through the helpline, to young people across Rwanda. Since its launch in 2013, the service has supported over 1,509 young people to reclaim assets with a value of over Rwf 1 billion (GBP 720,000).