In 2016, we supported the establishment of Rwanda Down Syndrome Organisation (RDSO).

In the first 3 years RDSO reached out to around 500 people with Down syndrome and their families. The families had previously had no support and many had very little understanding of what Down syndrome was or how it might affect their child. 


RDSO has had a huge impact in the past year on the lives of people with Down syndrome, including:

  • Providing 27 free speech and language therapy and occupational therapy sessions for children with Down syndrome, who often need extra support to learn to speak, play and develop essential skills to become more independent;
  • Providing essential support and advice to parents of children and babies with Down syndrome, who often come to RDSO knowing nothing about Down syndrome;
  • Establishing Rwanda’s first self-advocacy group for persons with Down syndrome, where young people and adults with Down syndrome learn to speak up for themselves and advocate for their rights.

A success story

Joshua is a 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome from Kigali, Rwanda. When his mother first brought him to the RDSO office he could not walk and the physiotherapy sessions needed to help him learn were unaffordable. The RDSO team advocated for the local government authority to assist the family and in 2020 he received a month of physiotherapy sessions. Now he can walk independently and RDSO staff are working with the family to find an adequate school and financial assistance to allow him to start attending.

Response to the pandemic

Despite the exceptionally difficult circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed by it, RDSO has continued to provide its essential role supporting people with Down syndrome of all ages and their families in Rwanda.

The pandemic disrupted planned activities and many of the families that RDSO work with faced hunger and poverty due to lockdowns cutting off their sources of income. We supported them to respond dynamically, adapting how they delivered services and delivering support where possible to families. 

While adapting their ways of working to respond to the pandemic they were also able to take major steps towards operating independently as an organisation. 

Financial indpendence

With our support RDSO has taken the first steps towards financial independence. They are receiving their first international development funding through a joint project with us, funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), and are receiving capacity building support from Humanity and Inclusion, formerly Handicap International. They have also started receiving some small donations and support from within Rwanda.

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Thank you to our financial partner the Southall Trust for supporting this project.