In the early 2000s street children and orphans began seeking shelter in a half-built warehouse in Nyabugogo, Kigali's dirty and dangerous industrial area. Hundreds of children would congregate there every night seeking shelter from the dangers of the night. A local Rwandan church began assisting these children by providing some food and clothing, but the sheer numbers of children overwhelmed them. They put local people in charge of caring for these children and named the shelter El Shaddai.
In 2005 Dr Paul Oas, a retired psychotherapist from San Diego, California, and Dr Ron Reinsch , an obstetrics/gynaecology surgeon, and others visited Rwanda and volunteered their time to treat patients and train professionals. They were told about El Shaddai and decided to pay it a visit. They found the conditions within the warehouse deplorable.
On this and subsequent visits they spent time with the children at the El Shaddai orphanage and were moved by what they saw. Upon returning to the U.S. they joined with other concerned citizens to form the Rwandan Orphans Project in order to raise funds in the U.S. to improve the conditions at El Shaddai. The original Board of Directors included Drs. Oas and Reinsch as well as Dr James Hall, a retired dentist, Carol Dall, formorly from the Salvation Army and JoAnn Longerborne, a retired public accountant and two other local San Diegans. They soon became the primary funders of the Center, while it continued to be run by the Rwandan church.
Through their donations El Shaddai soon became more than a nighttime shelter for street kids. Classrooms were partitioned in the warehouse and a catch-up school program was started to educate the young boys who had fallen behind in school. Health insurance was purchased so all children had access to proper healthcare. Also, dormitories were constructed so the children could stay at this new center all day, safe from all of the dangers and temptations of found on the Kigali's streets. El Shaddai was soon known as the Rwandan Orphans Project Center for Street Children, or simply as the ROP. Conditions had been improved, but the warehouse where the ROP Center was located was still very poor, with a leaking roof and only one light bulb in the entire building.
In 2009 Sean Jones became the newest member of the Board of Directors and committed to volunteering at the ROP Center for several months to assist the program locally.
In February 2010 the ROP broke with the church that was running the Center over differences in how the money was being spent and how the orphanage was being managed. The ROP then took over the running of the Center and continued to fund it from the US.
In April 2010 the Center moved from the run-down warehouse it had been based in for nearly 10 years, to the lush and spacious compound in Kanombe, on the outskirts of Kigali, where it sits today.
In 2010 Jenny Clover, a journalist from the U.K., began volunteering at the ROP Center. In early 2011 she was elected to the Board of Directors. Along with Mr. Jones, Ms. Clover has chosen to extend her commitment to the children of the ROP by remaining in Rwanda since her arrival in 2010.
Jill Rivero, a school teacher from California and a former member of the Peace Corp, joined the ROP in early 2011 and was soon elected as the ROP's eighth member of the Board of Directors.