Sorry about the slackness in posting! Staying at a guest house where there is no internet means I have no motivation to write anything. Why write captions for photos I can not upload? Or download as the rest of the people I have been traveling with are getting their photos uploaded.
The team on our last night out.
This is what a day in the office should look like for everyone!
Consulting my journal as I write this to make sure I don’t leave anything really great out. After Kelly left, there was some reorganizing and trying to set up the last meetings and deliveries before Lori and I leave for the states again. There are more muzungos visiting from Washington at the moment and it was quite a thing to have all seven of us on motos to go way out of Kigali where Togetherness Youth Cooperative’s president lives. He was part of Team Uganda International- the group I tagged along with the very first week I spent in Afrika. The ride up to their home has some of the most spectacular views I had seen of Rwanda. We all shared a meal in his home, as is the culture, then there were the necessary speeches from all important people (everyone except for me). Gifts for the hosts as we waited for one of the best rains I’ve seen here. One of the best meaning it’s maybe the fourth real rain shower there has been. It was lovely! When things finally cleared, we moto-ed back down. Motorcycles do really well in mud, right?
What a day in the office Really looks like.
Fact: It is impossible to go for a walk near Togetherness without at least one child wanting to hold your hand.
Fiction: It’s the worst feeling ever.
Who would ever miss church if little Rosetta was there?
This is a 3-6 hour service we’re talking about.
That’s right, 3-6 hours of adorable smiles served!
There was also a visit to the home of Treasurer Claudina’s home. There’s a tragic story here of their second son having gone to the doctor for a routine procedure, but coming out completely messed up. From bouncing baby boy to rigid limbs, loss of sight and hearing with no resources available for his care. So this petrified little boy named Lucky (perhaps because he is lucky to be alive? I’m not sure.) can so nothing without help. At eighteen months he barely eats what is spooned into his mouth, cried when anyone tried to hold him- seemingly very uncomfortable with those little legs stuck straight out like that, and is covered in bed sores because there is no such thing as spending money on diapers. Thank you to Leigh who brought some changing mats and cloth diapers for him. There is a bed the doctors recommend he have, but there is no way his family could ever afford such a thing. It is always inspiring how happy people here are without so many of the tings considered vital back in America. Although, watching his 4 year old brother’s silent tears as we talked about Lucky’s condition is the most heart wrenching thing I’ve ever seen.
Claudina, Betty feeding Lucky and Theophile.
Cell phones, as you may notice in the photo, seem to be unavoidably, universally necessary. *Big sigh*
Then we went out to see where the grant money given to New Destiny was being spent. These are some of the most beautiful women. This has been one of my favorite things to see since I’ve been here. The first time I visited, it was a room with some sewing machines, then the walls are covered and the machines are always busy and now getting to see the projects these amazing ladies have started. Hopes and dreams made manifest.
New Destiny Women’s Cooperative
From Apolline’s roadside shop where her daughter Yvette sells goods next to the watering holes. Both the place jerry cans are brought to be filled and the shady benches where urwagwa (banana beer) is served.
I’ll take an avocado, please!
“Ndshaka avoca, Yvette!”
To Meditric’s farm where she used her grant to grow beans
Lovely Mediatric amongst the beans, corn, bananas and cassava.
To Jamvier’s tomato, bean, cabbage and cassava. He also served us banana juice which could send a person into diabetic shock, sorghum porridge which tasted kinda like boozy vinegar and some not so good ikivoguto. Oh, and bananas, of course.
Jamvier’s swamp-side tomato patch.
To Joan d’arc’s home where she grows beans, green peppers and pili pili peppers, cabbage and lemongrass.
And lives with at least three generations in a house her husband built with one of the nest gardens I’ve seen here. (Nice, not interesting.)
To Veneranda’s home where she lives in a tiny rented mud hut amongst a bean patch. Another sad tale where her husband died, her oldest girl had to leave school, the middle daughter left home to live with a family friend (probably working in their kitchen?) and only the youngest remains at home. She’s in a rough spot and was asking for prayers.
The last home we visited was Estere’s. She is one of the most beautiful women here. Both because of her enduring spirit and her gorgeous face. She lost one leg in an accident and was the recipient of real crutches to replace her stick on one of African Road’s first trips. Now, she has been weaving baskets and making handicrafts to support herself.
She gifted Lori with a set of jewelry for the love she has been shown by African Road. She may be down on her luck, but is still giving.
But. They do not sell the materials she needs locally, so she has not been able to make baskets lately. Of course things have to be harder for her than that. Last week she fell on her one good leg. They said she had broken her hip, but if it was literally broken, it seems like she would be bed ridden… Literal break or lost in translation and broken meaning not feeling great? I don’t know. She has taken her share of the grant to use for remodeling her home. Once things are finished, she hopes to rent out spare rooms. I’d take her as a landlady!
It was great to get to visit them all and see how hopeful they were. And, of course I am positive they will gain income they never could have had access to before New Destiny offered them these microloans. Really though, how much income will they gain from a quarter of an acre of beans? I don’t think it will be immediately significant. Then after our day jam packed with awesome members of New Destiny, seeing how hard they were working for some tiny supplement, we went to quiz night. It didn’t feel quite so dirty as the trip- going to the nicest hotels after spending days in the slummiest parts of town- but I still don’t want to talk about it.
Driving to Cyangugu to meet your future sponsored child.
The next day, we went to visit Partick’s kids. He is one impressive man. Changing lives in big ways and I’m about to give you your first opportunity to help someone in Afrika.
Masses of people walking as we got further into one of the poorest areas in Rwanda. There are masses of Congolese refugees staying here and I hate to say, more children on the streets than most other places. Even Kenya.
Notice the lack of shoes and the kids who can’t be older than 8 packing lumber on the right.
The jungle! Nyungwe National Park.
I wanted to hop out of the car every time we drove past a trail marker.
He is a chef without work who has to leave school because he can’t find work. Just had a job interview where he would be doing all the cooking, cleaning, laundry and household chores for 80,000/month. That’s not even $120. Which means he’d pay his rent, but no more. He lives in Kigali with his wife, their two kids, Micah and Peace, and one adopted kid, Robert. His grandmother lives in Cyangugu, just next to Lake Kivu and across the river from DRC- a six hour drive from Kigali. So we picked Patrick up yesterday morning and also invited the three kids who had come up to see him off. It was great to see the countryside and 6 hours leaves lots of time for good conversation. (Conclusion of one debate: Education determines the limits of the good or bad a person can do.) Plus, driving through Nwyagabo National Park was gorgeous. Except with barely enough time to drive there and back, there was absolutely zero time to stop and take photos.
Robert and Peace. Do you love them yet?
There was plenty of time to hear about his kids! Basically he is an orphan, so he could not deny other orphans the care of a home life. He has taken many children in off the streets and tries to ensure their basic needs are met. Which is amazing when he does not have full time employment himself. “It is the work of God.” he says. We arrived with enough daylight to visit Grandma Maria’s house. There had been a bit of rain, so things were slippy!
Lori does not do so well in the mud.
There are 11 kids staying with her? I dunno, I lost count. They sang and danced to greet us. Introduced themselves in English. Name, age, grade, what they want to be when they grow up. It’s ok, I took a video, you’ll be introduced as well. The youngest is 7, I think? The oldest 18. He is trying to get them all through school, but bemoans the education system. Public school is free, but teachers are paid so badly they cannot support themselves by teaching alone. Teachers are not motivated to teach, children do not care about school when they do not have enough to eat, they don’t learn in these public schools and then can not pass exams.
We all wrote letters to one another. Mine in Kinyarwanda, theirs in English.
We had seen a truck with “What’s next?” written across the bumper along the road. From the American perspective, it would seem like the charred expectation of doom and gloom. “Great, it’s raining and we’re falling down in the mud, what next? The car breaks down?” But not if you’re Patrick. He said he thought of it as looking for the next chance to improve. His example was looking at his house. Kids are sleeping on the floor- find a way to get beds. The house is leaking- fix the roof. Things are lying on the floor- build shelving. The house is in order- clean up the yard. He sees it as a challenge to always be improving. If I didn’t like him before, I loved him for reading it that way!
Three doctors, an engineer, two drivers, a nurse, a teacher, a pilot, a conductor, a nun, a hotel manager and a mazungo.
So, this is the first time I’m going to ask for money. Your first opportunity to expand someone’s capacity to do good. Opportunity to change the world, if I may say so.
Patrick and his two kids are dropping school this year (starts in January), there are 4 others who cannot afford school fees and each one of them had charmed me in the four hours we got to spend with them. Primary school is not even $200 for an entire year. Add in a few bucks for books and food and it’s still less than $50 per month. Secondary is a bit more expensive and might require you to delve into the morning coffee and the after work beverage budget, but I bet these kids will remember that money much longer than you’ll remember your coffee. Guilt intended.
Rebecca, far right in the group photo above, is 12 and in third grade.
What do you think of skipping your morning coffee a few times to get Rebecca out of primary school? I’ll give all the money I have leftover at the end of this trip towards Patrick’s kids’ educations. Let me know if you’d like to do something for them and I can help you coordinate. A long term commitment would make you super cool, but even a one time donation could go for much needed things like food or bedding or school supplies or coffee :)