Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Time Passes too Quickly At New Hope Homes

Time passes quickly at New Hope Homes. And…eventually I hit a wall in my daily blogs. I’m sorry that they always come so abruptly.

I’m back in the states now. Harv stayed another 5 days after me. .

Here’s a recap of some of the exciting things we missed sharing. I’ll then follow up with a post from Harvin.


While we thought we had sized all the kids correctly, alas about 4 of the bigger kids needed new black shoes for school. No one seemed to know where we could get them in town so we set out on an adventure in Kigali to find some. It also served as an opportunity for Harvin to do a bit of souvenir shopping. After our 3rd stop we were finally directed to the supermarket Simba where we found the perfect shoes. Each of the 4 kids was able to pick out a shoe and ask the friendly sales person to help us find their size. Mid stream Harv decided to go in search of water, ice cream and a few other misc treats that we decided to add to the mix. He also got some apples for his treat on his last day. He gave me a bit of grief that I would serve ice cream and he would serve apples. But little did he know until he actually served them what a special treat the apples are to the kids and adults. He eventually learned that I had not mislead him!


Morning had turned into running with Harvin. He really unlocked a wonderful new sport, adventure and fun for the kids. It started with our oldest boys Isaac and Sande, then all of the older boys, then the older girls, then some of the two middle boys.

Each morning was the same. The rotating group arrived at the 1st home dressed in their tennis shoes ready to run at around 6:30AM. Eventually Harvin worked them up to a morning stretch and then the run. As the pictures confirm, we clearly have some flexible ones. Initially this man with 19 marathons under his belt was hardly breaking a sweat, but that quickly changed with a few mornings where he did multiple runs through the land of 1000 hills. Still none an aggressive workout for him, but they all clearly had broken a sweat. I told them they were all very stinky when they returned – which of course all the boys loved! The night watchman for the first home took up the flanker position with Harvin at the front so all the kids can run or run/walk at their own pace and stay safe with an adult at either end.

Of note, the night watchman usually gets up with the sun so he said he needed to do his job and work vs run. Harvin worked out a sweet deal with our Social Worker that also gave the kids a lovely lesson. If he was going to get an hour off of his job, then ALL the runners needed to pitch in for at least 45 mins to do some work for him so he could in turn run with them. The net effect was more work got done as Harvin had 5+ helpful hands working before or after each run so Manuel could run with them. The classroom seriously benefited from Harvin’s ingenuity with a fresh scrubbed floor, books and toys sorted etc.

The run included a stop at ABC (African Bagel Company) that Abby told me about on my last trip. Harv is now a regular as he FINALLY found a source of caffeine – especially needed as he really didn’t sleep well. The visit to ABC includes free wifi. He also got his coffee and shared some bagels with the kids. I was then fortunate enough to get a personal bagel delivery the last few mornings with the final being a donut. I think back to my 1st trip to Rwanda where we didn’t have any electricity…and NOW…wifi and bagels….be still my heart!


Harvin also gifted the kids with the lessons of yoga. I posted a long video on my facebook page and his. It’s the first class he taught and given its success you can imagine the progress he made over the next week. If you're not friends with Harvin or me on facebook please reach out to see the sweet video.

Both the girls and the boys really got into it. Initially just a few of the girls sat down to learn, but Harvin is a magnet for them so 1 by 1 the group grew in size until nearly all the big kids – plus Dorcus were in the 1st lesson. Harvin used these lessons to not only learn about Yoga but about life, patience, respect, and all sorts of life lessons. For a man who spontaneously decided to join me on my trip to Rwanda, you would have thought he had a degree in child development or had been a life long camp counselor vs double major in Math and Economics as he has a gift beyond words with the kids.

After one of the lessons the kids were so inspired they wanted to learn some new poses/positions so Harv turned it into sort of gymnastics event teaching them all sorts of headstands etc. The giggles and shouts of “Harv Harv – you see,you see” as the kids mastered various things and wanted to be sure their beloved instructor had seen them.

One of the most special moments of the nights was Harvin sitting with Fabiola who clearly had an interest in trying Yoga but didn’t have the will to try for fear of failure, thus had retreated. Harvin slowly walked up to her. Sat face to face and gently pulled her forehead to his and held her there encouraging her to simply breathe. I think he summoned something inside himself that transferred his peace and strength to her. It was a really powerful experience. After what seemed to be a lifetime, she emerged from this position and agreed to try. Harv worked with her on a pose that he had not shared with the others yet. Eventually she got and he got the smile from her that said it was all worth it. As I watched this man gift Fabiola with his love it again showed me the value of each and every visitors at New Hope Homes. Each of them brings something special, something different to our kids and for that we are so grateful.

DONNA’s LAST DAY: art | surprises | pizza | skyping | ice cream

We spent a lot of the morning doing the hand off of my chores and ‘stuff’ to Harvin. God bless him, he was so wonderful about taking notes about everything that needed to happen on his iphone as he had been doing the entire trip. I can’t even describe how wonderful it was to have someone serve as a full partner in the process of caring for and loving these kids.

He spent the bulk of the day running back and forth with all the chores and to do lists. I was hoping that would mean he was so tired that he really would be able to sleep that night. But alas – not even that worked.

The kid also did their art project – some have a real gift! They also snuck in thank you notes to Harvin that we agreed I would give to him when he returned to America so they could serve as a big surprise. And surely they did. I made up a little care package for him when he returned to Minnesota with the beautifully written notes serving as the cornerstone.

Abby had made the afternoon special with the big kids by delivering on her promise for them to make homemade pizzas. The big kids all helped with making the dough and all the prep work. They had to make it over the charcoal stove but Abby was brilliant about sorting through the best prep and production including putting a big pot over each pizza in order to keep the heat in enough to cook the top of the pizzas. In the end they were yummy beyond words. During Abby’s production,Harvin had a great opportunity to skype with his nephew and his parents. The kids were wonderful about introducing themselves and were very anxious to meet more members of his family as they met his Mom a few days prior.

We also had a special treat for my going away. Christian Janssen who is 6 years old sent over $15 (HALF of his entire savings) with me to buy something nice for the kids. We decided their favorite thing was ice cream and what a better thing for a kid to do than send some love from America via Ice Cream.

Abby stayed all day and was a perfect partner with Harvin for the distribution of the ice cream. Alas our perfect planning was foiled a bit when we realized we didn’t have small plates or spoons ready to go. AND the ice cream was frozen rock solid in each of the tubs. Thus they did the next best thing. Abby had all the little kids line up on the front stoop of the 2nd home. Then Harvin put the bigger kids in separated groups and had them all sit down. To add to the fun, he put the aunties and uncles in another group by the gate.

Next they distributed the little wooden spoon-like objects that came with the ice cream to everyone. The little kids on the stoop got them each loaded with a few bites of ice cream then they had to line up single file to get their next scoop from Abby.

Harvin oversaw the bigger kids and adults. He put them in circles then plopped down a tub of ice cream in the center of each group. Handed out the wooden scoopers and let them have at it. GREAT fun was had by all. Thanks Christian for giving us such a special treat.


Despite my intent to no longer spend my final day crying. I now can make it almost all day with a sunshiny disposition thanks to a good lesson from Kristen Cavallo. The kids start retreating. They tell me it’s a very bad day (because I am leaving). They start pulling away and just staring at me.

I can feel it all around and it is so hard.

Remember, all our kids have been orphaned or abandoned so leaving is a BIG DEAL to them. They have come to believe that “Miss Donna always comes back”, but still, they know it will be a while.

I told Harv early on that the kids will ask him “will you come back” and that he really needs to have a honest answer for them. Initially we agreed that he would say that he didn’t know but would absolutely skype with them as so many of our volunteers do. Part way through the trip that changed. He now absolutely intends to return. Soon!

Back to the departure. I take some time in the afternoon to take each of the big kids for a private little walk around the 2nd and 3rd homes. As they know what’s coming, many try to hide from me, but I eventually find them! ☺.

I first asked how they life was and then if there were any problems we needed to solve together.

Next I asked… “If I said I was proud of you would you know that that meant?” For some reason I decided to start with the basics this time. Shockingly only 1 of them knew the meaning. Oh my, I think back to the number of times I have used this word and they simply don’t know it means!

Once we had a common understanding of the meaning, I then asked each one of them to give me 5 reasons why I should be proud of them. Some were able to start the list and others not one. So the penalty :) for not having 5 was they had to stand face to face with me. Hold my hands…then lean backwards in opposite directions holding each other up. Next they had to look me in the eyes when I tell them all 5. Each has a different list. I also asked them if they knew how much I loved them and made sure they did. And confirmed with each of them they understood I would ALWAYS come back. That I they would never be able to get rid of me. That I would bug them until the day I died. They giggled and rolled their eyes. But they got it.

With that, I would walk them arm and arm back to their brothers and sisters and ask if they had enjoyed our time together (in a funny way) and they each replied yes. Each of the walks went great except for Isaac, he kept avoiding me, but eventually I got him to come. ½ way through it he burst into tears. It breaks my heart has he often plays the….your too weird Miss Donna look on his face. The…your are embarrassing me in the public market…but somehow I still want to be with you. As you may have read from Harvin’s post a few days earlier, he had really shared some deep painful stuff about his life before New Hope Homes. Bot he had Harvin cried as they talked. I asked Isaac if he had ever seen a man cry before he saw Harvin. His reply was ‘no.’ I explained to him how special it was that Harvin had taught him that is ok and in fact it can be a good way to help get the pain out. So I stood with him in my arms hugging as we cried together. I didn’t let it go on long as I knew he had been through a few emotional days and getting 11/12, I wanted him to return to the fun life at New Hope Homes. We got through it.

As we loaded up the van full of kids and aunties to head to the airport I tried to again seer all of this into my head and heart. The blog helps, the pictures help, having Abby and Harvin there help. But the ache of being away from this amazing children make it hard to dish out hugs and kisses without falling into a million little pieces the way I used to.

The line to get into the airport entrance with my bags made it especially hard as the kids just kept staring. I sent Abby on her way as she hadn’t been feeling well. We managed to send the kids away in waves to make it easier. Isaac never left the van. He simply doesn’t like the goodbye or see you later. My heart hurts just thinking about it. When we finally got to the front of the line everything more quickly so I had to give the last 4 boys big quick love hugs and kisses which was kinds like pulling off the band-aid. I looked into Harv’s eye and could see the love he absolutely felt for the kids and knew the precious time he was now have with them would be so special.

I was sooooooooooo grateful that he was staying and so thankful that Abby now lives in Rwanda. There was so much to say and so little time to say it. .

A quick hug and I was off to cry my eyes out free of the kids sight.

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