Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Celebrating Ian and Kristen's beautiful family


Pinch me – it’s really happening. AKA the Cavallo | Little family is in Rwanda!


That’s the thought that kept running through my head when Kristen, Ian and their wonderful kids were in Rwanda.

Wait. Let me step back.

Kristen and I became soul sisters in the business about 8 years ago. We met when working in similar positions in similar companies for IPG.  I was immediately drawn to her brain power, her integrity and her faith.  We joined forces countless times to help each others companies grow over the years.  She has held me up in the darkest moments, prayed my father through from the brink of death and challenged me when I needed a good kick.  She has celebrated every important winning life and career moment with me – especially the last two years. They say it’s rare to find a real friend in the work place, especially among competitors, but she IS that rare find.  I am constantly blown away by her smarts, her ability to grow companies and most importantly her humility. I am honored to be her friend.

Kristen has been a part of my journey of New Hope Homes from nearly the beginning. She has been a strategic mind to think through our ambitions, a financial supporter, a visitor to Rwanda.  She has a wonderful family that enabled her to step away from them to come to Rwanda over the holidays about 3 years ago. It takes a special person and family to allow/encourage their Mom to give up winter break time to travel all the way to Rwanda.

In that 1st trip the kids fell in love with Kristen. It’s easy to see why, but they did.  She made very special connections with some of the kids – especially Esther.  We also actively skyped with her family and through that experience her husband Ian made a really strong connection with some of the boys over football (aka soccer) most especially Sande.  Currently they sponsor Sande, Innocent and Esther in boarding school.  In the trips that followed I would simply fire up the skype and let Isaac, Sande, Lionel and Innocent just chat with Ian. They would go off to another part of the yard and just talk.

Ian also found a way for us to set up a web conference when where the boys could watch a soccer match through Ian’s computer set up and facing the TV.

A few weeks ago Kristen called and said her who family wanted to come on this trip. Really? Really? We had talked about it before but it was clear this was real.  Chantal graciously offered to host them as adding hotel expenses to airfare and Christmas supplies is a bit much. 

I was giddy about the prospect of the boys – especially Sande meeting Ian in person and the kids getting to finally meet Matt and Kate their 15 year old son and 8 year old daughter.  It was sure to be a great way to celebrate Kristen's bday and ring in the New Year.

Harvin and I arrived a few days ahead of them so they had no idea we had more coming. One of my most favorite memories is of Ian walking through the gate  with a soccer ball and just standing in front of the house tossing it in the air.  He just stood there.  Some of the kids started to come out. Led by Sande.

Sande approached and said “Ian?” Yes! was his reply and the endless hug began.

Ian is a football (aka soccer) coach and was so eager to play with the kids.

He was terrific in organizing our bigger kids and the kids that came to play with us each time we appeared. His constant shouts of encouragement and tips were so motivational for the kids.

Ian also has an expertise in global higher level education so he was so helpful to Mbanda has he talked about his dreams for New Hope Homes. Ian has the connections, wisdom and passion to help make a difference in Rwanda. We look forward to learning from him.

Matt surprised me.

Imagine you are 15 years old and are told you are heading to Rwanda to hang with the kids of New Hope Homes. Sure you are happy that Ian and Mom like the kids, but what about the language barrier? What about all the little kids? Etc etc.

Matt was magical.  Of course the older boys loved talking to him for endless hours about soccer teams around the world and the various players. It was like they were simply all just hanging after school shooting the breeze about sports. Yes, that I hoped for, but what was really special was how he embraced the little kids that really impressed me. It’s not every 15 year old boy that will let a pile of kids sit on your lap, comb your hair, make faces with you etc etc. He was endlessly engulfed by their instant love for them.  Well done Matt.

Then there is Kate.  Dear sweet Kate.
She is at the center of all things wonderful.  She and Esther were instant sisters. They knew of each other the years and have the same pillows and some of the same outfits, but now they met in person and were like long lost sisters. It was so sweet. It was effortless.

In addition to connecting with Esther, she was in the middle of everything that was fun. Giving Harvin grief, playing goalie, jump rope, piggy back rides. EVERYTHING. She was very attentive to spreading her love around.  She was also an amazing organizer around the Christmas gifts and sizing.  She has an infectious personality that makes everyone smile.  I loved her first night at Chantal and Mbanda’s when Chantal said “Kate who did you meet today, give me the full report!” I wish had a tape recorder as her commentary was absolutely precious. 

Kristen, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for being a beautiful witness to the world about being a wife, mom, career maven and still finding time to give your love and resources to the kids of New Hope Homes.  You have blessed us in so many ways, but most especially in sharing your family with the kids of New Hope Homes. I  can only imagine the things you could have done instead of investing in this trip, but I am so grateful you did.

I look forward to watching your kids and the kids of New Hope Homes grow up together.

Ian and Kristen. you have shown us such great love, we thank you.




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