Thursday, December 31, 2009

The countdown begins 12.31.09

We’re about 4 hours away from new years here in Rwanda. Alas my sore throat and loss of voice have kept me in bed for a good portion of the day. I figure it best to knock it out fast so I can get back into gear. By early evening I popped out to see the kids who are still trying to figure out why I don’t have much of a voice. Thankfully two young ladies Kelly and Sarah are here and doing a great job. They’ve been singing and doing school work. They also went to Chantal’s home yesterday to bake cookies and brought them out today for the kids to frost. Excellent pre-planning from the States on their side. I may have to do that next time. It reinforces how many people come through our kids lives every year to add just another touch of grace and love to them. Most they will never see again, and some like me, they will never stand of chance of losing. I’ve signed up for life! But each, in their own way bless these kids and leave a LASTING imprint. I am so impressed with the kids command of English now. It’s really come a LONG way in the past 11 months. We also did a fun new thing today…we skyped! I sent a computer over in March with some other volunteers and have been funding the wireless here but haven’t been able to pull off a call. Today we did. We skyped with The Pursey family who was able to meet Kayitesti. Susan Pursey rallied friends and co-workers to raise $1100 in the past 3 weeks to pay for her boarding school. Kayitesi loved speaking with their kids Bryn and Beckett. Bryn even braved the MN snow to show them how to sled. Next we connected intermittently with my Mom as the video kept dropping too. The Kittleson’s were next. Then out of no where Tina Puente’s Dad called me on skype. Totally great humor. I passed my love to Tina via him. I hope we can keep making calls so people in the states can get to meet our kids close up. Today I told the Kids the Liles is bringing computers. The look on their faces was indescribable. They are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited. At the moment we have one XO computer that the Kvam’s donated last year. These traditionally sized computers filled with kids software is sure to open up serious new doors for our kids. Thanks to Roxann, their friends and the folks at Campbell Mithun for sending these along with Liles. My only mistake was telling them about the computers today because as the evening presses on they all keep asking “what day?” “When do the computers come?” Liles, you’re sure to the hit of the party. We just have to wait 7 LONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG days for your arrival. I also got an opportunity to meet Eric Mbanda who is visiting from the states. Another facebook friend turns 3d and it’s wonderful. I wish he were staying longer so we could get to know each other better. The house is now still. Everyone went down to the compound to play and ring in the new year. Claudine the Auntie who is my home went to church to ring in the new year. She’ll be there from 9 pm until 6 AM. I would love to be at either place but for now, I need to get rid of this throat issue. FAST. I may have the guard walk me down to the compound just prior to midnight…or just stay here and soak it all in solo. Nice reflection time. Thank you for sharing in our journey. My prayers as I set out on this trip were that I would learn what I needed to learn here, have the wisdom to meet the kids needs and the discernment to determine how we can best help them next. I will keep my eye on these three and thank you for caring enough to follow along. PS. Thanks to Ashley’s WONDERFUL additional funds, we now have raised enough to send Innocent to boarding school. Just a few hundred more needed to help with Kayitesi and we’re set. If you care to dump some year end tax money, just click on the button to the right of this post or go to May your new year -Your new decade = bring you unspeakable joy and deep wisdom.

Desami's morning bath.


Literally and Figuratively. Literally Somewhere in transit I left my voicebox. What is left resembles a tired old baratone. Hopefully it will return quickly. Figuratively Upon arrival I was greeted by Chantal and Mbanda. I had sent them several emails to NOT come to the airport at 2:30 in the AM to pick me up, rather send a driver. But as always, their hearts are too big to contain and they arrived. We hugged and hugged and hugged. I am so happy to be here. Getting through customs was a bit of a challenge given that I am one person traveling with 7 monster size bags. But after about 30 minutes of my best Kinyarwanda and photos of the kids they let me pass. Visiting with Chantal and Mbanda is simply like coming home. They have adjusted the sleeping arrangements so the volunteers are now at the 1st house and the kids are in the 2nd and 3rd…so I am staying in the room that I first stayed in 4 years ago. Sweet memories. Jean Pierre met us at the gate and greeted me with a hello, how are you in English. He was one of my most diligent students. Dear dear Claudine was the next to greet me. She is one of the Auntie’s and full of the love of God. We hugged….neither of us wanted to let go. I sent Chantal and Mbanda on their way as I started to get settled in. Sleep was of course futile as I was like a kid at Christmas thinking that Santa had delivered the prezzies, but I couldn’t go down and see them. in this case, the prezzies were simply getting my arms around the kids. As the rooster cock-a-doodledooed the daybreak hours later I went to greet the kids. As I walked to the compound I soaked in the simple pleasures of life in Rwanda. Beautiful people walking to and fro, remnants of the morning rain lingered with sun sparkling off of it. As I approached the compound I wondered if the old truck would still be rusting on the corner. Check. Double check. Still there. Progress comes slowing and quickly in this country. I took a deep breath and listened to the laughter of the kids behind the gate. I reminded myself to have no expectations. They may not remember me. They may be distant. As I banged on the metal gate I heard Fabiola and called her name. They kids came running and warmly welcomed Miss Donna with so much love. Later that told Chantal that they loved me this much…you know…the kind where you stretch your arms out as far as you can to show that it’s a lot. The walked through the compound the squeals of various kids as I found them in some stage of getting ready for the morning. The weaker of the Desami twins is getting stronger. Yeah. So much to learn about each child to see how they are doing. The kids at the boarding school are home until the end of January and are using the time wisely. THEY are teaching the kids in the classroom each day. More to report as the days go on. For now, know that I where I belong on this New Years Eve. In the country and with the people that have captured my heart and love. It’s the perfect way to ease into a new decade. (That's not to say that I don't love America and my family and friends get it.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Making Progress

Amsterdam security was a bit challenging as they are now allowing only 1 carry on. I am of course packed to the gills with massive roll-on filled exclusively with camera equipment, external hard drives, a back pack and oversize fanny pack. Thankfully I was able to 'inspire' them to let me on with everything. If I had to choose I would keep the suitcase and send through the backpack as Kenya Airlines lost Abby and Sarah's bags for a month on a trip about a year ago. The camera equipment is essential. Safely in Nairobi now staring at some Tuskers beer and thinking about my Dad who loves it. Next stop Burundi...THEN Kigali. Then load the bags up and head to the homes. WHOO HOO.

Here are the photos referenced in the prior post.

It takes a village

As I begin the 1st leg of my journey, I am overwhelmed with the generosity of so many people that have embraced our kids in Rwanda. They have given so freely of their time, resources, love and/or prayers. As I prepare my heart to breathe in the gift of seeing our kids, I have been reflecting on the village that accompanies me. Here are some highlights. I almost hate to call people out as I am sure to forget so many, but I want people to understand the village that it takes to help our family village in Rwanda. THE KIDS OF ABBOTT Each year the kids of Abbott Street in Mpls do a big fund raiser to help. They host a water and lemonade stand about a block from a major art fare in town. The kids work 8 full hours trying to inspire people to donate money to help our kids in Rwanda. The Moms and Dads are present but really let the kids do their thing. The kids have all sorts of selling techniques including my favorite where two kids catch someone a block away and tell them the whole story. Zander ,Cam and Henry were the key pitchmen this year. By the time they approach our stand the ‘buyers’ already have their wallets out. We laugh and rejoice. Special thanks to the people who come by and make a purchase. We just ask for a donation, so the going rate is quite extreme – from 50 cents to vast sums like $100 and $200 per glass. Tina Puente has been a regular at our stand. She seems to think that our lemonade is VERY good as she continues to pay top dollar. Jennifer Martin bought a $100 cup too, she then called later to see if we needed to sell some virtually…you got it…she bought some more via the phone. Sue Manber bought a $100 virtual glass from our facebook posting. The kids took a photo of them holding the glass and posted it for her to see. These kids have been the foundation of our 1st fund raising as they decided they wanted to help DO something. They put their heads together and came up with the plan to send one of the kids to school for a year. Thus they set out to raise $310. 1st year total sales equaled $660. The last two have been over $900. Isn’t that simply amazing? Ahh, what we could learn from kids. Nothing is impossible for them. They don’t see the barriers that we do as adults. They just set out to DO. It’s been a full circle experience for these kids as Chantal and Mbanda (the couple from Rwanda) have come through Mpls 2x and personally visited with the kids. The kids in the neighborhood also have done amazing things like Alice forgoing presents for her birthday party and instead asking the kids to bring stuff for our kids in Rwanda. Anthony who has purchased 2 bikes for our kids. Adam and Ben who each year comb through some of their favorite toys and give to me to send along with their love. Various kids also do their own fundraising in the summer with individual lemonade stands. Merideth (about 6) is really into it and I love coming home to find a Ziploc bag with a bunch of loose change in it from her days sales. Think about the size of her heart. She works for her sales and then freely gives it to our kids. These kids give so freely. Thanks to you parents who are teaching your kids such important life lessons. The Mommies of Abbott Erika has been the driving force ensuring we send the best supplies that are needed. She is constantly pressing me to be attentive to the shoes that are more durable, the best type of clothing etc. etc. Danette, Tera, Lynn, Sarah, etc etc. You are such a blessing to the true preparation it takes for each trip. Personal rally people. Our village is supported by people like Susan Pursey who this year decided to personally set out to raise $1100 in the past couple of weeks to send Kayitesi to boarding school. She’s rallied friends and co-workers to fill in the gaps. People like the Hansens who are sponsoring Marie Rose’s boarding school. People like Bobbi Miller who quickly found a person to fund Fabiola’s boarding school when the current funding fell through. Tina’s decision to provide for the needs of one our kids set off a giving cascade effect amongst her friends who joined in. They each took so much time to make sure they sent just the right things. Then all the people who give so freely each year. Lee Baker, Earl Herzog, Pat Cameron, Hansen’s etc etc. Know that your investment in our kids’ future will yield outstanding results. FRIENDS IN NY. The giving spirit has expanded as I have been working in NY for the 1.5 years. Former co-workers at Lowe sponsored kids with clothes and shoes. People like Erika Horvath who sent though a massive supply of brilliant shoes. People like Ros Weinstein who has been to Rwanda and immediately jumped into action. Peole like Leeann Leahy, who had each of her kids shop for one child around their age. Big hearts like Lisa Colantuono who sent a massive box of supplies on my last trip.The love that comes from each of you is carried forth in each item and each dollar. FACEBOOK FRIENDS Some of you I know personally, others are virtual friends that I only know through facebook. What I do know is you RESPOND. When I post needs, you fill them. The list for this trip was: shoes, socks, undies, educational toys, an outfit. Etc etc. You personally did it. You invited your kids to make the selections. You simply wrapped your arms around our kids and said “how can I help”. I am grateful for the opportunity to accompany 7 bags filled with your love. For some, the giving was from their surplus…for others it was from their base income needed to sustain their lives. In each case, I am grateful. A special shout out to the Facebook friends who help spread the word like Mike Duda, Mitch Caplan, John Gerzema, etc etc. This team has used their vast following on Facebook and twitter to help spread the word about our work in Rwanda. Each of you, in your giving, is literally changing the course of Rwanda’s future. This is not an overstatement. Rwanda is 1 of 5 countries in the world with a life expectancy under 50. The average person makes $210 a YEAR. School is compulsory through 6th grade, but the student teacher ratio is 75:1, so it’s hard to really teach. Chantal and Mbanda believe education is the way out of poverty so this is why our kids go to private school. At $310 a year, you can see that it is a gift. The kids in Rwanda REALLY understand the gift that education brings to their life and the diligent way they study reflects it. Last year 4 of our older kids (about 8-11ish) had shown such promise they were accepted into boarding school about 2 hours away. Cost for boarding school is $1100/child/year. Funding appeared and they were able to attend. January of this year I was able to join them on their journey to school. I can’t fully put into words the excitement in what this opportunity represented to them. I can’t wait to see how a year has blessed them. The bonus for me is that surely they will be able to speak some English now. WHOO HOO. Most of my posts are not likely to be this long. And hopefully they will be filled with the photos you crave, but for now, these are thoughts I wanted to share. I have included one group shot from my January trip so we can see the joy that await me. It does indeed take a village. I am thankful for each of you. PS Didn’t get much sleep on the 1st leg of my trip due to a few screaming babies…and I mean screaming. ..the kind where in between the tears they gasp for fresh breath and go again. Bless their dear hearts.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Thanks to Steve, Sherri and Scott who helped me get 7 huge bags into the Schaefer-mobile and to the airport. Delta took all 7 so it's sure to make for an amazing New Year when I arrive. Prayera for protection that all bags make it through and nothing is removed in transit. I will update when I next have access to the Internet. The plane will begin boarding shortly. Thanks for sharing in the journey.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Departure Countdown

I leave for Rwanda tomorrow. Thanks to the incredible hearts of so many people I am bringing along 5 bags of supplies. A total of 350lbs of goodness. I've packed your wonderful wonderful outfits for each our 30 kids. My friend Erika was again my partner in crime to try to get things organized. I am also bringing lots of educational tools to help the kids with their skillsets. Some classic fun things are packed too: jump ropes, candy canes,CDs, DVD,s pick 'em up sticks, kurplunk etc. CJ stopped by today with some extra toothpaste, shoes and wraps that he couldn't get to Etheopia, so I am thrilled to add them to the mix. In the past 3 weeks we've also raised the funds to send nearly 4 more kids to Boarding School. We're looking for about $350 more if you have any year end tax deductions that you are looking for. You can donate online via this blog or at the website: Kids in Rwanda, even at a very young age, believe that Education is the most powerful gift that they can receive. They take studying to be a real treasure. Many have asked how I get to Rwanda. The route is long: US to Amsterdam, then to Nairboi, then Burundi and ultimately Kigali, Rwanda. I land at 2:10 AM on the 31st to I should be thru customs and into the arms of the dear Mommies by 4AMish. The outbound layovers are not too bad this time. 3 hours in Amsterdam and another 3 in Nairobi. The return has a 6 hour layover in Nairobi and 10 in Amsterdam. I am especially excited about the 2 other folks that will be joining me from the States at various points of my trip....more about that as it unfolds. So often people say "gee, I would sure like to join you on one of your trips to Rwanda"...these 2 decided they really wanted to experience it close up and booked their flights. It's going to be so wonderful to share it with them. For now, I fight the exhaustion of endless days with limited to sleep to ensure I have just the right supplies and push through for another 12 hours. I will update this blog as I get access to the internet. No blackberry this time. I will also share a bit more background about our work if you are new to New Hope Homes, Rwanda. Here's to a safe journey and the insightful eyes so I can discover what's needed next.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

10 more days

I leave for Rwanda in 10 days. It's call coming together so quickly. Thank you to all of you who so generously reached out to help provide our 30 kids with new clothes and shoes. I feel like Santa as Erika and I begin to pack the bags. Clearly each of you took time to really think about what each child might like. The personal notes/photos you enclosed are so precious. I will be sure to hug each child with your love when I greet them. As I put my head down each night, I have flashes of what it will be like the first day I am back. I land at 2:15 AM so I will probably be to the house by 3. A night watch man will let me into my room and one of the mommies is sure to wake up. I will hug her until she can hardly breathe. Then I will try to sleep, but I won't be able able to much. The house start stirring around 5:30 or 6 AM as the Mommies and Aunties start preparing for the day. The kids then slowly awake from their bunk beds gently lifting off the malaria nets, tieing them up to the ceiling or the top of their bunk go outside with a tiny cup of water to brush their teeth. As soon as I hear that people will be up, I'll be flying through the house hugging and crying as greet everyone with Moolahoo (hi) and Daga koon dah...(I love you). I will be a pile of mush and full of unspeakable joy. And that will just be the 1st hour. Imagine what will follow. As a reminder, we was still looking for sponsor for Kayitesi and Innocent in order to send them to boarding school which starts in January. Let me know if you or a group of friends is interested in helping with your tax deductible donation. Cost is $1100 each.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thank you for all your generous donations

Thank you for your generous spirit this Christmas season. We now have clothing and shoes sponsors for all 3 kids. I will be hand delivering them to Rwanda on January 31st. It's going to be an exciting trip as 2 other people will be joining me for parts of it. More as the final prep begins. I simply can't wait to see the kids.