Wednesday, December 30, 2009

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.

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