Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Please pray for little sweet Mwami. Surgery Thursday 4.28 @ 4 pm local time. 10 AM est. Need to remove this abysses

Quality Education Can End Poverty

Sonrise Kids head back to school for the term Our pre-k kids at school near New Hope Homes Class Room for Pre-K Getting the wiggles out in the morning.

Joys and Sorrow.

The morning started like a ray of pure sunshine. I have the joy of walking our 7 pre-schoolers to school today. It’s about a 30-40 min walk with their little tiny legs. They look so dang cute in their uniforms. You could just hug each one and never ever let go. As we walked up and down the dirt roads the kids were so happy to have me with them as they know I would usually be with the bigs kids. As other kids came to follow our pied piper line our kids kept fending off the others to take my hand as I was theirs (indeed I am!).

We arrived a school to find about 500 kids starting in straight lines getting ready for school. The teachers recognized me from the church the kids attend an came to greet me. I had know idea it would be these fine women. You will absolutely love the video I shot when I can upload it in the states. The head teacher was AMAZING with the kids. Getting them to respond in English to so many things. They danced ,they praised God, they did their ABC’s. Everything had a lead and echo response.

I had two favorite songs. One talked about “I am a doctor…because of a good education, I am nurse…because of a good education, I am policeman…because of a good education. Each job had a action pose. The second was so simple, but so uplifting “ I AM THE BEST OF AFRICA”. Oh may it be so. May these simple people grow to make a difference.

The classrooms were beyond packed. About 100 kids per room based on my count. They kids had simple benches, no desks but a small chalk board in the front. The joy of learning was so present.

On my way home I stopped by to see the Mayor’s assistant again. My daily routine.

I then spent hours looking for Mwani’s Doctor’s number. He had given it to me for a private consult if needed. We had looked through all the paperwork he provided but couldn’t find it. So today I dug through ever receipt I had and viola…found it. He agreed to meet us at 2 pm when he arrived for the afternoon.

That gave me enough time to pick up the kids from school and get my wash done before we had to leave. The kids were not expecting me on the return trip and I was delighted to see the joy in their eyes. I visited each classroom of our kids just before they exited at noon. The return trip was too funny. All the kids wanted to walk with the moozongoo and the teachers had to ensure only our kids left with us! Then those that shared the road with us wanted to share my hands which were already full with 3 of ours. One get thumb and one gets pinky on each hand. Dorcus was pulling on my arm so badly I thought I was literally going to have to drag her up the hill as she wanted to ensure no one got any finger on the hand she was holding. My back aches from her strength! But it was luv so it’s all good.

Mwani and Auntie Jaki arrived to head back to the hospital. I love knowing more and more parts of this country and key locations. Working your way through the hospital is challenging trying to find the right rooms. Each procedure needs to be prepaid. So you go to the area that is required. Then go pay. Then go back to show them you have paid. Then you meet. Patience Patience Patience…the key words here.

The Doc decided that Mwani would need to have surgery. It’s a simple one but he needs to go under General. The abscess is not improving and he needs to open it up and get it cleaned out. We then had to get blood drawn for pre- surgery evaluation. All I could think about was Rebecca’s scream when we took her to the doc in the market. But would you believe it that this sweet boy never cried. He even got brave enough to look at the needle as they filled the second vial.

Then to pre-admissions to meet with the anesthesiologist. After a long long wait they said he could meet with us tomorrow morning.

Mwami will need to arrive by 8 am then surgery will be at 4. Hopefully he will be able to go home this weekend.

I wish you could know what a sweet little boy this is. Holly joined me on my last trip in December and fell in love with him. Her heart aches not to be her with us as he goes through this surgery. He is funny. He is fascinated with the way things work and loves balls.

The early afternoon evening was spent just playing with the kids. It’s such a treat to have time with them while the big kids are at school.

Our two newest girls-each about 1.5 years have fit right in. Many of you may have seen the photo that Chantal posted when they arrived. They looked so scared. Today they fit right in. The are generally at the center of everything. The older kids really look out for them and give them lots of extra hugs.

Speaking of extra hugs. We surely could use yours. When are you coming?

So we ask for special prayer for Mwani tomorrow. I really like his doctor. He seems we educated and is very gentle with Mwani.

Oh…and PS. Apparently the Mayor decided to sign the extra paper for me that he declined yesterday. That requires meeting him. His assistant and I have a plan to have be there waiting when he walks in tomorrow. If I miss that window it will have to be on my next trip as he has the Parliament coming in tomorrow and eventually a full calendar before I leave. It would be amazing to finally get the chance to meet him.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mayor, Immigration, Process, Crash, Macarena....what a day.

It started out simple enough. Yes, another trip to the Mayor’s office. Thankfully it’s just a short walk. Now I am a regular so many people greet me. The Mayor’s committee approved the recommendation for me to become a Citizen which is great! However, it still requires the Mayor’s signature. This requires the Mayo to actually be in his office.

His wonderful assistant played my paper at the top of his things to sign, but he was not yet in. After about 2 hours, we decided I should go back to New Hope Homes and stay put as she would call me as soon as he arrived and signed. Hours later I phoned and he had reviewed but decided that he didn’t need to sign it and I should use the paper I got 2 weeks ago! Wah. He said it would be fine. Please, could he just sign it for me.

His Assistant Louise assured me it would be fine.

As we chatted this morning she offered to share more of her story about the “war” (genocide) with me if I would like to learn more. She could see that I was moved yesterday and while she has forgiven and forgotten, I think she feels safe with me and it’s probably still good to process. The bomb shell she dropped on me this morning that to fully live her life of forgiveness she has adopted a child of “those people” who killed her father. I presume she meant what used to be referred to as Hutu people, not the actual killers as this boy is only 7 years old. She has grately moved my heart. She asked if I could help with funding that this boy might be able to go to Sonrise School where our kids go. Imagine the power of what she was asking. That this child. An offspring of people whom most would go to the grave hating be given the greatest gift that Rwandese children can get given. The Power of a great education. I explained that we didn’t have funding for it and it would be $1300US per year plus $200/term in supplies. She acknowledged the size of that expense. If you are have been moved by her story and would like to help, I will ensure funds get to her.

Then off to immigration. Or so I thought. Cars and Motos (motorbikes) share the roads in crazy close proximity here. Today is was too close. My driver (20 year old Joesph) got a little to close to a Moto. He did the customary ‘beep beep” but the Motor turned into us. Down they went. The Moto driver and his passenger. We weren’t going fast, but they took a tough spill. Like a fool, I opened my door to check on how there were. This of course quickly established that a Moozoongo (white person and thus presumed rich) was in the car. This created quite a stir. The crowds built and the yelling was loud. Witnesses came and took stones to use a chalk like on the front and back of the tires to demonstrate where we stopped. Robert went out to attempt to handle the angry crowd. He returned to announce that they wanted to go to the hospital. I agreed we needed to make it right. The two men approached my passenger door and began yelling at me. Once I spoke a little kinyarwranda and saying it was an accident and we were sorry and yes yes, let’s to go the doctor in the market (my new friend from a few days ago with Rebecca. ) and we ensure it was all taken care of.

They climbed into our van and I directed the driver to the Doctor.

The Doctor examined both men, put some light bandages on them and gave them some antibiotic to ensure they would be fine. Then the fun began. They started negotiating with me for money. The first man who spoke a little English said that he was too injured to work. I countered with I can’t imagine a job that couldn’t be done with the small bandages. The conversation when like this “ So what is your job?” He replied after pausing for a long time “ I don’t have a job. You give me a job.” “You give me money for food”. Me “ What does food have to do with the accident”. Reply “well….I can’t work”. Around and around. Then he said he needed money for the ongoing Doctor treatment. I told him I would definitely give the Doctor whatever was required for their treatment. The Doc returned and basically said they would need their bandages changed. Then came the offer. “You give me $5000 franc and all will be forgotten. “ $5000rfranc is just about $10US/each but I simply did not want to be taken advantage of as it was an accident. Around and around. Then the crowds in the Doc office grew with the men shouting at our driver and at me. Whenever I would speak Kinyarwanda the meanest of the two would start laughing and I knew he thought this was a fun game.

Finally I called sweet Milly , Mbanda’s assistant to sort it out via phone. She agreed with me that I sound not pay. It is a bad precedence when they are simply trying to take advantage of white people. I returned to the men and asked again for the Doctor to come forward to meet us. He said the treatment would be $2500rf each so I said I would pay. The men were delighted….until I told them I would give the Doctor the money and he would give them a credit.

Game Over. Moozoongo wins.

Defeated I told them we would give them a ride back to their Moto, but they could not yell any more. The issue was closed. Or they could walk. They stared at me knowing it was done and thus…they chose to walk.

Phew. Exhausting.

Then off to drop off paperwork to prove our girls Esther and Grace are of age to attend Sonrise. We got to the express bus to the Volcanos who took it there for us.

Next up Immigration. There are literally hundreds of people in line. I know my way around know and know that I should bi-pass this line and go through a back door to speak with the Naturalization people…but each time I pass, I feel terrible – like they think – I think – I am special. Thankfully when they see me gently push through the line and then go through another door the tension eases.

Immigration will be another fun adventure. He reviewed all my paperwork and tried to get me for a loop hole. I knew the background and assured him that it only applies if I have been here less than 5 years and now I have been here longer, so we should be good. With the best Kinyarwanda, friendship, charm I had he agreed to begin the process.

Next step – they must approve the proposal for naturalization. Then I will be notified. Then I must come for a written test about the country and then oral. Needless to say, this won’t be done on this trip. Hopefully next. The people actually love that I want to become a citizen, but process is process and the process here moves slowlyyyyyyyyyyy.

Then Nakumatt…the most wonderful thing that happened to visitors in the past 2 years in Rwanda. A large Kmart like store with 24 hours operation. They have everything. And I mean everything. From food, to wine to buckets to washing machines and toilet paper. I needed to get a few more things for the homes.

Exhausted we headed for home and some fun with the little kids. OMG, they are so cute. They all come running. Missy Donna, Missy Donna. They were all in their little plastic chairs eating when I entered. Again the power went out, but this time they had my solar lights and they continued on with ease. Sweet. Need to keep advancing the ball on these lights.

I had my iphone with me and I recorded some of their songs. Once they got the concept they they sing, I record and play back the fun got intense. I just kept asking them to sing and the results were so random including Jingle Bells..which sounds something like bingle jells. At the end the started humming the macarina that I had taught the older kids a couple of year ago. Then they started with the motions. It was crazy funny. I made each Auntie and Uncle get up and do it with me while the y hummed along. Ya, I luv this little squirts.

Tomorrow. Finally. I get to walk the little kids to school. It’s like a pre-school. I have no idea where it is, I only know that we will leave at 7:45 which could be anywhere between 7 and 8.

Oh my, the most important thing. Rebecca is feeling better, but Mwami is still in need of medical care. Gonna get on that tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Today again I went to the Mayor’s office to inquire about his letter of Recommendation for my Citizenship. It remains in “Committee”. Each day I go with with a smile on my face an encouragement to advance the cause.

Since I am now a regular more are starting to greet me.

As I was talking to the Mayor’s Assistant she began to share her story of the genocide with me. As you may know, this is not a subject that the people want to discuss and it is in fact considered rude to inquire so for those that want to share, I am grateful to hear their stories 1st hand.

She was 19 during genocide. About 5 days into the killing they came for her family. It was her father, mother, little sister and little brother. Her Father told them they would kill him but when he was dead would probably leave. He told them to hid until he was killed, then to run. She heard her Father argue with the killers then they began to cut him everywhere and the sounds were something terrible. He walked back into the house bleeding everywhere and went to the room he shared with his wife and layed down on the bed and died. They waited in silence till the noise was gone and then, without a plan, they each ran in different directions. She went alone, her Mother took one child and the other was solo too.

She ran for days and kept hiding during all the killing.

Can you imagine being 19 and having this seered into your brain? Things your eyes should never see.

I asked about food or water. She said, “when your mind thinks, they will kill you they will kill you if they find you, your stomach does not ask for any food”.

This was April 1994. She did not return to her home until 1995. She was thankful to find the rest of her family had survived.

Then she talked about forgiveness. I asked about forgiving, but not forgetting? She said “no, we must do both”. I asked how long it took. She said she was still angry in 1995, 1996, 1997 etc. Then the killers started to return to the country. They came with kindness. She then found her faith and knew she must not only forgive but forget.

Tomorrow she will share more.

The first time I came to Rwanda 5 years ago I can with a broken and bitter heart about a boyfriend who had not been faithful. I hung onto the bitterness for a long time. Then I met these people and found inspiration from these people who have suffered to so much and have found a way to move forward.

What bitterness, anger or hatred have you been hanging onto too long? Perhaps you too can learn from these amazing people in Rwanda too.


Sorry, I have been slacking on the blog, but certainly not slacking here. So much going on I can hardly remember.


Drove to Runeghiri to enjoy Easter Eve and Easter Morning with Bishop and Chantal Mbanda. We had a wonderful time together. In addition to the joy of celebrating Easter our focus was on strategic planning work for the Vision of New Hopes Homes. Our friends in Kansas have raised the funds to build our 4th home. We now have the land, and will break ground but need to raise the funds to operate it annually. Our goal would be to build the 4th and 5th homes together for building efficiency costs. There are the serious on going needs of our current 3 homes. Our dreams are so big but our budget so small. Believing that God will show us the way and so grateful that my colleagues at Aegis Media are eager to help us use their collective communications expertise to help us raise funds.

On a small note, ahhh, so nice to have running water at the Mbandas. And hot water! They also had a wonderful meal for me and shared some wine. It was good to be present with them as they shared their needs to so many other things they want to accomplish. Help build a small home for a woman who’s home was destroyed in a big wind about 2 months ago, start more day cares through their part of the country, send Mbanda back to school to finish his studies in Canon Law in the Anglican/Episcopal Church, help Chantal build a little store that ladies who weave baskets etc can sell, etc etc. Their hearts are so focused on helping people uplift themselves. Please, if any of these things seem like something you would like to get involved with, please let me know.

The drive to Ruhengeri is normally 2.5 hours. Our return was like a rocket ship with a nice man who drove us back. 1:20 mins. The roads are not stop twisty, turny roads with people passing at all sorts of inopportune times. I was in the back seat with Chantal desperately trying NOT to throw up. There was a small plastic back near me so I kept my hand on it if needed. I told them I could not speak. I would just close my eyes and focus. Thankfully we made it with no vomit anywhere in sight!

Then it was the last night home with the big kids. 12 kids that you simply would love to call your own. I can’t tell you enough about how wonderful they are. They are smart, compassionate, kind, funny, helpful. You name it, they are simply a joy. When I think back to 5 years ago when no one spoke English and New Hope Homes was envisioned and launched by Chantal it’s remarkable. I have seen these kids go from scared, incredibly ill and timid kids to filled fully with hope. If you are reading this, you too are part of their journey and I thank you.

The energy level in the house last night was at a fever pitch. Yes, like any kids the night before school, trying to get every last wiggle out. And in this case, serious giggles were part of the wiggles.

We skyped and called so many people. It was too funny!!!

I eventually got them all to bed. This included standing like the camp counselor in one of the bedrooms until the boys stopped laughing. Of course my food on there behinds shaking their beds made the process last a little longer. Hey, come on, I was a kid too!

The drive to Rugenguri was uncharacteristically quiet. When I inquired what was up they said they were sad that they would be at school and I would be here. Some also had that – I want to stay on vacation – look on their faces. We eventually arrived at school. On the way up I asked if I should “cry big and make a scene or little?” They said ‘little”. I said I would cry “big” just to bug em. Their English is good enough now that jokes are understood. They boys however, were horrified by the fact that I might embarrass them…they just kept trying to see if I joking or not. Yup, they are growing up indeed!

There was a serious check in issue that took hours. Some top guy somewhere in the government made a ruling THIS MORNING that no 6 year olds could attend boarding school. They thought several of our kids looked that age. They check the paper work again and again trying to confirm that they were right but our kids kept saying they were 7. We had to go through layers and layers of review until we ended up at the head master who said Grace and Esther look small – yup they are – and could be 6. Finally I remembered that I have a pdf on my computer with all the kids ages. Not government official, but the beginning. Mbanda’s wonderful asst Milly came to help me and finally go them to agree to let them stay over night while we drove back tonight to find some government paperwork to allow them to stay. Esther and Grace however, were kinda digging the part where they go to come back home with me instead of school!

We gathered in a circle and said a prayer before the boys headed off to their wing of the school. One of the officials allowed me to cross through the entrance gate with the girls as I was ‘their Mom’. I like the sound of that!

As we walked through the rain to their rooms their friends came running and gave them lots of hugs and helped them with their bags. It was so sweet. I toured each of their rooms and met their friends. Marie Rose asked if we could say another prayer before I left. Paper, Rock, Scissors confirmed Fabiola would lead us in prayer. Tears flowed but not as badly as before as they know “Miss Donna ALWAYS comes back!” I rounded the corner and burst out in tears. 3 mins later two little hands landed in mine on either side and it was Alice and Esther who had come running to walk me back to the front gate. Bless their sweet hearts. Another goodbye and then I was mush.

Abby who is planning to spend at least a year teaching in Rwanda starting this fall.

The drive home was still. No kids. Only memories of each of their voices, their giggles, their hopes and dreams.

Now I return to 3 homes where no one speaks English, But the love is there. I am looking forward to getting to know our little kids more and more as our big kids get so much of my attention, but my love spreads out over them all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Exhuasted times 2.

The day started really sweet. Got to sleep until 8 am, then hang with the kids who are at my nightly slumber party. We rotate the groups and play paper rock scissors for the remaining stragglers.

Then they went do to the 2nd/3rd house while I went in search of a Catholic Church. I have been asked for days and no one seemed to know. I recall walking through some woods about 5 years ago to one, but can’t seem to find it now. Yesterday and old man on the street pointed me in the general direction so this morning I set out on my adventure. Much to my surprise, about ½ way down there on the dirt road 2 kids came running up to greet me. They were the kids from the neighborhood and it was so sweet. I felt like a regular. Speaking of regulars the other day when I was walking through the market and getting the traditional shouts “moozoongoo, moozoongo” – white person, white person. Some guys walked by and started in…his friends silenced him by telling them “oh that one…everyone likes that one”…”oh” was the reply and he stopped. I had no idea it had happened but the kids translated it all for me. I think I am making progress in my home away from home. ☺

I kept focused on a radio tower across town and headed that way. It was nice to just walk the road alone. I love the kids, but some ‘me’ time, especially to process on Good Friday was precious. I was very proud of myself when I found it!!! There were piles of people washing the floors and benches in preparation for the weekend Masses. I just sat silently and tried to comprehend the power of this day. The church was really impressively large. They were working the ceiling with nails falling from the tin roof to the floor about every 3-5 mins, so I needed to be somewhat attentive.

The road back was so wonderful. The kids in their tiny homes made of mud bricks wave and said “hello…ahhh-low” when I passed the second time. Everyone is so friendly, especially when I greet them in Kinyarwanda. They simply stare at me as I approach, but then I greet them then laugh and try to get a conversation going. The story goes on person after person on the street.

Then back to the 2nd/3rd homes to play with the little kids until they took their after lunch naps. The rain poured again today so it was fun to skype with some more people to keep them entertained.

I noticed before lunch that Rebecca seemed quite hot. We took her temp and realized it was high. Not to high, but a definite fever. The kids then watched one of the DVD’s I brought them about the history of Football/Soccer. Sande took the small orange cones I brought and set up is own training camp outside. I was so very impressed with how he put himself through the paces. I will post pics in a day or so.

Understand that 30 kids who all want to talk and play at the same time is such a joy but so exhausting. I really try to give the little kids attention when we are all together as I know the big kids so much better.

Later I held Rebecca again and she seemed really hot. We took her temp and it was in the high 103’s so we decided to take her to the doc. Auntie Jaki (who doesn’t speak any English) and I headed to the Doc in the pitch black of night. There is a small Doc’s office near the market which is manned by a male nurse. He was lovely. Vincent (the nurse) initially thought is was Malaria. After drawing blood and then waiting 30 mins he looked at it under a microscope and said it was not. WHOO HOO. He loaded us up with 3 types of medicine and we journeyed back home.

My amaze ashoo-shey (hot water) was on the stove for my evening bathing. So it was ready to go by the time we fed Rebecca, gave her the medicine and tucked her into bed.

The merry band of silly kids and I made our way up to the 1st home. A quick game of go fish and it is lights out. For Me too.

Tomorrow off to Rhungehi – a 2 hours drive to spend the evening with Chantal and Mbanda to work on a vision for New Hope Homes.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Going on midnight here with much to do yet, so I will keep it brief. A thousand thank yous to everyone who sent shoes. They were absolutely wonderful.

The really special part is to see the joy on their faces when they see the pics of who sent these shoes. The read each card and study every word that is written. Then they sit down all alone and really look at the pictures. Once that is done, then they joyfully run around trying to show as many people as possible who is their 'sponsor' and ask all sorts of questions about them. The most common one is "Will you please greet my sponsor and tell them thank you for me?" Then they ask "Will they skype with me?" Yes, I have created little technology pros here in Rwanda! Whoops.

Today in school I asked the question where would they like to visit in America. Many made their decision by where the people are the sent their shoes. You really do matter.

The adults have never had such quality shoes so they were pretty much speechless.

We also had some great skyping time with people in all sorts of places. They love it!

On a personal note for me. A another little trip to the Mayor's office and I am almost done with my paper processing on this end. Then to immigration to do the final step for hopeful citizenship. The kids are hoping it will be true. They think I should be called an African if it happen. Or African American vs RwandaDonna. Love is in the air. (as are the mosquitoes from the daily downpours.

Some of the Aunties & Uncles in their new shoes. Big kids showing their new shoes with pride

Shoes for Auntie and Uncles. + the LIttle kids in their new shoes

I will post individual pics when I am back in the states. The uploads are too expensive and slow.

Assorted fun

One of our two newest additions. OMG, is she the cutest ever. Thanks for the new sweater and hat Lisa C. A chicken our driver bought along the road for Easter dinner. Marie Rose...where would you like to visit in America? Skyping with Lori and Shawn! Helping Miss Donna wash her clothes. YES YES, I really was washing before I stepped out to take the picture. :)

The beautiful Road to Kibeho


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

7 kids+ 2 audlts + 7 hours in a van... Joy filled road to Kibeho.

Today we set out for Kibeho. This entry will be journey of faith, so skip it if it’s not your thing and catch us back here tomorrow.

Kibeho is a very special place in Rwanda that I learned about the 2nd or 3rd year I was coming here. In the 80’s before the genocide. Mary (yes THAT Mary, the Mother of Jesus) appeared here for many years. She appeared to school children and taught them a very special rosary called the Seven Sorrow Rosary. She asked them to pray it often. Mary also asked they help spread the word that the Rosary is not just a “Catholic” thing, she wants everyone to pray it.

The apparitions were initially thought of with a very skeptic eye, but eventually were endorsed by the Church and verified many times over. Mary also fore told of the genocide that was to come if people couldn’t find peace in their hearts. She spoke of ‘rivers of blood’ that certainly came to pass.

One of the young school girls who was 17 at the time, now 47/48 is still at the site and greets visitors daily. She believe she has been called to do this as her life long ministry. She only leaves the premises to go the hospital in Kigali when she has medical needs. This is my 3rd visit with her. Anathalie was not feeling very well last time so our visit was short as she was having heart and blood pressure issues. Today I phoned her on the way hoping she would be there and joyfully she was! She doesn’t speak more than just few words of English so Sande translated for me. She said she would be there when arrived. My heart left for joy as there is just a peaceful joy that radiates from her when you are near her that I just can’t put into words. I think it’s just a grasp of the feeling that will await us in heaven.

I played a recording of the 7 sorrow rosary for the kids and told them a bit more before we arrived. They are not Catholic so they are so curious about me because I am. I explain that we share the same Jesus so it’s all good!

I believe Mary was very much present when my Father almost died a few years ago so I am opening up my mind and heart to her in a new way as I hadn’t really done it much before.

Anathalie greeted us warmly. Her eyes were full of good health, the change was remarkable. I presented some photos we had taken last time and she loved them. Then I explained that I could have some made into post cards for her to supplement what she has. She was very excited and took quite some time studying them to make her selections.

She was in GREAT spirits and Sande did a wonderful job translating everything. As we talked she began to try to learn more English. Eventually I pulled out my little translation book and she began to study it. It turned into more of a chat among friends. I then asked if she would like me to bring her some shoes on my next visit.

Yes yes yes was the look on her face. The kids measured her feet and we discussed what she would like. I was delighted that she said yes as on prior visits she explained that should couldn’t accept money so I brought her a simple sweater at Christmas that she accepted. Can you imagine staying on the top of a mountain from age 17- until the day you die? Bless you in every way.

Eventually we prayed. She prayed, then she asked the kids to pray and then invited me to do so.

It was a treasured time. The kids sat like cherubs despite being tired and hungry from the trip.

I sent them over to the one resturant nearby with the driver and then I bought from rosaries from Anathalie. As we looked at the colors etc she wanted to learn the English for various things. We sat together for another 30-40 mins trying to sort out the words. She wanted to be able to say “God be with you”, Where do you live” Safe travels” etc etc. I gave her the translation book to keep and she was overjoyed.

She then looked at me and said “enshootee”…which means my friend. Oh my, what a joy for me. And “it is good to see you” which she had just learned.

We hugged and hugged and hugged some more.

I then went to the chapel to pray and she followed me there. When we finished she asked me to “pray for me” which she had just learned. And I asked her to do the same for me. Gez, imagine adding Anathalie to your list of prayer warriors.

She then followed me some more and ask for more of my contact info. I used it as a time to run to the van, grab my computer and modem. I woke up my parents telling them we might be able to skype. She waiting patiently for 20 mins but a storm was approaching and the connection would not work. So so so darn close.

She did talk to my Dad last time to simply say “God Bless you Matt”. That was enough to keep a smile on his face for many weeks.

We hugged some more and she told one of the boys who returned from lunch that I should stay so she could study English with me. Unfortunately the rain clouds were building and I needed to get the kids back. The first 45 -60 mins of the return has windy dirt roads with steep cliffs on the edge so – safety first.

The kids returned to the van with renewed energy from lunch and lots of giggles. The ride home was full of zzzz’s and then giggles, then interviews of each other on my iphone voice memo, Christmas songs etc etc. And of course…our always popular “I’m thinking of something”. Person? Place? Thing? Which can go on for hours. Contrast this drive with the one the Kristen Cavallo ,Liles Repp and I took nearly 3 years ago. 4.5+ hours each way, nearly every kids vomiting and non stop potty stops. Today we made it each way with only 1 vomit and potty stops. Wow.

I love the adventures with the kids as it give me a little more chance to spend more quality time with them versus the mass grounds when they all together. They are growing into such beautiful young ladies and young men. I am so thankful to you for sharing your love, your prayers and your resources so we can continue our work here.

Speaking of. We listened so the song “I saw what I saw” by Sara Groves on the way back home tonight. I told them she wrote the song after a visit to Rwanda and she was the singer at a fund raiser in KC where they raised enough money to build New Hope Homes #4. #4 she shouted for joy. They asked where it would be, I told them near their boarding school I thought. After a bit, they asked. “Miss Donna so when you come visit, will you come to Homes #1-3 or will you go to #4? They were very serious. I told them #4 as I wanted to play with them a bit, then I laughed and said I would always come see then always.

May be true for the of the days that I draw breath.

The Man in the Moon and other fun things.

Have you looked at moon the last few nights? It is beautiful. Seeing a sky filled with stars is a wonderful feature of being in Kigali. The moon is so bright that haven’t had to use the flash light or head lamp when we walk from the 2nd/3rd home to the 1st at night. (Of they never do, just me, but they sure like dancing and playing with my flashlight as we walk up the dirt road.) I asked if the kids could see the ‘man in the moon”. They all stopped …studied it hard and began to debate if indeed it twas’ a man or not. Had I been to the moon? Etc etc. The joys of youth.

Today was a day of fun. For those of you who have traveling to Rwanda with me you know I take seriously the kids education and routines while I am here. You then will find great humor in the fact that I have been a complete slacker. Today was the 1st day of me teaching school, and that lasted only about 1 hour. Like I said Slacker. The kids can’t quite figure it out, but instead I just let them play with their new basket ball net and volleyball game. I figure exercise and laughter is an excellent education!

When we finished school I began to study something that they do each time we teach but never noticed how they do it. They raise their hands like kids do all around the world and “me me” is whisper too. But I always thought they were snapping their fingers when they do it. Turns out the sound is from finger slapping together effortless in a technique that I can not master. They spent the next 30 mins laughing at their “teacher” because I couldn’t do it.

From there the laughter never stopped. More basketball. Then skyping. When the rain came while skyping we quickly picked things up and ran for shelter which they thought was too funny. As the rain danced on the tin roof Lionel began to shoot baskets from the carport like shelter and then ran to rain to fetch the ball. You got it, they all joined in with every ball they could find until all the boys were shooting hooping the in the rain. The girls then began to dance and play in the rain with their giggles echoing through the hills. I told them if they got cold when the rain stopped they had to figure it out on their own. “ Ok Missy Donna, OK” was the gleeful reply as they knew I teasing them. When the rain stopped, they all got cold. But then they figure it out all on their own. The girls when to the class room and came our wrapped in fabric that someone had sent me a year or so ago. Adorable head dresses and newly wrapped bodies. Sweet

The girls found a bar of soap we use for the dishes. Esther made a sudsy head and washed her face. When I took a photo the rest of the girls joined in the comedy routine.

Earlier in day the girls helped me hand wash all my clothes that I intentionally left behind last time so my bags can just be supplies as excess bags are $200/each on Delta $300/each on KLM. Unfortunately my bags got wet while I was gone and mildew was abundant on many things. We tossed a few, laughed at the tie dyed effect on others but made great progress. The job is incredibly tedious and I thank God for the Aunties who do this job every day for hours and hours and hours and ensure each child looks beautifully clean.

When we finished with the wash we poured the water on the concert and the girls decided it they would ‘skate’ on it. They have heard of skating and skiing but can’t quite grasp the concept. Today however, they looked like perfect skaters to me!

The laughter continued when we went do the 2nd/3rd house before dinner and brought a new game. It was traditional bean bag toss. I insisted that only the Adults could play first. They are usually so busy working that they rarely get time for rest. So playing is big fun. The kids got into it big time. They lined both sides of the tossing area and cheered them on. Each time someone got a point they jumped up and down and danced like it was the end of the super bowl. Toooo funny.

attention from me as I have been with the big kids (7-11). They are too funny. I remember when our big kids were this age so it is a full circle experience. The only downside of having this many kids hanging on you at one time is that many have colds and haven’t yet mastered the concept of covering your mouth. So at any given time you may get a full blow sneeze of who knows what right in your face. I kid you not. I can’t believe I didn’t bring my Zicam on this trip. Silly girl.

All in all a beautiful, fill-your-heart-to-brim kind of a day.

Oh wait. There was still more. Two trips to the soko (the market) with Miss Donna with two different groups to look for pineapple and then for material for a dress. We have to be very careful about rotating who goes where as they all keep precise track of the adventures! We also stopped by to say hi to the kids in the neighborhood who I visit each time.

There…I think that is it. Phew.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Our sweet Mwani with his swollen jaw. Getting lots of love from Lionel Ok, ya we went a bit overboard, but hey there is more to life than books and work is an important thing to learn too, right? My greeting in the classroom! Ya, I'm in love. I was giving the kids grief that they acted like they didn't know me the 1st night I arrived. The next morning, this was my welcome sign. Yup, they got me for life! Lionel presenting our new 'football' net for practice. This kids want to talk soccer 24/7. Be prepared from them to ask you who you support? The bulk at Chelsea fans but 2 hold out for the Arsenals.

Fun Day!

Bringing Water to fill the base of the basketball net. Our new Volleyball net Guess which side just scored? Fabiola and Sande's faces tell the story. Sande creates a lineup for the 1st shot. The best thing to do rainy day? Twister by Esther and Alice

Process a-go-go

What a day!

Today I was to continue my journey to become a citizen. Process moves very slowly here. Very. However, Chantal came to lend assistance this time as Sande and Isaac did the duty last time.

We went to the nearby Mayor’s office. It’s conveniently located by our 1st home but after 4 prior visit, I still had not been able to see the Mayor. I was given his work and personal email and work and personal mobile but he has never responded to me. Nor has ever been there. Today he was there. Yeah! However, he does not see visitors on Monday as his calendar is full of meetings.

After Chantal encouraging me to use my best kinyarwranda on his assistant, we made some progress. ‘Jimmy’ was called to help us. Jimmy is responsible for all NGOs (non government organizations). We went back to his tiny office separated from the others by a small thing piece of plywood, but it was indeed an office. Jimmy explained some new processes. New Hope Homes needed to request a letter of collaboration from the Mayor through Jimmy. Then Jimmy would help write a letter to the Mayor from me. The process seems like it might take forever, however Chantal told him I wasn't married, and thus the game began. Jimmy offered to help me find a Rwanda husband. I asked how long that could take. He said it could be fast because he is single too. What the heck, ya gotta work the system as you can. I upped my Kinyarwanda skills to a higher level trying to impress my gate keeper. With lots of smiles we seem to have made some progress.

Chantal and I went back to New Hope Homes to write up the proper documentation. When we returned, Jimmy had decided it was time for his lunch break therefore he was not there. He knew Chantal would be gone tomorrow, so he requested that I return in the morning as he had expedited that paperwork on my behalf. We shall see what fun he has in store for me. I think I will bring my body guards Isaac and Sande with me.

Then the day got tough.

We met one of the Aunties and and Mwani at the Doctor as Mwani face was still swollen. It it really big. Last night he had a temperature that concerned us so we knew he needed more medicine. Patience is a virture and that virture is really put to the test here. You learn to smile, be patient and then a bit firm. Patience and smiles are critical. Especially for the moozoongoo ( white person)!

We got the word from the Doctor that they wanted to do more tests so we continued. The request xray turned out to be an ultrasound and they found a mass. His blood work indicated that he has significantly elevated white blood cell count. He recommended go to the hospital and potentially have surgery. Yikes! Finding ones way around the hospital is a bit challenging. We entered with a “transfer” but we didn’t know what that really meant. People kept sending us to different places but not success. Ultimately I stopped a doctor who was going the opposite direction. He was kind enough to turn around and help direct us exactly where to go. He entered with us so the reception area thought we were with him, hence I think we got a bit more attention.

Mwami was trying his best to stay in good spirits, but we could tell he was hurting.

The Doctor was lovely. He was VERY sweet with Mwami who is just 2.5 years old. After a careful look he said NO surgery. The mass/abscess can hopefully be treated with serious antibiotics, some pain killer and something else which I can’t recall. He said if they operated to get it out he could be paralyzed on that side of his face we we should risk it. The abscess is not related to his teeth as best they can tell.

Next began the adventure of trying to get the antibiotics. Neither pharmacy at the hospital carried it so we had to go to town.

We returned home around 4:30 to find the big kids full of concern for Mwani and full of lots of giggles when they learned no surgery would be needed. The atmosphere lightened significantly as the game began including skyping with our friends at Pulse. Lionel gave them a tour of the yard, our school room and his bunk bed. We randomly dialed DJ who answered and was happy to hear from the kids. He was here with me in December to videograph the kids to help us tell their stories.

Evening was a soccer movie for the kids and simultaneously English lessons with the Adults. Boy oh boy, I could use another set of hands.

Tonight Fabiola and Lionel made popcorn. We skipped the jiffy pop we tried in December and made it the good old fashioned way in a pot over a fire. It was perfect!

Lastly, I need to retract my post of yesterday regarding the foot measurer. I awoke with a thought that it could be bag of shoes that we hadn’t dug through. And viola, it they were there. Sande took charge of measure of measuring everyone’s feet so we have accurate measurement for Christmas shoes!

Thanks to all who are following along. I know these posts aren’t nearly as entertaining as they usually are, but hey, I am doing the best I can.

Tina, Kayetesi is REALLY looking forward to seeing you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fun day skyping with kids all around the world.

Tonight we have Isaac, Sande, Fabiola, Innocent, Lionel, Anastacia, Grace, Marie Rose and Esther here to help recap the day.

We started at church. A new church just down the road because the one they usally go to moved. We aren’t sure where it moved to but maybe some day we will learn the answer. And so it goes in Rwanda.

Then lunchtime.

Then fun fun fun fun fun. We skyped with lots of people that we know and some that the kids just got to meet. Holly who was here in December was greeted warmly with lots of questions most of which involved when will she return? Liles was here a year ago January and he is currently in Botswana doing his Peace Corp training, so he was quite surprised when we rang him on skype. We also got to talk to Bryn again. Bryn’s family and friends are sponsoring Grace at school. Bryn’s little brother Beckett dance for us. Then we met some new people. Zoe and Tom Cass. They told us all about skiing. The kids are still trying to get the concept straight in their minds. They really enjoyed meeting Zoe and Tom and asked each other lots of questions. Leon Morris was quite entertaining and asked lots of questions. The kid LOVE talking to other kids. I think they could talk a long time. They especially liked Leon because he supports Chelsea soccer such most of the kids (except Fabiole and Lionel who support the Arsenals.)! We also woke up Alex who was quite funny and then she brought in her Mom, Dad and Brother. Emerson was trying to explain skate boarding…hard concept, but they thought he was cool too. We enjoyed talking to the Knight family in England too. John showed us all kinds of interesting electronics and his sister Elisabeth showed us her pretty doll. What fun.

The rain came 2- 3 times today as it is the rainy season.

Evening extra fun as all of the kids listed at top get to stay in the house with me. However, the appears to be tooooo tired to plan now. Go figure.

Tomorrow I am going with Chantal to continue my process for citizenship. Who knows what will come of that.

Today the only disappointment was opening 1 of the 3 bags we picked up last night. It was missing a lock and thus some items. The most important of which was 2 proper things to measure feet. I invested nearly $75 each so we could properly measure the size of the kids and adults feet. Can you hear me say grrrrrrrr. Come on, did they really need to take that.

Lastly we ask for prayer for Mwami who has a face that is swollen quite badly. He went to the Doctor a couple of days ago and they say the swelling is actually down but it seems really large to me and we are concerned about his fever. One of the Aunties will take him to the Doctor 1st thing in the AM. It looks like mumps on one side, but I have never seen any mumps that look like this.

That is the report for the day. The kids send their love and thanks. As do I.

As we were doing this post we talking to Sasha in Canada and learned that the outcome of the Arsnel and Liverpool game was a tie. Which they thought was GOOD NEWS!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 1 Bliss - 1st ever blog posts by the kids!

Hi I am Isaac I am 11 years old and I am in fifth grade at Sonrise Boarding School . I like English the most and Mathimathics. I like playing football when I am In the vacancy.


This is Donna now typing for Fabiola who is 11 years old. Today we had fun with Miss Donna. Alice and I made her a sign to welcome Miss Donna. We made a volleyball game with the things she brought us. We played 2 games. My team won one game and lost one. I am in 4th grade at SonRise boarding school. Thank you Lisa for paying my school fees. I want to say hello your children.

Good Night.

Donna is now typing for Kayitesi who is 9 years old. We went to the airport with Miss Donna to find her extra bags. We were happy that they were there. But after we got home we had to go back and get her passport. But it was good because we like to go in the van and see people. I really want to see an airplane because I have not yet seen one. It is very late here and Miss Donna usually makes we are in bed now. But we are happy she is visiting us again. We had a fun time skyping with Miss Abbey today. We want her to come be our teacher at Sonrise

Good Night

Donna is now typing for Grace who is 7 years old. Hi Holly. When do you come back to see us?

Now Alice wants in too. Hi I am 7 years old. Thank you for bringing me clothes. When will you come to visit us?

Good Night.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Arriving in Kigali


4.15.11 Note to self. When traveling solo to Rwanda with 12 bags. Be prepared for a long long long time negotiating with customs to let all the bags enter the country. 2+ hours to be exact. And, it was only that quick because I convinced them to let me call Chantal. In the end, all worked itself out. 9 of the 12 bags made this flight. The remaining three are hopefully arriving tomorrow. Breathing in the Kigali air, I know that I am home. It is a natural transition for me. I arrived while the kids were still at the 2nd/3rd house so the boys were surprised to find me here when they arrived home. It was a wonderful reunion with Sande, Isaac, Innocent and Lionel. They have each gotten taller since I was here in December with Holly. I let them open one of the bags. Yes, you guessed, it they chose the soccer rebounder net. They can hardly wait to put it together in the morning. I am grateful to my colleagues who let me step away for a bit and to so many of you that let me fill these bags with your love. I get the easy part…bringing them. You do the hard work of finding just the right things to bring. Skyping tomorrow morning EST/CST about 8-9ish. We’ll be logged into skype and await your request. Shoot me a note on fbook or skype if you want to be part of the fun.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Heading Back to Rwanda Thursday

I am heading back to Rwanda on Thursday. 11 bags packed and ready for transport. This trip is filled with amazing new tennis shoes from people all over the country and LOTS of fun games. I usually bring true supplies for basic important needs, but we got most of those over in December so this one is where I get to bring FUN. Volleyball net, soccer net, Basketball net etc etc. I am always for focused on helping the learn, but this trip will be about letting kids be kids and just have some fun. It's also a nice break from them as April is set aside to mourn the loss of the million people who died in the genocide in 1994. The last few trips I have had other volunteers traveling with me. This one is solo. Who wants to join me this summer?