Monday, April 09, 2012

Lessons in Need

Hello, Harvin here guest blogging tonight. (Although as I spend more time here I am beginning to feel less like I did last time, a volunteer and guest, and more like New Hope Homes has become a second home to me). Let me try to explain by talking about our day full of lessons, namely of need.

LESSONS IN NEED – Surprisingly, not just financial, although that is a very big part of it. A large thank you to everyone who has contributed supplies, money, and time. There are many needs here I am just beginning to understand.


Time is rather loosely defined here, which is sometimes quite challenging for Donna and me who have survived and thrived in the corporate world by living by a rigid calendar. Perhaps you might suggest, as some of our friends have, that we as two type A personalities have a ‘need to relax’. Truthfully though the lack of time to accomplish everything is a rather big deal. We are constantly being torn by balancing time spent with the kids and time spent contributing to the actual work that needs to be done, from processing paperwork, to organizing and categorizing supplies, to getting things fixed on the van or the house, to shopping for things we need here, to keeping track of shoe and clothes sizes for a household of 29 growing children, to running kids to doctor appointments, to even finding a moment’s peace for ourselves to rest…… Yep, better time management and a few more hours in the day would help. But so would a little more cultural giddy up and sense in urgency others. Alas, I may just ‘need to relax’.


After Deszamies’ breakthrough with the walker yesterday, the plan was to take him today to physical therapy, get a proper diagnosis, and develop a sustainable plan for how to treat the physical effects of his Cerebral Palsy. The team consisted of myself, Donna, Auntie Jackie, Fabiola as our interpreter (who was so good with helping him yesterday learning to move around in his walker), and Joseph our replacement driver. We arrived at the clinic and proceeded to the back where a couple of therapists were working with babies on the floor. Now mind you, this is no Western clinic, with bright lights, shiny equipment, and a surplus of supplies. My first look was to see two therapists sitting on an old mattress on the cement floor working with two babies. Other kids appeared to be lined up waiting their turn, but we were all crowded into the same small room. Everyone was excited to see Dezamies walk with the walker, but it was clear that there is much more needed. We were ushered into see a doctor, a wonderful woman appropriately named Joy. She walked us through the next steps needed if we hope to see him walk unaided someday. It starts with a cast on his leg today for a week to reset his leg muscles into the proper alignment, and then move on to a leg brace on one leg which he needs to wear every day except when he is getting professional therapy three times a week or doing daily exercises, and also a fitted orthotic in the shoe of his other leg. Part of my brain was thrilled to learn that he actually has a chance at leading a normal physical life someday, but then I started to panic at the logistics involved. There is the cost of weekly therapy, the logistics and cost of getting him to and from the clinic three times a week, the braces that will inevitably change sizes as he grows, the training of the Aunties to do the necessary exercises, etc. All balanced against the needs of 28 other children, some who also have special needs, and all who need to be cared for. And with our time here limited I am worried about actually making this happen. But I have learned to take Joy whenever I can find it here. This time it was in the form of a wonderful woman, who made me think that someday a little boy who has only been able to barely crawl his entire life will be able to run to greet me with a smile on his face.


Did I mention that while I was holding Dezamies waiting for his cast to be put on he peed all over my shirt? Ok, to all my friends out there with children. It’s official, with that act I have passed the Rubicon of parenthood and officially joined the club.


Ok, I’m back on this one. Donna and I were already feeling guilty about having spent the morning away from the kids, but there were a few other things we needed to accomplish, namely getting to the TIGO store (Rwanda’s equivalent of Verizon) to fix our Wi-Fi access, shopping for supplies for the Home while we are here, exchanging money, and a side trip (more on that later). Did I mention before how long everything takes to get done around here? It took most of the rest of the day to finish everything, but had decided we’d just commit to getting most of our chores done today while we were already out. I didn’t realize the heavy price we’d pay later for that decision later.


Ok, yes, here it is. The official call for help….


Chantel had stopped by the Home this afternoon to be with the kids, and unfortunately Donna and I were running late to get back, so she agreed to come meet us at Nakamatt, the main mall area in Kigali that you can get more variety of stuff. Think of a small poorly stocked Wal-Mart without the low prices. We sent Jackie, Dezamies, and Fabiola home with Joseph, and stayed for a cup of coffee with Chantel. For those of you who are unaware, she is the woman who started this Home with her husband six years ago and together they are one of the most inspirational couples I have ever met. Which was probably why I was so moved when she told me she considered me family now, part of both The Home and her home. And then we talked finances. The Home has been blessed over the years with donations both big and small, but has no sustainable funding source. Unfortunately we are solely dependent on only the charity of others, a notoriously insecure funding source. Chantel has a vision though, to sell the houses the kids are at and to build on land that has been purchased with donations from others. On this land we can raise food and a few dairy cows and chickens for sustainable nutrition, this land can house all the kids together in one complex, this land that fronts road where storefronts and housing can be rented for sustainable income for The Home’s needs, and possibly provide jobs for the kids as they grow older. It is a grand vision, one that will reduce the dependency on foreign aid from those like you reading this blog by reducing operating costs for food and sustenance. But this also requires an upfront investment, some of which has been secured but much of which is unmet. But it is a grand vision. I have never seen a charitable organization with such a good business plan, as most just concentrate on constantly fund raising and not the challenges of dependence on that model. Like I said, Chantel and Laurent Mbanda are truly inspiring.


Ok, true confessions. Donna may have impulsively decided to buy a scooter, and part of our afternoon was spent picking it up and driving it back to The Home. Of course, as always, she debated the merits of splurging from her own pocketbook for such a purchase, and rationalized it by knowing it could be used by Abby to get back and forth to The Home while Donna wasn’t here, and how much time it would save (I mentioned that before) by not having to rely on others to run simple errands, and how convenient it would be once the dream of the new home on the land in Musanze came to fruition… but secretly I think she just really enjoyed the idea of her and I scooting around the streets of Kigali amongst the Moto’s and crazy drivers. And you know what? It was a blast! After both practicing driving around the parking (yes Mom I was wearing a helmet) we ventured out to the streets and highways of Kigali on our African version Roman Holiday with Donna playing the part of Audrey Hepburn and me at the wheel as Gregory Peck. We laughed the whole way back to the Home.


Do you have any idea how fun and fulfilling it is to have five little adorable girls repeatedly ask you when you would do Yoga with them? I do ☺. Do you have any idea how cool it is to have them saying hello and goodbye to you all the time with their hands at their hearts saying Namaste? I do ☺. Do you have any idea how fun it is to do sun salutations and headstands with five little adorable girls and one light spirited boy named Innocent while falling over and laughing and learning poises and sitting quietly hearing them trying not to giggle and seeing admiration and joy in their faces…. I do ☺.


I went into this trip with no expectations. Or at least I tried. As my good friend Derek advised me, I needed to be careful because it was unrealistic to expect the level of joy and emotional fulfillment I had on my first trip here. Donna had also cautioned me that the second time around could be challenging, and to remember that these kids have lived three months of experiences without our being here, and that they may take a while to warm up to me again. Truthfully after the joyous first day of hugs and greetings I was not expecting it to be an issue. But I didn’t foresee the bigger issue either.

By yesterday afternoon I was already getting asked when I was coming back, placing an emotional commitment on me that was hard to answer. Today I struggled with both Sande and Nshimye both who were very quiet, reserved, and a bit aloof. Unlike last time I didn’t seem to have the answers for their struggling minds. I also struggled with Fabiola, as she wrestled with her preteen emotions by exhibiting shifting bouts of anger and obstinence. Truthfully, I also struggled a bit with the never ending clinging nature of all the urchins (I say that with love) hanging from me or wanting me to pick them up constantly as they seek consistent physical touch sadly so absent in their lives. I have come to realize that unlike last trip, this trip and any in the future are not about me. It’s not about me finding fulfillment, or finding a new direction in life, or even the warm feeling I get about myself when someone says to me so admiringly ‘it is so great what you are doing in Rwanda’. This is about meeting the inexhaustible emotional, physical, and emotional needs of 29 kids and an incredible sense of responsibility and fear that I will fail both them and myself.


It is one o’clock and I am just finishing writing this. Donna is here and still up (check). She just poured me a second glass of wine from the bottle we purchased today (check). I am getting up at 6am to run the streets of Kigali with six little boys anxious for the next day’s adventure to begin… Well, two out of three isn’t all-bad. I figure I can sleep when I get home. And let’s not forget I did get to ride a Scooter around the madness that is the streets of Kigali today. Not everyone can say that!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Harv and Donna-
Thanks for sharing the details of your trip so far. It sounds amazing; as are both of you.
Derek, Kris and Family