Monday, December 31, 2012

Kate's report 1.13

Today’s report from 8 year old Kate (Kristen and Ian’s daughter)

Today we celebrated Christmas with the kids. Before we talked about Jesus and Isaac, Kayitesi and I read from the bible. There were some really hard words.

They got all kinds of things. They got shirts, shoes, a present, pjs, socks, underwear, a backpack, a jacket, pants, a waterbottle, and a toothbrush. It was really fun.

After we took some pictures and played with our things. Then the kids had to leave and we gave them big hugs and said goodbye.

 And my mom slept in this morning and my brother and dad went Gorilla Trekking.  They followed the Ugenda group of gorillas.  This group is special because they have two Silverback leaders where most groups have just one.  The paths up the mountain were very muddy and many people fell going both ways.  But, they came home without being hurt, they were just very muddy.  THE END!!!!!!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kristen, Ian, Matt and Kate are here!

  Ok, just prior to that arrival… back up for a tiny bit...

  I arose early and walked the grounds of the Cana center prior to our departure at 6:15.  It was a beautiful crisp morning as hillsides slowly awoke.  It is so peaceful in Kibeho. A time to simply be still.  And yes, well all know I need more of that so I savored the time.

  Harvin and I left Kibeho at 6:15 as the sun had just peaked over the distant mountains. The colors were breathtaking as they spread their array of yellows, pinks and reds across the hillside breaking through the dense fog as it danced across the sky.

  Morning is my favorite time to be out and about. People are out and about with the business of their day.  Yellow jerry (water) can are everywhere as people head out to replenish the water they need for the days. Goats walking along the side of the road with small boys who tend them.  Everything is atop the head. Fruit, pots, grass for cattle, etc etc. If you can carry it, it’s best on the head.

  We zipped back to Kigai in perfect time to pick up Kristen Cavallo and her husband Ian, their son Matt  (15) and daughter Kate (8).  It required 2 vehicles to get us back, but was about an hour or so late so we enjoy the flexibility that is Rwanda and simply enjoyed each others company and grabbed a bite.

  Eventually we were ready to rock and stopped by Abrahams for some gifts and the bakery for some bread for Chantal.

  Kristen and the kids road with me, Ian and Harvin took the van.  The ride from Kigali to Musanze is extremely windy with deep cliffs on the side of the road.  The drivers dash in and out around the people, animals and trucks. Kate wasn’t digging the fast speed so we talk her to say Slow in Rwanda.  Whenever she got scared, she would simply say boo-whore-row, boo-whore-row to ask Innocent to slow. He was quite sweet with her.

  Arriving at Chantal and Mbanda we were greeted by some lovely new friends and enjoyed a wonderful feast.  While we were absolutely enjoying the fantastic company and food we were all anxious to see the kids.

  Harvin drove us to the gate. Ian got out and went in.  He stood in the front  with a football (soccer ball)  and just tossed it in the air.  The kids came out and just looked at him to greet him but weren’t sure who it was. Sande was one of the 1st.  He and Ian are great friends but only have been able to skype.  Sande looked at him and said,  “Ian?”  “Yes!” was Ian’s reply and the hugs began, The rest of us got out of the van and greeted everyone.

We sat in a circle to do introductions.  Once the formality was done, the fun began, Kristen lead a dance party with Harvin.  Ian started a makeshift football match on the stoop while Matt was at the bottom of a dogpile of kids who wanted to be close to him. Kate learned a bunch of new games with hands and feet.

  Then people naturally switch positions. It was so wonderful have more arms to hold more of our kids.

  After lots of play time Ian asked if we could go for walk.  We aske Mama if we could take everyone for a short walk. Usually we take the big kids and go on longer walks, but we wanted today to be special so we could take everyone. Today’s intense rainstorm left our dirt road slippery and full of puddles. Yes, any kids dream.  We went down the road, down an embankment, across the field and up a road. As dusk was approaching we reversed our route and headed back.

  Is I trailed behind taking pics, I tried to present to the gift of Harvin and Kristen and Ian’s family to these kids. A most remarkable moment.

On  ce home we began to re-sort all the Christmas Presents so we could ensure we are ready for tomorrow. Yes…New Years Eve will be our Christmas. To make it even more special Abby will be with us!  Yeah!!!

  Dinner around the Mbanda table is always filled with love and tonight was no exception.

  We snuggle in for the night and cherish the opportunity for another sweet day tomorrow. Matt and Kate are such a blessing to all of us.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Very Good Day.

  Harvin was feeling much better today. Not whole, but better.  Good enough to visit the kids.

  We started the day by driving to the new home we are building.  It’s come such a long way since August and we were so happy to continue the building now that we raised a bit more money.  Our goal is to open in April.  It’s about a 20 min drive in the rural area.  It was almost hard to make out the house as the corn that our team has planted is super tall. For those that don’t know our story, the kids are living in a very small rental house now while we build the new home. Our goal is to be as sustaining as possible, therefore we have purchased a huge plot of land and will nestle the home amongst it so we can live off the land as much as possible.

  This part of the country is unique in that we get 3 harvests a year so we will rotate corn 2x and the other will be beans.  Our goal is to have our cows nearby.  In Kigali someone on bike had to ride 45 mins each way to get the milk.  Unfortunately, our remaining cow will be put down in the next day or two. It broke a hip in a ditch and despite treating it, it is not healing. We are letting the medicine get out of it’s system a bit and then will butcher it for meat vs waiting for it do die and not getting any potential benefit.

  Many of you may have read about the hefier cows which are $500 each.  We have the premium cows here which produce DRAMATICALLY more milk while eating the same amount of food – unfortunately they are $2000 each. If you know of anyone who wants to donate for a cow, let me know J.  Until then we’ll need to buy the milk from some other place.

  The home is going to be spectacular.  It’s really really wonderful. As you can imagine housing this many kids, plus mommy, aunties and uncles is quite an undertaking.  Chantal has been super smart about how she approached it. As the kids get older she wants to ensure there is physical separation between the boys and girls.  Boys enter and go up stairs, the girls so up the other stairs and there is no way they can sneak between.  As Chantal says…while we are one big family, these kids are not blood relatives…so we don’t want any New Hope Homes Grandchildren J.

  I will also have a permanent room in the house. I leave all my things here in storage each time so I can use all my personal bag allotment for supplies, but now I will be able to keep my things in place and just pick up where I left off when I left.  I am also happy the it is a visible sign for the kids that I will always come back. They are family and I intend to be with them until the day they put my ashes in the ground there or in Arkansas.

  We have much to do yet on the home, but celebrate it’s progress as we raise incremental funds here and there. Once we get the remaining funds for the home, we will start to work on the grounds.

  A special thing about this home. There is an avocado tree on the property that has never produced avocados.  As we started to build our home, it began to produce avocados. The locals are amazed. We believe it is a blessing for our kids.

  Next we were off the see the kids. Harvin and I jumped into the semi-funcational van that is our transort for the kids and headed down the road, through a portion of the town and over two log bridges.  When we arrived at the gate, Manuel was just leaving so he was opening the gate. He was thrilled to see Harvin.  When we drove in the kids all yelled Miss Donna, Miss Donna and then Muzungo which means white person. They didn’t realize it was Harvin until get pulled all the way in.  Then they squealed for joy.  Some of the aunties and kids were in back, so he got a double surprise.

  The next few hours were spent with the kids piled on top of Harvin and a handful with me. They had to know everything that was going on in his family, like and work.  This will they put their fingers through his hard and cuddled every possible way it was to get a piece of him !  They love him so so so very much.

  Esther remains unhappy that Kristen Cavallo is not here. She asks to call her about every 5 minutes. Finally at about 7:30 EST we did. This was after she posted a note on her facebook wall about how much she misses her and wishes she could come NOW! Well the great part is, Kristen, her husband Ian and two kids Kate and Matt will be here in 2 days.  OMG –it’s going to be a big big reunion.

   After lunch, the kids and I took Harvin on our favorite adventure up the hills, through the ditches, over the log bridges to our stream and played forever.  Harvin of course is a boy and thus made the water time more fun encouraging them to walk up stream which I would not let them do the day before when it was just me.  Needless to say, the laughter filled the hillsides.

  The walk home gave us an opportunity to show Harvin how we make a human chain to get through the big ditch by helping each other.

  Our time on these adventures is so precious. The kids talk and tell stories, just being kids.

We wanted to stay out longer but decided it was best to get home to be the little kids and show we are good big brothers and sisters to them. There wasn’t a peep of disagreement amongst any of the kids.

  Back home we started working on the thank you notes for the donors.  We used the new crayons that a Kathleen, a friend from my office donated. They are all the made the more special because she donated them after she lost just about everything she had in the hurricane.  She send along some very fun art supplies. I was blown away that in her suffering she wanted to bring our kids some joy.  Yes, I am very blessed to work with the people that I do. I count these art supplies as perhaps the most precious cargo I am carrying on this trip.

We also had a fun visit with some family that is staying with Chantal and Mbanda when they came to meet the kids. They are a very beautiful family inside and out and we have loved our evening fellowship around the table until the nearly midnight each night.

The rest of the day was the same.  More love. More Hugs. More laughter.
All good here in the land of 1000 hills.

Tomorrow Harvin and I heading to Kibeho for the day. Will not likely be online until the following after we greet Kristen, Ian and their kids.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Seems like yesterday and seems like forever ago

  That’s what it feels like to be in the arms of our kids.  It’s like time stood still from our last embrace (ignore the fact they are all taller!) as the love is so overflowing.  At the same time it feels like forever since I have been able to connect with them and ask how they are, what is good about their lives etc etc.  While I visit every 4 months, it is so very hard to be away from them.

  Unfortunately I had to go over solo today as Harvin seemed to have gotten a serious dose of food poisoning in route and spent the night worshipping the porcelain throne including sleeping on the floor in his bathroom.  This morning he was a little better, but decided to stay home and sleep. By this evening he doing great. Should be rockin’ tomorrow.

  Chantal drove me to the kids as  my scooter did not make it from Kigali.  She had me hide in the SUV.  She greeted the kids and then eventually opened the door on my side. The kids squealed for joy and the endless greetings and hugs began.  Chantal had made them cookies so they all sat down and enjoyed her homemade feast.

  Sending her off to go back home, the girls all came to chat with me and ask me so many questions. How is Harvin? How is Kristen? When does she come? How is Holly Potter?  Does Tina have a baby?  How is Jennifer Wolf?  What about Lisa? How is Rebecca? And DJ? And Liles? It went on endlessly. Then they asked about each of their sponsors.  You simply can’t fully appreciate how top of mind you all are. They know so many of you are out there helping them.

  After the little kids when down for their nap, we asked Mama if I could take the kids out for an adventure.  They learned the word adventure last time.  They now know it is when you go some place without knowing where you are going and believe that no matter what it will be fun.  So off we went on our adventure.

  We took my favorite trek from August. Down the dirt road by our home, cut through the grass near the prison then climb down a big hill with boulders, then cross through a ditch that requires us to make a human chain to get everyone from one side to the other and then…and only then…do we come to our favorite place of all. The stream.

  The water was over the banks today and flowing rapidly. The good news is the water is only about a foot so I can safely manage watching 13 kids. At first they are timid just standing at the bank watching it flow. Then eventually, one by one they get in until they all splashing and laughing until their guts are about to split. The locals come out and watch us thinking we are a little nuts. But, that’s part of the adventure.  While they played, others came to fill their water jugs for their long journey home and others came to do their wash, so it is indeed a community gathering.

  Kids are kids, no matter where they live. Thus water, splashing and laughter are all universal.

  The sky was looking increasingly like rain. I gave the kids the 15, 10 and 5 minute warning prior to departure. Then we had to decide which way home. The long way, hoping the rain would hold off or the more expedient route, the way we came.

  They of course convinced me the rain would hold off so we could take the long way.  Ya, ya.  We set off to climb the big hill, then down the next, then over the board to cross the seriously rushing water. As we emerged, I said it smelled like rain.  They asked me how I could smell water. Well, I said I can.  3 mins later the light rain began and then the massive downpour. When it rains in Rwanda. It rains. Heavy, like Hawaii.

  The kids ran ahead as I tried to run while finding some way to wrap up my iphone in  my Rwandan dress and someone else shorts that were damp but not soaked. As you  can imagine, running in the rain with kids is about as fun as it gets, so the giggles filled the mountainside.

   Arriving home, the kids quickly changed out of their clothes and I attempted to dry off, but it’s not that easy.  Ahh… well you can get warm when you have a pile of kids sit on your lap and hug you.  Thankfully, and frankly unbelieveably, the iphone survived.

  We spent the afternoon talking. Most of it was answering endless questions about their sponsors.

  I decided it was best to head home early to check on Harvin.  Waving goodbye they all kept yelling “see you tomorrow, see you tomorrow.” Yes indeed my sweet ones…see you tomorrow and I will have a big surprise with me…Harvin.

Nearly 100

Nearly 100. That is the number of people who have helped make this trip possible. So many hands joining across the globe to help the kids of New Hope Homes. I am so very grateful for all of you. Our work would never be possible without your kindness, compassion, funds, prayers, and love these kids.

It really is remarkable the 29 kids could be the recipient of such a grace.

Harvin and I get the easy job. We simply hand deliver your love.

Please know that we tell the kids about each of you. They know many of you by name if you have been with us for more than a year. They ask about you.

This trip be extra special as we have a wonderful family coming in a few days. Kristen Cavallo, her husband Ian, their daughter Kate and son Matt are going to be with us for 5 days. They have loved our kids since the beginning! Kristen came over 2 years ago, so we are all eager for everyone to finally meet in person. Ian and Sande have a very special relationship so that is perhaps the most anticipated part of it for me. These 2 skype football (aka soccer) friends will finally be able to discuss all the critical assessments of teams around the world. I figure that alone will take 3 days! ☺ .

We are going to hold Christmas until they arrive so we can make it a really special celebration.

We have just arrived at Chantal and Mbanda’s after a 27 hour journey. It’s late.
Tomorrow morning, we will get on my scooter and surprise the kids that we are here. Giddy with anticipation.