Rwanda Visit 2018

 School group photo

School group photo

RWANDA 2018

Hey everyone! Sully here, and I just got back from Rwanda. I still can't believe it was my tenth trip back to that beautiful country and the kids. Sadly, it was my fastest trip ever at just over three weeks, but I am fortunate to say that we crammed in as much as we could with the time given. I won't waste your time any further. Allow me to share some stories from the trip.

 Jack before he left for school

Jack before he left for school

SCHOOL COMES FIRST

We are incredibly grateful, once again, to share with you that all of our kids are back in their schools and doing great. We had some of our highest school fees ever this year but luckily our donors and supporters came through better than ever. Knowing their school fees were higher this year, the kids had concerns about their continuing education. I fielded their many concerns one evening and it was yet another reminder of how much they care about their futures and don't take them for granted. Thanks for helping us not let them down. It says something when Elisha noticed that only his first term had been paid for his boarding school (We usually pay for the whole year at once). He came to me to talk about it because he wasn't sure if there was a problem or not. I could see the worry in his eyes as we talked about it. In the end, there was no problem at all and he gave me a big hug when he realized that. But, it was interesting to say the least to see how much he was paying attention to his schooling.

 Clever, David, and Alphonse

Clever, David, and Alphonse

VISITORS

We had the fortune of having a few visitors this year. Some were expected and some weren't. Sky and I have worked together a long time now and both currently work in Alaska together. Sky took the decision to join me this year and I am so happy he did. We all are. The kids loved him from the start. Sky kept his birthday a secret from the kids but we made sure to celebrate anyway with him. Sky got me back by doing a belated 30th birthday party for me with their help. He also took really great photos for us, helped build our new roof, helped with our school needs, helped build a small home for a local elderly woman,  and showed them that not all visitors (like me) suck at playing basketball. I told the kids this and I'll say it again; Sky may have just met the kids, but he knew them a long time ago. Sky and his amazing community of friends and family have helped our kids for so long now and so generously. Thank you to all of them.

 Claude and myself throwing up bricks to Sky and Fiston. In this picture we were trying to throw more bricks than there were hands to catch them to see if they could manage anyways

Claude and myself throwing up bricks to Sky and Fiston. In this picture we were trying to throw more bricks than there were hands to catch them to see if they could manage anyways

Should you notice some finer quality photos in this blog, you can most likely trace them back to our friend Ben Yacobi from the UK. Sky and I had the fortune of climbing Mt. Nyiragongo in the Congo. Ben was with our group and we had a great time with him. It turns out he is a professional photographer. He agreed to come visit and take some great photos for us. The kids loved him as well. Since then he has begun to search out cameras that the kids can use to learn and work with in the future.

 This is the only picture I could get of Ben. He is crouched down next to Sky. This is our group after our night on the volcano

This is the only picture I could get of Ben. He is crouched down next to Sky. This is our group after our night on the volcano

A ROOF OVER OUR HEADS

As some may know, we have our land and our home we have been trying to build for a few years now. It is a slow process as we manage to take care of our kids each year. However, we were able to build our roof this time on our future home. It was good timing too because the heavy rain in Rwanda had full access to the house. We needed the roof to protect the building we had accomplished so far. This building session was awesome because it occurred while the kids were still on holiday so they got to help too. Sky, me, and many of the kids got to mix cement, move dirt, and move bricks for a few full days, and it was awesome to share the experience together. When it was time for the metal sheets to arrive, we all lugged them off the delivery truck too. After that, the roof was finished in no time. We still have a long way to go to live in our future home, but we can rest easy now knowing it is protected from the elements.

 The roof half way done

The roof half way done

 The roof after completion

The roof after completion

ANIMAL VISITORS

Does anyone remember a little puppy we rescued last year? Well I contacted the family that took her in and they came and visited one day with the now named "Roxy." I was excited to see how she had grown and for the kids to see the fruit of their good deeds. Roxy was extremely sweet but a little overwhelmed by the number of people in the household. Joel was our boy who took the best care of Roxy and was the most sad when we had to give her away. It was sweet to reunite them for a minute.

 Myself, Joel, Otto, and Roxy

Myself, Joel, Otto, and Roxy

 Amurand and Roxy last year, post bath

Amurand and Roxy last year, post bath

One morning we woke up to find a cat outside. More importantly, she had given birth to two kittens that night. She also chose the birthing site to be a pile of charcoal! I am not the biggest fan of cats but this cat was extremely nice and by all accounts, extremely tough so I like her. Little Keza named her Daisy and it stuck. Since that morning, Daisy has moved inside the house with her kittens.

 Daisy soaking up love from Francois and Lewis

Daisy soaking up love from Francois and Lewis

 Not-yet-named kittens from Daisy

Not-yet-named kittens from Daisy

FULL CIRCLE STORIES

I think "Full Circle Stories" should become a theme. In recent years we have gotten to the point where we have new kids coming home and starting school and grown kids finishing school, getting jobs, and moving out on their own. In one day, I got to see Eric (11 years old) come back from his first day of school, and then go to a local shop where Gentil (22 years old) now works as he gets closer to getting a scholarship to attend a local university. One of our older boys, nicknamed Dodi, took an internship cooking at a restaurant. Upon his completion, they offered him full employment. He came home one morning before I left so he could teach me to make the best Capati I have ever tasted. These stories are becoming more and more each year and it is so awesome to witness.

 Dodi, Claude, and Yves pumping out fresh capati

Dodi, Claude, and Yves pumping out fresh capati

GRATITUDE AND MORE PICTURES

I love to talk about the heart of everything, but the truth is, these efforts require fundraising and money. The other truth is that my last ten trips to Rwanda wouldn't be as special without everyone's support. Almost all of the stories I shared with you above would not have been possible without so many of you reading this. I hope we can all share a part of this. It is a massive joy for me to share with everyone, our combined successes. I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store for us. Thank you for joining us. Enjoy more pictures and stories below, and never hesitate to contact me if you want more!

KOMERA (Be Strong)

Sully

 A collective photo for all of our collective gratitude

A collective photo for all of our collective gratitude

 Yves ultimately failing to score on me. I like this shot for the Run the 1 plug.

Yves ultimately failing to score on me. I like this shot for the Run the 1 plug.

 Sky, taking in the view before the metal sheets arrived

Sky, taking in the view before the metal sheets arrived

 Our kids using new computers donated to us by my sister Lindsay

Our kids using new computers donated to us by my sister Lindsay

 Janvier helping Manzi out with a typing program

Janvier helping Manzi out with a typing program

 Tabaro and his paintings

Tabaro and his paintings

 Action shot for Claude while Fiston strikes a pose

Action shot for Claude while Fiston strikes a pose

 Yves, Ishimwe, and Joel worked really hard this day. It was fun joining them and witnessing how they aren't so little anymore

Yves, Ishimwe, and Joel worked really hard this day. It was fun joining them and witnessing how they aren't so little anymore

 Manzi and myself goofing around per usual

Manzi and myself goofing around per usual

 Unloading the metal roofing sheets

Unloading the metal roofing sheets

 Spreading out the metal roofing sheets on the lawn

Spreading out the metal roofing sheets on the lawn

 Sky and the kids decided to give me a belated surprise birthday for my 30th which involved dousing me with water and throwing me in the air.

Sky and the kids decided to give me a belated surprise birthday for my 30th which involved dousing me with water and throwing me in the air.

 The world's largest lava lake at the top of Mt. Nyiragongo in the Congo

The world's largest lava lake at the top of Mt. Nyiragongo in the Congo

 An average day without running water

An average day without running water

 Evode and I sandwiching his middle son, Caleb. Ubaka wouldn't exist without Evode dedicating his whole life to the kids

Evode and I sandwiching his middle son, Caleb. Ubaka wouldn't exist without Evode dedicating his whole life to the kids

 Some celebratory Fanta after a job well done 

Some celebratory Fanta after a job well done 

Holidays and Trips!

 Joel showing his excitement at Christmas

Joel showing his excitement at Christmas

CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEARS

AT

UBAKA U RWANDA

First of all, Happy New Years to all! The kids at Ubaka U Rwanda had another lovely holiday. Everyone woke up to a new pair of shoes and lots of goodies. You would be amazed at how much a pair of shoes means to our kids and others less fortunate. We heard the older boys helped wrap the gifts late into the night just the way it should be, in my opinion. Everyone had a wonderful sit-down dinner together with meat, which is a rarity for most in Rwanda. We were told it was a simple but special day spent with everyone.

 Ishimwe has grown so much!

Ishimwe has grown so much!

 Muneza being cool

Muneza being cool

OFF TO RWANDA

As I write this, I listen to the glorious music of being on hold with Hotwire.com. I have had multiple flights cancelled, no doubt because of the incoming storm tomorrow. I am not sure how long it will take to get a flight but when I finally get on that plane, I will be thankful. I will be thankful that I will be on my way to visiting my family in Rwanda for the tenth time. I never would have imagined that in 2008 when I first visited, that I'd still be doing it a decade later. I blame Evode and all the kids for stealing my heart and I am happy for that.

 Current roof building

Current roof building

 Evode and older boys piling in to help with the build

Evode and older boys piling in to help with the build

GOALS

Some roof building has already begun as I write this. I told Evode to slow down, and make sure he saves some work for me! That is one goal I am looking forward to. I will have the pleasure of preparing all of the kids to head back to school again which is always inspiring and fun. We have our loyal sponsors and donors that I work hard to get quality and genuine updates for. I have accumulated three computers that have been donated for the kids. I can't wait to get them fired up and get learning. There are a lot of other little things too. One goal, I try to remind myself of though, is to remember to just "be" with everyone from the kids, to my friends, neighbors, strangers, and the culture. Sometimes, life gets stressful with the charity work, but the truth is, I love Rwanda in so many ways and I am so grateful to take it all in.

Want to sponsor one of our kids?

There is no better time! Check out our child sponsorship program on our website!

 Christmas family dinner

Christmas family dinner

MORE TO COME

The next blog will most likely be when I get back from Rwanda in early February. That blog is my favorite because I get to reminisce about the trip and share it with folks. I will have more info about the hopeful success of the goals stated above and so much more. The best part though, is getting to show everyone the fruits of our labor. It always goes further than you would think. This maybe be ten years for me but some of you have been on this ride for a long time with me and I can't thank you enough. See you soon!

Sully

 During the holidays craze, Little David was reunited with his Grandmother who was so happy to take him home. We couldn't be happier for him.

During the holidays craze, Little David was reunited with his Grandmother who was so happy to take him home. We couldn't be happier for him.

 Sky Reeves made a last minute decision and will be joining me in Rwanda this year!

Sky Reeves made a last minute decision and will be joining me in Rwanda this year!

Run the 1 Results and Stories From 2017

 The runners and supporters enjoying their first beverages after running at the Baywood Ale House

The runners and supporters enjoying their first beverages after running at the Baywood Ale House

7 YEARS STRONG

This was our 7th year of us running, walking, or biking along on Route 1. By all accounts, you would have thought we'd have slowed down by now. I 'd say were doing just fine. Anyone who knows me by now, knows that I have a bunch of thanking and feelings to express in this blog. Let me share with you the results in statistical fashion for those who don't have the time or patience to read over my humbled ramblings.

  • Runners - 27
  • Bikers - 9
  • Running Miles - 473
  • Biking Miles - 440
  • Miles (total) - 913
  • Money Raised from Run the 1 - 14k
  • Total Participants from Run the 1 and the Rafiki Runs - 211 (Estimated)
  • Total Miles from both events - 1488 miles (Estimated)
  • Average Miles per Participant - 7
  • Total Money raised from both events - $16,000 and counting!
  • Average amount of money raised per mile ran or biked - $10 (Rounded)
  • Good Times Had - Countless
 Impromptu rendition of Sweet Home Alabama

Impromptu rendition of Sweet Home Alabama

THE PALMER COMMUNITY

Most folks who have followed our efforts, probably know that every year, Laura Palmer brings together a wonderful group of people in Menlo Park for a pre-celebration for Run the 1. Over last few years, the kids have been growing up and participating more and more. This year, some of the kids performed Uptown Funk and You've Got a Friend In Me. We all got together at the end and sang Sweet Home Alabama too.

 Laura and her son, Noah.

Laura and her son, Noah.

We had a lot of new faces too. I was fortunate to have over 40 adults and kids listen as I explained the past, present, and future of our efforts. I was even more fortunate to have such a compassionate audience; an audience that had a lot of fantastic questions. Even the kids were asking thoughtful and intelligent queries. Each year gets better and more special. My only wish is that those kids could meet all of the great kids we take care of in Rwanda.

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RUN THE 1 - RAGGED POINT to THE ALE HOUSE in BAYWOOD - (50 miles)

If you are familiar with Run the 1, you may know our usual route. However, this year was different. Due to the fact that Big Sur is sadly still impassable,  there was only one day of running.  So Claire, Ben, and myself ran the entire 50 miles this year. I'm really slow so I started very early while Ben is very fast so he started later and caught up to me. Claire started when I did but finished a lot sooner because she is very fast too.

 Holmes gave me some support as he made his way to the start later than me. Tradition states we kick things off with a Tecate every year. At this point, I was 10 miles in but I think the Run the 1 Gods forgave us. 

Holmes gave me some support as he made his way to the start later than me. Tradition states we kick things off with a Tecate every year. At this point, I was 10 miles in but I think the Run the 1 Gods forgave us. 

 Here is a fuzzy photo of Claire just before the official start of the run. We aren't very good at taking photos.

Here is a fuzzy photo of Claire just before the official start of the run. We aren't very good at taking photos.

The other runners and bikers scattered themselves around all day as I was the caboose of the operation. Another difference from other years was the planning for supporting the runners which was less thorough than in years past. That, in itself, is a funny statement since we have never put too much thought into support in years' past either! However, something I have always loved about our event and the people who participate in it is how naturally everyone takes care of each other. I never went long before someone was checking up on me. And meanwhile people would be moving vehicles and checking up on others. Take a look at the impressive mileage of everyone this year.

RUNNERS

  1. Claire Mellein - 50 miles
  2. Ben Holmes - 50 miles
  3. Shaun Sullivan - 50 miles
  4. Brett Hildebrandt - 26 miles
  5. Devon Kelsey - 27 miles
  6. Katie - 25 miles
  7. Kona (Devon's dog) - 2 miles
  8. Victoria Torres - 5 miles
  9. Logan - 5 miles
  10. Michael Welker - 12 miles
  11. Jerry Green - 12 miles
  12. Jason Hall - 12 miles
  13. Kyle Nakazawa - 26 miles
  14. Ishmael Canas - 20 miles
  15. Gamm - 12 miles
  16. Jamie Sullivan - 5.5 miles
  17. Nicole Rogers - 5.5 miles
  18. Joshua Blacksmith and his infant daughter Sage in a stroller - 13 miles
  19. Taylor Castanon (Rafiki Run) - 8 miles
  20. Joey Rogers - 3 miles
  21. Courtney Carter - 3 miles
  22. Matt Madrigal - 10 miles
  23. Naomi Townsley - 10 miles 
  24. Kallen - 20 miles
  25. Cook - 16 miles
  26. Cooper Boneck - 12 miles
  27. Sam Kane - 20 miles

BIKERS

  1. Doc - 30 miles
  2. Goldstein - 30 miles
  3. Wiley - 75 miles
  4. Taylor - 75 miles
  5. Spencer Gordon - 100 miles
  6. Seth Larson - 15 miles
  7. Matthew Carter - 15 miles
  8. Heidi Esh - 50 miles
  9. Ben Agol - 50 miles

UNSUNG HEROES (PURE SUPPORT)

  1. Melissa Canas
  2. Cain Silvey
 Katie, Kona, and Devon joined me for a bit on the south side of Cambria.

Katie, Kona, and Devon joined me for a bit on the south side of Cambria.

THE BAYWOOD ALE HOUSE


This year was the first time we ended the run at a social gathering rather than a vista point. While we lacked some of the natural beauty of a sunset over the ocean, we gained hospitality, comfort, and community. The Ale House was stoked to have us and we were stoked to have a welcoming place to wind down after the day. The drinks are quality, the food is delicious and the folks there are genuine. For those who have followed us before and remember our nights in Fernwood in Big Sur; this felt like our new version of our Fernwood celebrations.

 My cousin Jamie and her rad crew from San Diego made it that day too

My cousin Jamie and her rad crew from San Diego made it that day too

THE AFTER PARTY - KREUZBERG - SAN LUIS OBISPO

The party was once again hosted by Kreuzberg cafe in downtown San Luis Obispo. We had a solid line up of music for the night. The biggest thing worth mentioning is that many of the members of The Glorified Gardeners had been in Mexico for a wedding all week. However, they made it a point to be back in time for the show. I was floored by their dedication.

I worked the door during the opener, greeting everyone and taking donations. It was a really nice experience. Our opener was a 15 year old girl named Izzy who was accompanied by her uncle, and half the members of the Glorified Gardeners. With little live experience with a band, you wouldn't have known because Izzy owned it. It was great to see her reaction to it all along with the reaction of her whole family in attendance. Samba Loca came bounding in soon after. We always appreciate them each year. They bring the party to another level. I was laughing watching  random people who had been in the cafe before the party started trying to study, giving up, and joining the party. The Glorified Gardeners, including me, finished off the night. I'm not exaggerating when I say it is one of my favorite moments of the year. I'd like to think people were not disappointed. I can say with certainty, I sure wasn't. And I was more grateful than ever for the gang coming back in time to join me. The party helped celebrate a great event, yet again, and brought in a lot of support for the cause. I couldn't have asked for more.

 Laura Palmer couldn't resist and she drove down with her son Noah to spend the night wish us. It had been a few years since she had seen the rest of the gang.

Laura Palmer couldn't resist and she drove down with her son Noah to spend the night wish us. It had been a few years since she had seen the rest of the gang.

AFTER THOUGHTS

I said it last year and I will say it again; I am so grateful that the event has occurred once again. I am now two years removed from the Central Coast of California, and I see others come and go too. And yet, I saw so many familiar faces and I even saw newer ones too. I was humbled to see newer members of the Arroyo Grande Hotshots, new smokejumpers, and folks from other fire modules I had never met before. And it is impossible to forget how many people came together for the Rafiki Runs as well just two weeks prior. Most theories would show us slowing down, yet we had our biggest community coming together ever over the past few weeks, and we raised a substantial amount of support for the kids in Rwanda too.

Every year, I have tried to list all of the amazing things that these events have brought to the kids in Rwanda, myself, and hopefully you too reading this. It is like a revolving door of awesomeness for so many in my opinion. And there were more than a few donations this year that were extremely personal too. All of these things are what allow me to run 50 miles. I don't enjoy running more than 5 miles and I rarely run much more than that at a time. I run 50 miles because I feel I need to earn such generosity in some way. I am able to accomplish the feat because I am constantly reminded and strengthened by the community this event has created, how lucky I feel for being a part of it, and all the ways it reminds me of the best parts of living and being alive.

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SO WHAT'S NEXT?

That is a great question. First, before I answer, I must thank everyone else that may not be named in this blog post that has made Run the 1 a reality. You know who you are. The next thing I must do is gather together with the rest of our amazing volunteers to determine our game plan for my trip to Rwanda in January. This will be my tenth trip returning to Rwanda and I am just as excited as ever to get back to the kids and get to work. Look out for a blog post in the new year that will outline my goals for the trip which essentially are now all of our goals. Also lookout for more photos from the run that still haven't drifted towards me yet, along with updated total mileage added in combining all the years of our efforts. I love to look back at those numbers to remind myself of the big picture of all we have done over seven years now but at the end of the day, one can look at any of the kids in any of our pictures and be assured that they helped secure their life and future for another year. And that's what its all about. The kids.

Endless gratitude as always, talk to you soon, happy holidays,

Sully

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2017's Rafiki Run Results

 Amuran taking the lead

Amuran taking the lead

RAFIKI RUNS OF 2017 - A SUCCESS!

Saturday, November 18th, was the farthest from a dull day you could get. From the early morning until the late afternoon, I was grateful to receive updates from wonderful people all over the world about their activities for Ubaka U Rwanda. Even while I was running myself, I saw pictures of my father and best friends in NH, the kids in Rwanda, and folks in Boston gearing up to start. This was the first time we organized the Rafiki Runs on their own day and it was well worth it. Check out some statistics below, and scroll down for some great pictures from the day!

STATS and NUMBERS

14 Locations - including San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Merrimack NH, Boston and Rwanda!

175 Runners (Best guess)

15 Dogs (Best guess)

575 Miles (175 people at an average of 5km each)

$2000 Total Raised and counting!

 Tabaro sharing our sentiments

Tabaro sharing our sentiments

STARTING BLOCKS

The Rafiki Runs of 2017 not only made an impact on our fundraising goal this year, but also proved to be the starting blocks for the future.

This year, they are helping us get that much closer to our goal of raising $20,000 during our year end events, including Run the 1. Run the 1 will be on December 2nd and will be a 50 mile run from Ragged Point to Los Osos, CA. Visit our Run the 1 page for more information.

 Don't forget Run the 1 on December 2nd!

Don't forget Run the 1 on December 2nd!

In years to come, we hope to make the Rafiki Runs our primary annual event each year. I think everyone that was involved learned a lot about how we can make this a bigger, global event; an event that will bring more and more people together and increase support and community in the future.

Personally, I can't remember a run I have enjoyed more than the one I took that morning of the Rafiki Run. I couldn't stop thinking about how many wonderful people were joining me somewhere out there all over the world. I hope people who ran and people reading this can relate as well.

A massive thanks to those pictured below who organized and participated in Rafiki Runs everywhere.

Please stay tuned for more on Run the 1 this year, the results of these efforts in Rwanda, and the bright future of the Rafiki Runs.

And as always, you can always donate through the website.

Thank you and KOMERA (Be Strong)

Sully

P.S. If you're still reading this, scroll down through the pictures for a funny story about one of our kids in Rwanda named Amuran, pictured at the top of this blog post :)

 Able Ebenezer Brewing Company's 2nd Annual Rafiki Run brought in the most people in Merrimack, NH.

Able Ebenezer Brewing Company's 2nd Annual Rafiki Run brought in the most people in Merrimack, NH.

 Pre Run Rwanda

Pre Run Rwanda

 The first Encinitas Rafiki Run

The first Encinitas Rafiki Run

 The first official SLO Rafiki Run included many Run the 1 runners but also some new faces too

The first official SLO Rafiki Run included many Run the 1 runners but also some new faces too

 Post Run Rwanda

Post Run Rwanda

 Some of our trustees  and supporters in the UK went out in the cold too

Some of our trustees  and supporters in the UK went out in the cold too

 Our original Rafiki Runner, Hanna Stevens, who has been running with us in Seattle for years now

Our original Rafiki Runner, Hanna Stevens, who has been running with us in Seattle for years now

 Doug and some of the the boys running in Rwanda. Doug is a trustee for the UK Chapter, lives in Rwanda, and a huge help.

Doug and some of the the boys running in Rwanda. Doug is a trustee for the UK Chapter, lives in Rwanda, and a huge help.

 Another old school Rafiki Runner, Kevin Chambers and Frankie in Wisconsin

Another old school Rafiki Runner, Kevin Chambers and Frankie in Wisconsin

 My sister and massive supporter, Lindsay Sullivan in San Francisco

My sister and massive supporter, Lindsay Sullivan in San Francisco

 Little Keza and Caleb went for a walk after all of their big brothers came back from their Rafiki Run in Rwanda

Little Keza and Caleb went for a walk after all of their big brothers came back from their Rafiki Run in Rwanda

 Big Ubaka U Rwanda supporter, Francisco and his girlfriend in Chico, CA

Big Ubaka U Rwanda supporter, Francisco and his girlfriend in Chico, CA

 The first Rafiki Run in Boston, MA

The first Rafiki Run in Boston, MA

AMURAN GOES ALL OUT

I couldn't stop laughing at the before and after photos I found of Amuran running this year. I'm proud of him. I am proud of him because he tried very hard, the pictures showed me how much he has grown, and he brought up his school marks this year which is quite a feat for him because he struggles learning. Great job Amuran!

 Amuran might have bit off more than he could chew at the beginning.

Amuran might have bit off more than he could chew at the beginning.

 Later on in the run... Komera Amuran!

Later on in the run... Komera Amuran!

 

 

 

 

Rafiki Run and Run the 1 2017

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Run the 1 and the Rafiki Runs are back!

Hello everybody! 

As has become the norm, we are gearing up for our big fundraising push at the end of the year via our two events: the Rafiki Run and Run the 1. 

What's not normal is the amount of folks and locations that are getting actively involved. We have many more friends putting in huge efforts on behalf of the kids in Rwanda.

Below are the dates, locations and info for those who don't wish to read the rest of this blog post. Keep in mind, some of the Rafiki Runs are still getting worked out so stay tuned as we continue planning.

Run the 1 2017

December 2nd, 2017

Ragged Point to Morro Rock

After Party - Kreuzberg, Downtown San Luis Obispo, CA

 

RAFIKI RUN 2017

November 18th, 2017

KIGALI, Rwanda

San Luis Obispo, CA

San Diego, CA

San Francisco, CA

Arcata, CA

Merrimack, NH

The United Kingdom

Boston, MA

Dallas, TX

Akron, OH

Arcata, CA

Fairbanks, AK

Janesville, WI

New London, CT

And more, there is still plenty of time to do your own too!

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About the RAFIKI RUN

Over the years, the Rafiki Run has evolved into a global, unified showing of support for our boys in Kigali, and a great prelude to Run the 1. When we realized so many of our supporters around the world that couldn't make Run the 1 were doing their own runs, we reached out to them to see if we could coordinate our efforts to happen all on the same day.

We were met with enthusiasm and generosity. The list above of Rafiki Runs includes countless folks taking time out of their days to bring people together to stand with us all as we show our dedication to our efforts in Rwanda. Some of the runs will be big events themselves, and others will be just a few great friends going for a jog on a Saturday. Regardless, every run helps and is really appreciated. All Rafiki Runs will be two weeks before Run the 1 this year on November 18th. We encourage anyone reading this who can't make it out with us to Run the 1 to consider finding a Rafiki Run or doing their own. We will help you all the way!

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2017's

RUN THE 1

Over the past couple years, I've seen a growing trend for Run the 1 to become a sort of reunion. I myself have left the Arroyo Grande Hotshots and now no longer work primarily in California. The same goes for many of the people who have been running with me since the beginning. However, I know that, like me, many of them do their best to make it for the event every year. It brings a great feeling of reunion to me and it continues to help Ubaka's cause which is still just as important as it was the first year we did it.

Sadly, it has been a tough year for the Big Sur community where most of the running takes place. Currently, the Highway 1 portion of Big Sur has two places that are still impassable. Therefore, this year's event will only be one day. However, I do like the idea of having everyone involved on the same leg of the journey, so I'm not complaining too much. We will all get our workout together, enjoy the beautiful sunset, and party like there is no tomorrow in San Luis Obispo that night. Those wonderful things and more will bring us together and we will do our best to keep our kids in school and a roof over their heads..literally.

 First day of school picture for Manzi and Francois

First day of school picture for Manzi and Francois

 

Currently, I write to you in Merrimack, NH which is my hometown. All of my charity fundraising has always been in California over the years. It feels really cool to be working hard here locally now too, thanks to the Able Ebenezer Brewing Company for giving me their blessing to try to make a big event at their brewery. In between that, it has been a joy to work along with other Rafiki Run event planners around the country and world. At the very least, these endeavors allow me to spend time with a lot of people showing off the best that's in them. You won't see those beautiful things in the news, but it doesn't always take much to be reminded how wonderful a person can be even in these trying times.

STAY TUNED...

Thanks for reading. Please don't hesitate to contact us for anything. There is a lot of exciting things to come so stay tuned!

 Many of the boarding school boys before they headed out earlier this year

Many of the boarding school boys before they headed out earlier this year

 

 

INTRODUCING: MANZI & FRANCOIS

 Manzi and Francois before they left for their first day of school

Manzi and Francois before they left for their first day of school

It's not always easy for us to bring in new kids. We do our best to raise enough money to cover our monthly running costs for the boys that are currently living at the center, and sometimes just doing that is the most we are able to do. We wish we could take in all of the street kids in Rwanda but we simply do not have the means. However, due to the recent successes we have had with some of our older boys, we are now able to take in a few kids in need off the street.

 Manzi and myself in the background, drawing pictures for sponsors.

Manzi and myself in the background, drawing pictures for sponsors.

MEET MANZI & FRANCOIS

At the end of 2016, we took in two new boys that now need sponsors. We helped them transition into a stable environment before we felt they were ready for sponsorship.

MANZI

 Manzi

Manzi

Manzi is about 9 years old. He has six siblings and most of them are on the street as well, though we weren't aware of that when we first brought him home. His father is extremely abusive, which is ultimately why he ran away. He spent about a year on the streets until Evode asked him if he'd like to come home and go to school. He would steal and beg for food. He wasn't very good at it and has the scars to prove it. Also, being so young, he was taken advantage of a lot by older street kids. Unlike some street kids, Manzi has never tried to run away once he came home. I, personally, had the privilege of watching him head off to school for the first time. He came home visibly proud and excited. He has incredible amounts of energy and wants constant attention. He is the cause of endless laughs too.

FRANCOIS

 

 Francois was very concentrated on his pictures

Francois was very concentrated on his pictures

We believe Francois is about ten years old but we really don't know and it's always tough to tell. Francois's father is a soldier and was never really able to take care of him because he suffered from PTSD and could barely take care of himself. Francois's mother died tragically. His father re-married and a new family was formed, but Francois's father still couldn't help any of them. The situation got bad enough that Francois took to the streets. Francois got addicted to drugs and other problems associated with street life. However, some older street kids told Evode he should take him in if possible because he was so small and young. For the first few months, Francois was very difficult to handle because he had trouble breaking his bad habits from the street. However, he has really begun to turn around. School definitely helped with this. He too, got to attend school for the first time in his life and we found out that he is very smart! The sweetest part about Francois is watching how much he loves Evode. If Evode goes out to do an errand or something, upon his return, Francois will drop what he is doing so he can wait on the porch to see him come in. Then he will run to Evode to discuss the day and help him carry something if need be. He never misses it.

HOW MANZI & FRANCOIS ALREADY IMPACTED ME

Manzi & Francois really reminded me why we do what we do. I have been visiting the center for eight years now. I have known some of the boys the whole time and others for less time. It had been quite a while since I got to witness first-hand kids coming in fresh off the street. Just giving food, access to school, and a roof over their heads doesn't fix everything. I was reminded during those first days with the new boys that it takes consistent love and attention to change their minds and hearts from the street. I got to witness the beginnings of that change while I was in Rwanda. And I can't wait to see just how far they will have come when I return next year.

 

 When Manzi and Francois got back from their first school day, all of the boys were just as excited to celebrate with them.

When Manzi and Francois got back from their first school day, all of the boys were just as excited to celebrate with them.

SPONSORING MANZI & FRANCOIS

When you sponsor one of our kids, we make the most of your generosity. We share updates about your sponsored child. We make it a big point to have all our boys hand-make either a letter, a card, a picture or something similar to send to their sponsors each year. This helps show the boys that someone they have never met cares about them. It is a bigger life lesson for them than one would realize. Having this relationship with their sponsor helps shape their perspective in amazing ways. For those so fortunate to visit the boys in the beautiful country of Rwanda, they further establish a truly lifelong bond. If this sounds like something you would like to help us with, please consider sponsoring Manzi or Francois.

To become a sponsor, please visit our sponsorship page.

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Life In Rwanda 2017

Hello everybody, I just got back from Rwanda and really excited to share with you stories and updates from there. This year was shorter than ever sadly so leaving was less fun than ever but I had a solid month there to accomplish what was needed, try to do something worthwhile for the kids, and just have a nice time with them. Allow me to line up my main points below so you know what to expect as you read along.

  • All of our kids are off to school safely and secure.
  • We have a few new faces to introduce.
  • I'll give an update on the status of our building project.
  • We had some visitors, including a puppy.
  • I'll share some great news about our growth.
 Goofing around with David and Jack

Goofing around with David and Jack

BACK TO SCHOOL 2017

At the end of 2016, we needed to help make sure the kids were able to attend their schools for the school year of 2017. Our biggest fundraiser is Run the 1. In December of 2016, over a hundred people around the world (including the kids) ran for our ever rising school fees. With so much generosity from so many, we achieved our main goal. I was happy and proud to put it into action during my trip. The pictures explain it better than me. The kids were so grateful to continue. Below, I share a story below of one day when we went to send our older kids off to boarding school. For more information on the annual fundraiser, check out www.runthe1.org .

 David and I captured on camera making our way through the taxi park

David and I captured on camera making our way through the taxi park

 Four of our kids and myself were somewhere in the congestion pictured above

Four of our kids and myself were somewhere in the congestion pictured above

One day, I accompanied David to the taxi park because he had a lot of school materials to carry. The taxi park is really big and always congested but its on a whole other level when its back-to-school time. A day later, my friend showed me a picture of myself at the park. It turns out, they wrote an article about the craziness and the photographer saw me in the middle of the congestion and used my photo in the article. Unlike most photos, this one wasn't staged or anything and caught Run the 1's efforts on camera in the best way I think. Check it out.

 Manzi and Francois had just got back from their first day of school. We all wanted the photo from the excitement. Even Shyaka who helps take care of them needed to be in the photo with them because he was proud.

Manzi and Francois had just got back from their first day of school. We all wanted the photo from the excitement. Even Shyaka who helps take care of them needed to be in the photo with them because he was proud.

 A Handful of our older boys heading off to boarding school

A Handful of our older boys heading off to boarding school

NEW FACES

It's not every trip I get to work with kids that have just come directly off the street. It is the best reminder of how important Ubaka U Rwanda is and why we do what we do. It is also extremely challenging and exhausting. When kids come off the street, they are not always prepared to live in a home with a family, go to school and listen to their teachers, get off drugs, resolve problems without fighting, and a multitude of other things. Our newest little ones are quite the handful but I can't tell you how much I laughed with them and enjoyed their challenges. Even in my relative short visit, I got to watch the changes that occur when a small boy gets to eat regularly, go to school for the first time,  and is loved

 Francois

Francois

HOME BUILDING UPDATES

As with last year, sadly, I did not get to build anything for our future purpose-built home. However, I did get to see first hand the building that occurred throughout 2016. We have two floors built and it looks fantastic. I had the pleasure of bringing all the kids to take photos and  it was a blast climbing all around with them. We have a long way to go still but we will get there one day.

 Most of the gang hanging out

Most of the gang hanging out

 Cool guys

Cool guys

 My best friend in Rwanda and the father figure for the boys is Evode. Here we are on the second floor dreaming of what's next.

My best friend in Rwanda and the father figure for the boys is Evode. Here we are on the second floor dreaming of what's next.

SPONSOR VISITS

My sister visited me again this year. She also brought her best friend Carrie. It is always special when a sponsor visits the kids. We had a great time and they helped out incredibly so. It was good timing for the newer kids because they need all the attention they can get. They also helped focus the younger kids to draw pictures for their sponsors.

 Carrie helping Manzi color with Amuran

Carrie helping Manzi color with Amuran

 Yves and my sister have known each other a long time now and have a great relationship. Yves also wears awesome hats right?!

Yves and my sister have known each other a long time now and have a great relationship. Yves also wears awesome hats right?!

LITTLE MAXIE

This wasn't world breaking news but we did rescue a little puppy one day as well. I went out with the kids to play football and we saw her by herself and not looking so good. I picked her up and brought her home. I called my friend who knows a shelter in Rwanda that helps street dogs. We kept Maxie for the night and the next day, my friend took her. Now Maxie is at the shelter waiting for her forever home. However, it was really special to teach the kids how to take care of her, and to watch how much some of the boys really cared for Maxie. It is rare for us to be able to afford meat for the kids but they had some goat that night. Joel and Fabrice kept their meat for Maxie which was extremely thoughtful. There was also a football match on later so all of the kids went inside to watch it. I went to check on a sleeping Maxie and found Keza sitting next to her and flapping away the flies around her.

 Amuran posing with Maxie after her bath

Amuran posing with Maxie after her bath

 Keza really took to Maxie

Keza really took to Maxie

FULL CIRCLE

I know we have come far from our beginnings but I didn't realize just how much until this trip. I first came to Ubaka U Rwanda in 2010. Little did I realize that seven years later I would still be with everyone there. Going over school reports and such, I also realized that every single kid I met in 2010 is now in secondary school! Even writing it now, I can't believe it. Even more so, we had some kids finish secondary school in 2016. So while little Manzi was prepping for his first day of school ever, my sister was helping Samuel to make his resume so he could go out and find a job and start life on his own. It felt surreal and awesome. Years ago, older street kids used to teach our now older kids how to dance, and do acrobats. Now, those same kids are mentoring a new batch of younger street kids just as had been done for them. To watch Yves who is now 15, take out a bunch of younger street kids to coach them playing football is a beautiful thing.

 Trying to keep Manzi focused on his coloring for more than five seconds. Amuran couldn't stop though.

Trying to keep Manzi focused on his coloring for more than five seconds. Amuran couldn't stop though.

 Patrick is ridiculously tall now

Patrick is ridiculously tall now

 This is Patrick and me in 2011 for reference

This is Patrick and me in 2011 for reference

As for me, I am just grateful to have a part in it. I tell these stories because none of it would be possible without you reading this. They have come so far, it's now hard for me to fathom. Run the 1 has come incredibly far too as have a lot of us in our personal lives. I am, as always, more and more humbled at the thought of how this has all come together and truly is coming full circle.

Please don't hesitate to contact me for more stories because they are endless and I love telling them to anyone who didn't get enough from this impossible blog. I don't know a better way to say thank you but thank you everyone as much as one can. I will be sending out more blogs this year so stay tuned!

KOMERA (Be Strong)

Sully

Sully@ubakaurwanda.org.uk

 The boys studying computers

The boys studying computers

 Rwanda is incredibly beautiful by the way

Rwanda is incredibly beautiful by the way

 Just hanging outside and eating lunch

Just hanging outside and eating lunch

 This was my attempt at a human pyramid with our outreach program. Two days a week we host local street kids that we aren't able to take in currently to still do our best to mentor them and at least give them a nice meal. We didn't get the picture of the finished product because... well we failed but luckily no one got hurt!

This was my attempt at a human pyramid with our outreach program. Two days a week we host local street kids that we aren't able to take in currently to still do our best to mentor them and at least give them a nice meal. We didn't get the picture of the finished product because... well we failed but luckily no one got hurt!

 Just because you are visiting, doesn't mean David is going to take it easy on you playing Igisoro

Just because you are visiting, doesn't mean David is going to take it easy on you playing Igisoro

Building

Hey everybody, Sully here, and I am back from Rwanda with a bittersweet feeling. Bitter for the leaving, and sweet for everything else pretty much. I'll try to tell you everything without writing a novel. For all of our supporters, I hope you enjoy the work done thus far over there because of our efforts.

Ubaka U Rwanda is name of our newly formed U.S. Non-profit for those who didn't know. The name is in Kinyarwanda and it means "To build Rwanda." The "building" refers to building Rwanda up by helping the street kids off the streets and contributing positively to themselves and their country. That mission started in 2001 with Evode, and hasn't stopped since. However, I'm really happy to be able to tell you we have also begun to physically build as well!

There is a lot of great things to talk about but we have worked so hard for so long and waited patiently to begin building that I am going to just start off with that. On January 28th, we officially broke ground on our land. The digging of the foundation of the wall was first. However we had thirty plus workers arrive on the second day and the jobs of digging, foundation building, and brickwork began happening simultaneously. Evode told me it would take two weeks for the main wall building to finish, and I guessed three. I was wrong.

Before I continue, some may be asking about why we began with a wall, and why a wall would be important. There are a few answers to that. The simplest answer is the fact that it is the law in Rwanda to have a wall around your land. That by itself is reason enough to get it started but we also need it for the security of our land and our materials we will use in the future building. A wall, though seemingly simple, shows the government and anyone walking by that we are serious about our land and the project we are beginning. The city of Kigali is growing fast every day, and if we don't abide by the laws and fit their future view of the city, we could find problems. Luckily, we built a very beautiful and big wall.

I was personally there everyday working alongside with the Rwandans. I think at first, they didn't think I would be around for long. Personally, I was afraid to get in their way and be more of a problem than a helper. We quickly became friends though and I knew how to stay busy and helpful, and they were no longer surprised of the foreigner working with them. They are extremely strong physically, and maybe more so mentally. I chose my hours depending on how I wanted to spend my time with the kids each day. Meanwhile, they never stopped during the week and Saturdays. From sunrise and past sunset they worked. I have a special place in my heart reserved for the men who dig the trenches. They were very kind, very strong, and their job is extremely monotonous and demanding. I can say I have left my blood, sweat, and tears on the land and I can thank the diggers for helping out with the blood part of that statement. My hands ripped up quite well.

I have more good news about building. Not only did we finish the wall, but we also began and finished our annex. The annex is a separate building next to the proposed house. It has six rooms. The biggest room will serve as the dining hall/film room/ meeting room/etc. The kitchen is next to it, and a bathroom as well. The other three rooms will be TBA for now. I can't tell you how happy I was to continue building and get more done than just the wall.

The reason this was possible (besides you reading this) is because of Evode. For those reading who do not know who Evode is; the simple explanation is Evode is the one who started Ubaka U Rwanda, brings the kids home and helps rehabilitate and reintegrate them again. If that's not possible, he takes them in as his own. So anyways, Evode had told us that he would cut down on our costs by following everything and he didn't lie. Evode was extremely busy following the building, buying the bricks, stones, cement and coordinating the deliveries, paying the workers, coordinating water connection and future electricity connections, purchasing the steel rebar, roofing slabs, wood and so many other things. Evode did all of that and more and because of that, was able to stretch the money enough to finish the annex. He proved himself clever as well like when he decided to use the back portion of the outside wall to serve as one wall for the annex as well. The annex i long and rectangular. It reaches the width of the land, using the back wall and the side walls already made so that we drastically cut down the cost of the annex. The pictures will show this better.

Needless to say, both of us were really energized and tired at the same time. The progression of my jobs kept me busy. I started out digging. I then began moving stones. When I was moving by myself, I would grab the biggest one i could and rest it on my shoulders and back as I walked to where it was needed. Sometimes I would team up with someone and we would carry a makeshift stretcher. We would have to load the big stone on it and walk it over to where it was needed. Once the foundation was officially done, then it was all bricks for me. I would carry 10 stacked in front of me, or throw as many as i could in an old cement bag and carry it over my back like Santa Claus would I assume. Now and again, I would mix cement or move the dirt piles closer to where they were most needed, or dig out dirt from the rooms in the annex to make the floors ready for cement one day. As my time wound down in Rwanda, so did the building money. We had 15 workers usually and no bricks or stones to move. It was then I took on the job of filling in the grooves between bricks with cement in a way that would protect them and make them look nice. the only other job was to do the serious cement work being done and I didn't want to screw things up. So with a bent, dull knife and a flat rock to hold a handful of cement on, the older women tasked with this job taught me to how to do it. It was a dauntingly slow task but I found it really peaceful actually. Those elderly ladies sung beautifully while we did it too. When the sun set, I was in pure heaven.

Fellow supporters and friends Ali and Doc came to visit me while I was in Rwanda. Among many things they did, they both put in a day on the land. Both of them got the simultaneous boring/exciting feeling that comes with moving brick after brick for hours but to build a dream home for street kids in Rwanda. The workers were amazed to see a foreign girl like Ali covered in dust from the bricks and a foreign older dude like Doc lifting huge stones to help them. When it was time for me to leave Rwanda, I had gotten very close with all of the workers. The only thing I could do to show my appreciation was to buy a round of drinks for us. As the sun set, we all toasted to us. We joked and laughed a bit. I gave them my thanks as they sent some my way too. Then I walked around the land like I did most of the time at the end of the day. I would sit around at different views, run my hands over the wall, climb the roof of the annex, and look out over the hills surrounding us. I would think about where we came from, where we are, and where were going. I'd think about how grateful I am and about all of the things we may be bale to do in the future. And dare I say I felt a little proud too. I felt proud that we were contributing something lasting to the beautiful country of Rwanda and it's youth.