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.