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.
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 .
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)