New Home, Same Home 2019

Most of our new comers in their school uniforms sending everyone their gratitude.

Most of our new comers in their school uniforms sending everyone their gratitude.

In Rwanda in 2019

Well I just got back from Rwanda this week. For those who have followed my journeys though the years, you will realize it is mighty early for me to be back in the states. This is true and unfortunate. My life schedule does not allow me the same freedom I used to have that allowed me to stay in Rwanda for two months plus. However I have chosen to focus on how grateful I am that I can still go after 11 years! This trip was a little over three weeks and though short, it was still worth every second and has filled me with memories for the rest of my life.

Amurand and Gabriel are brothers. They are our middle children as they are almost finished Primary School

Amurand and Gabriel are brothers. They are our middle children as they are almost finished Primary School

School

To keep things simple, let us start with the biggest story from our efforts of 2018’s biggest fundraiser AKA school fees. As you know, we were successful and raised enough money to send our kids back to school for 2019. School started earlier than ever this year in early January so I arrived with things in full swing at the house. I will explain further as we continue, but we had a lot of changes for kids living at the home so we saw a lot of fresh new faces going to school for the first time ever. That feeling never gets old.

Arguably our brightest student is Jack. Here he is before he took off to his final year of Secondary School.

Arguably our brightest student is Jack. Here he is before he took off to his final year of Secondary School.

Old Faces, New Faces

There has been a slow change occurring at home now for years. This year felt like one of extremes. It felt like most of our older kids/young men, that we have had for a long time now, had either moved out and on, or were in their final year of school. On the other side, we had two kids in their later years of primary school. Beyond that, we had ten new kids that were all very small and young. the majority of them starting school for the first time ever. We also have more than just a few young men that have begun their lives on their own now. A couple of years ago, it happened for the first time and that was amazing. Now we have more than a few who are on their own now, and doing really well. Take a peak at some of the pictures for more specific stories.

I love this picture because it shows Big Yves and new Little Yves. Big Yves probably never expected to be called “Big” Yves as he is 18 and still not so big. But we took in the eight year old Yves recently. It has been a treat to watch Big Yves mentoring and taking care of his new, younger brothers.

I love this picture because it shows Big Yves and new Little Yves. Big Yves probably never expected to be called “Big” Yves as he is 18 and still not so big. But we took in the eight year old Yves recently. It has been a treat to watch Big Yves mentoring and taking care of his new, younger brothers.

The Land, The Home, and Family

So the family is all moved in, and I was able to enjoy it, and document it as well for all of our supporters. I should start by telling everyone that the home is surely not finished completely at all. Basically, later in 2018, Evode made the decision to move everyone into the home so we could stop to pay rent finally. In order to make this possible, a donation was made to properly put in windows and doors to seal the house. A handful of rooms were than completed on the 2nd floor of the house. If you remember correctly, there is a side structure that was built years ago along with the wall. Some of those rooms were finished as well. Currently, Evode and Becky, and their children live on the 2nd floor of the house. All of the kids live in the side structure. There are a couple of rooms for everyone to sleep and hang out. There is also a kitchen and a bathroom for them. While the first floor isn’t finished, we did get one room set up as a suitable study room. The whole house is being utilized but only the 2nd floor is livable currently. Meanwhile, we have the land to raise chickens and rabbits, have a small garden, and space for the kids to play too. The biggest thing to take away from it, is that, if ever something really bad were to occur and we were low on funds for the kids, we at least know that we have a place for everyone to stay now. There is no fear we will be pushed out by a landlord or someone. That is a feeling that Ubaka U Rwanda has never known.

This was our attempt at a family photo. There are more kids we help that had taken off to boarding school when this photo was taken. I enjoy the silliness of it.

This was our attempt at a family photo. There are more kids we help that had taken off to boarding school when this photo was taken. I enjoy the silliness of it.

Evode Usabyamahoro

I wanted to address the current status for Evode. For those who do not know Evode, he is the heart and soul of Ubaka U Rwanda. He is the Rwandan man who began mentoring street children as far back as 2002. It wasn’t until he met his now wife, Becky, that the charity was established and a home was found for him and kids to live together. That was in 2008.

Earlier in 2018, Evode became very ill. For months, they could not figure out what was wrong with him. He became so ill, it was feared he may die. He was eventually properly diagnosed with tuberculosis. Evode, who was extremely strong with big muscles, found himself weighing less than 50 kgs at one point and bedridden. Today, I am happy to say that him and I went to the doctors last week and he was slowly gaining his weight back. He is on medications that will take many more months to help him completely but are getting him closer everyday. I can tell you that it was extremely scary for me, but even more so for Becky and all of the kids. Evode and I took many walks at night as he worked to slowly gain his strength back. I was sad that it was the best we could do but those walks were very special to me and were really quality times. Evode is one of my best friends in this world and one of my personal role models. I am so happy he is going to be o.k.

I saw Evode taking off down the driveway with Daniel and knew I had to take a photo. I guess I wasn’t the only one. I saw Becky soon after and she was in tears because she was so happy to see Evode on his feet again and able to be with the kids again.

I saw Evode taking off down the driveway with Daniel and knew I had to take a photo. I guess I wasn’t the only one. I saw Becky soon after and she was in tears because she was so happy to see Evode on his feet again and able to be with the kids again.

Random Adventures

Beyond the charity, I had some lovely misadventures in Rwanda as per usual. I am a huge fan of the some of the older traditional music from Rwanda. My favorite artist is called Sebanani and his band Impara Orchestra. Sadly, Sebanani was murdered in the genocide in 1994. I asked some of the older boys one day if any of the other members were still alive. Alphonse knew of one named Makanyaga. Supposedly he lived not too far away in Kigali. So Alphonse and I went on a journey to find him. It took us a few different places and we met a bunch of people in the process. Eventually, we met his granddaughter who led us to his house. Upon arriving, I could hear some instruments. It just worked out that we arrived as him and his band were playing! Talk about timing! They let us in and gave us a seat. I listened for over two hours. It was pure bliss. It isn’t easy to find full instrumentation in Rwanda but they had it all going on including horns. Afterwards, I met everyone and they accepted me to come back. I went back soon after and I played Rwandan songs I knew with them and we jammed for hours. I continued to go back until I left Rwanda. All the while, I learned new songs and heard many stories. Beyond the kids, it was another reminder of the special place Rwanda holds in my heart. And if anyone is looking for an example of their style of music, search “Rubanda” by Makanyaga on Youtube. Though, if you do, choose the older one. There was remix made in the 2000’s and the video is cute but it’ll never be as good as the original!

With all of the little kids, it isn’t easy for just one of them to get the space to explore the guitar and try it out. I noticed Christian was extremely into old time Rwanda music. He also was always by my side anytime I was playing guitar. I took this photo when it was raining one afternoon and the kids were napping.

With all of the little kids, it isn’t easy for just one of them to get the space to explore the guitar and try it out. I noticed Christian was extremely into old time Rwanda music. He also was always by my side anytime I was playing guitar. I took this photo when it was raining one afternoon and the kids were napping.

Up Ahead

So what is up next for this year? Well for me personally, now I will take on the task of writing specific letters detailing each of our kids. I will mail those letters to our different sponsors respectively. We are definitely in need of some new sponsors to go along with our new kids. Please don’t hesitate to talk to me about it. Our sponsors are our unsung heroes of the charity.

I also will be doing my best to find ways to start saving for our school fees for 2020. Currently, we don’t have them but I am hopeful we can obtain them consistently throughout 2019.

Of course, with the help of our sponsors, we will need to keep our monthly running costs at bay so we can continue our daily work.

Down the road, we will need to try to finish the home completely. I also hope to find a way to fund an income generating project we can run on our land. However, these dreams are only considered so long as the other concerns above are covered.

This will be Little Yves’s photo on his sponsor card we will send to his eventual sponsor

This will be Little Yves’s photo on his sponsor card we will send to his eventual sponsor

See You Laters

It is weird how difficult it is to say goodbye from Rwanda. If I stay for a longer time, I have more trouble saying goodbye because the bonds have become that much stronger. But with a shorter trip it hurts just as much too because it didn’t feel like it was enough. I guess it never really feels like enough anyways though. All I know is that it had been awhile since any of the kids had cried upon my leaving. But I guess it has been awhile since we have had a lot of new kids. All the others are used to my coming back and forth now. We don’t like it but we get it. Well, sadly but sweetly, there were some tears shed this year from our littlest ones. Surely, I don’t want them to cry but it did mean a lot too. With such a short trip, there was a small part of me that was almost cautious not to get too close as it would be painful for me too. But, it’s impossible not to bond with such amazing kids in need, and minus the tears, I’m happy we got so close.

So my resolve is as strong as ever. There is new a breed, a new generation if you will, that is forming at Ubaka U Rwanda. All of our kids over the years are out on their own or almost there. At home, they are now leading, teaching, and mentoring our new young little guys. And these new kids are mirroring a lot of the best and worst of those older kids when we first got them almost ten years ago if not longer. Of course, nothing ceases to amaze as every kid is his own as well. All I know is I am grateful to have met them, all of them. And I am grateful for the opportunity to help see them through.

Please enjoy the pictures and the anecdotes along with them to give more personal insight to these stories. And thank you for joining me in this crazy ride. And with your help, you have joined them as well in their rides. Which makes all of us pretty darn lucky.

KOMERA

(Be Strong)

Sully

I always like to use the Kinyarwanda phrase “komera.” It means “Be strong.” It is used for anything and always as a way to try to give strength to the receiver. I specifically had the kids do this on the chalkboard so a friend of mine who is undergoing intense chemotherapy would feel the love from Rwanda.

I always like to use the Kinyarwanda phrase “komera.” It means “Be strong.” It is used for anything and always as a way to try to give strength to the receiver. I specifically had the kids do this on the chalkboard so a friend of mine who is undergoing intense chemotherapy would feel the love from Rwanda.

Here is Little Fiston working really hard and efficiently!

Here is Little Fiston working really hard and efficiently!

Our friend was installing lights for the boys study room. I enjoyed watching Lewis jump into the effort and get a lesson.

Our friend was installing lights for the boys study room. I enjoyed watching Lewis jump into the effort and get a lesson.

Check out the boys’ new beds. This is their main bedroom. It is in the side structure we have had a for a few years now. Eventually, we will have them move in to the first floor of the house when we can finish it.

Check out the boys’ new beds. This is their main bedroom. It is in the side structure we have had a for a few years now. Eventually, we will have them move in to the first floor of the house when we can finish it.

It is fun to go run errands and come home to these goons greeting you before you enter

It is fun to go run errands and come home to these goons greeting you before you enter

David shows off the boys’ kitchen in use. That stove gets super hot and uses a lot less charcoal too.

David shows off the boys’ kitchen in use. That stove gets super hot and uses a lot less charcoal too.

We had Elisha for many years. However, now older, his mom is capable of keeping him with her during his holidays from school. I miss our time but this is the way it should be. We still support his school fees. I found him like this waiting for a bus when I was doing the same with another one of our kids.

We had Elisha for many years. However, now older, his mom is capable of keeping him with her during his holidays from school. I miss our time but this is the way it should be. We still support his school fees. I found him like this waiting for a bus when I was doing the same with another one of our kids.

It was a Monday routine for Evode and I to go to get his weekly medicine for his Tuberculosis. Afterwards we would stop by a local restaurant that our kid Francois now has a job at. He will be saving his money for the next handful of months until he is able to find a place he can afford and start his life.

It was a Monday routine for Evode and I to go to get his weekly medicine for his Tuberculosis. Afterwards we would stop by a local restaurant that our kid Francois now has a job at. He will be saving his money for the next handful of months until he is able to find a place he can afford and start his life.

The study room being fully utilized

The study room being fully utilized

I was walking outside. Peering into the study room, I could see Big Yves putting on a lesson for the younger kids. I loved it.

I was walking outside. Peering into the study room, I could see Big Yves putting on a lesson for the younger kids. I loved it.

We still have one cat named Hero. Hero is a pretty awesome cat and that is coming from a dog guy. I love when he gets to cuddling with some of the kids because that type of culture takes time to cultivate in Rwanda unfortunately.

We still have one cat named Hero. Hero is a pretty awesome cat and that is coming from a dog guy. I love when he gets to cuddling with some of the kids because that type of culture takes time to cultivate in Rwanda unfortunately.

I like this picture because it shows how the first floor of the house is getting utilized in many ways but also shows how it is not finished yet. You can see Muneza lounging on a chair, Mugisha getting his hair cut, and Lewis learning how to install lights.

I like this picture because it shows how the first floor of the house is getting utilized in many ways but also shows how it is not finished yet. You can see Muneza lounging on a chair, Mugisha getting his hair cut, and Lewis learning how to install lights.

The little ones learning a traditional game called Igisoro. It has similarities to Mancala. They picked it up pretty quick.

The little ones learning a traditional game called Igisoro. It has similarities to Mancala. They picked it up pretty quick.

Here is Christian sending us off with a cheeky wink.

Here is Christian sending us off with a cheeky wink.