Tag Archives: Rwanda

You Are Precious

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go back to Rwanda for a brief visit. While I was there, I met up briefly with Hilliary Anderson–who I profiled about a year ago–of Hope for Life Ministry (HFLM), to catch up and get an update on HFLM. A couple months ago, a few of the boys who live at the HFLM where given the opportunity to produce and record some original songs. Please take a moment to click on the photo below to view one of their music videos. It’s one of the most touching and inspirational songs I have heard in a long time. Thank-you Hilliary and the rest of the HFLM staff for your self-sacrifice and for your willingness to give these former street boys a better life.

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Inzozi Nziza

Sweet Dreams follows a remarkable group of Rwandan women as they emerge from the devastation of the genocide to create a new future for themselves.   “Because of our history, people know how to fight against, but not for,” Kiki says. “We want to change that equation.”  Kiki decided to start Ingoma Nshya, Rwanda’s first and only women’s drumming troupe, open to women from both sides of the conflict. There was only one requirement: to leave the categories of the past at the gate.  This uplifting film follows the women as they start a business named Inzozi Nziza (which means Sweet Dreams).

5th Annual International Documentary Film Series
A benefit for the International Rescue Committee in San Diego on Monday, April 22nd at 7pm.

Click here for more information regarding tickets and location.

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Ivuka Arts

I randomly ran into this little art studio the other day called Ivuka Arts Kigali. As I toured the studio looking at all of the amazing paintings on display, I also learned that Ivuka artists partner with some of the nearby orphanages in an attempt to mentor and foster young artists.

In addition, Ivuka artists also teach young women in the community the art of sewing and jewelry making. Since it was founded in 2007, Ivuka Arts has become some of the most sought after arts destinations for Rwandans and expats alike–and there is definitely a reason for this–the art is absolutely beautiful!

After my tour of the studio, I bought an amazingly unique necklace made by one of the young women being trained at the studio. I’ve worn it a number of times and I always make sure to let people know when I’ve received compliments exactly who made it and where they can get one of their own. If you are looking for some unique jewelry or art pieces, be sure to check out the Ivuka Arts website.

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Learning to Love

As I stepped off my moto and looked around, I was struck by the scenery that surrounded me. I saw trash littering the streets and huge potholes impeding the flow of traffic, hugely contradicting the clean and manicured city I thought I knew. “Is this really still Kigali?”

Confused and dazed, I began winding my way through this unexpected scene, down into the valley below the center of Kigali until I came across a little blue gate. Above the gate there was a sign that read: “Missionaries of Charity…Home of Hope, Kigali.” Pausing to take a picture of the gate, I walked through and found myself in a quiet, tidy little courtyard. After a few moments, I was greeted by a nun who led me into a long hallway lined with doors.

The first door yielded a room lined with cribs. As I gazed around the room, I was greeted by the profiles of about twenty silent infants who gazed back up at me in solemn regard. Closing the door behind us, the nun led me into the next room which was brimming with noisy toddlers running around laughing with mirth. Pausing briefly to pat a few heads and say a few words, we passed through an outer door and greeted some school-aged girls before walking down a flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, the nun opened another door which yielded a similiar sight to what the first door had yielded–except this time with twin-sized beds. I soon learned that Home of Hope also houses impoverished adults, most of which suffer from some mental disability or another.

After a brief visit with these men and women, I found myself being led back up the stairs towards that strikingly blue gate. Unwilling to leave I was surprised to hear my voice ask, “May I stay and visit with the children for a bit?” Nodding in assent, the nun led me back into that noisy, toddler-filled room, where I was handed a bowl and told to begin feeding a blind, mentally handicapped boy his lunch. My heart broke as I fed this boy his lunch and realized that it was very unlikely that he would ever leave the orphanage, very unlikely that he would ever have a family to call his own. Despite the love and the tenderness that the nuns and the Rwandan workers have for him, I realized that he most likely doesn’t know what it means to loved or what it means to “belong.”

As I sat there feeding him, feeling little hands touching my arms and my legs, I began to understand the importance of “touch” and how it relates to love. It was a quest for love that drove those toddlers to reach out and touch me–and all it took was a touch on the arm in return and a smile to cause them scamper off smiling with glee. I realized that even though this little boy may never leave this orphanage or know what it means to belong, there was one powerful thing I could give him just by making an effort to touch him…and that powerful thing was Love.

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The ABC’s of Bagels and Donuts

Bagels and Donuts are two of my most favorite American foods–and I just had the opportunity to eat both of them. In case you missed it, I’ve been living in Kigali, Rwanda for the past couple of months. Although I wouldn’t necessarily describe Kigali as “third-world” (it’s actually a great place to live and relatively developed), it is lacking in these two “American necessities” I crave on a daily basis–or at least so I thought.

When I first stepped into the African Bagel Company (ABC) last Saturday, I was greeted with quite a surprising view–more Americans per square foot than there are Americans per square foot in the entire United States. After getting over my shock, I sat down to enjoy an AMAZING donut and an equally AMAZING bagel sandwich. [They also had frozen pizzas, cinnamon rolls, salsa, hummus and a variety of other amazing things, but I was stuffed beyond return after eating that bagel sandwich.]

Later on I discovered a fact that made that donut and bagel sandwich I ate seem even more amazing; ABC functions for the sole purpose of helping impoverished women. 100% of ABC’s profits (minus operating costs of course) go directly to the women who make and serve all the food that ABC provides. How awesome is that?

In addition to having my craving satisfied, it feels great to know that I helped make a difference in the lives of impoverished women. Even though most (if not all) of you aren’t anywhere near Kigali, you can always help make a difference in the lives of the impoverished by just being more intentional about what you buy at the grocery store. Check out our new “Fair Trade” page under our Index to learn more about how you can help.

P.S. If you ever make it to Kigali…you should definitely visit ABC. Just look at that sandwich…doesn’t it look great?!?!

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Kigali Genocide Memorial

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to visit Kigali’s Genocide Memorial. It took me about two hours to go through the entire memorial which is comprised of a mixture of news clippings, old family photos of some of the victims, video interviews of survivors, clothing, bones, and mass graves. I think the thing that struck me the most was the sight of the mass graves. They were literally just huge slabs of cement…and there were so many of them. Because the slabs were unmarked, I don’t know how many bodies were buried under each single slab, but since more then a million died….I can only imagine. “Never Again.”

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Donate $10 and Help Build a Home!

Here’s a quick and easy way for you to do something meaningful today. We have some friends who are in the process of transitioning from teaching at a school located in Kigali, Rwanda to join the leadership of an organization called “City of Hope.” City of Hope is located in a small town outside of Kigali, and its goal is to equip, empower, and educate Rwandan communities. They have already built a community center and started a school sponsorship program among other things, and they also have plans to build a university and start a local church. In order for this family to join City of Hope however, they need to finish building their house! Currently, they need 120 pieces of tin to finish their roof and 1 sheet of tin only costs a grand total of $10! So visit this link, and select “City of Joy–Nash” from the drop-down menu, and…..

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Azizi Life

Tucked into a number of communities outside of Kigali, Rwanda, a little organization called Azizi Life (Azizi) works to promote economic security, spiritual growth and  community development. Azizi’s main purpose is “to participate in local initiatives for the development of Rwandan communities working towards physical and spiritual wholeness for all.” Azizi accomplishes this purpose by partnering with local artisans and providing them with any necessary training to improve their craft and a platform upon which they can sell their finished creations. On the Azizi website, anyone interested in supporting the artisans can buy anything from handwoven baskets and bowls, to handmade jewelry and purpose. Click here to visit the online store.

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