Saturday, December 10, 2011

Louisa & Snow

Louisa, the preschool teacher visiting from Rwanda, arrived in State College in November to see her first snow ever. Look at her smile and absolute delight with this new experience.

Her visit for 3 days in State College held many other firsts.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Louisa in US

Louisa will be in the US visiting schools to learn about creative ways to teach and other methodology. She will be observing, participating in classroom activities and speaking to groups.

Here are some of the activities planned for Louisa's schedule in State College:

Thursday I will pick Louisa up in Bethlehem, PA. and we will try to be back in time for the lighting of the Christmas Tree downtown.

Friday 8:30-12:00 we will tour and attend preschool classes at the new PSU Child Development Center. Observation will be key as well as time to interact with the children.

1:45-2:45 we will visit the new Discovery Space of Central PA to learn about science exhibits and activities for preschoolers.

Saturday morning Louisa will join my running/walking group followed by our usual breakfast at the Waffle Shop. We hope for sunny weather.

11-12:00 we will participate in Schlow Library's "Saturday Stories Alive" featuring a story and crafts for young children.

2-3:00 Millbrook Marsh Nature Center has a Family Fun Hike so we will again put on our walking shoes.

Later a preschool teacher friend will share her love of teaching the arts. We will also discuss another teacher's amazing project that creates a specific activity a month to build a book about a child's year in school. It is then presented to the child at year end.

Perhaps at night we will fit in a PSU women's volleyball game or a taste of music with friends.

Sunday Louisa will be worshipping at St. Paul's United Methodist Church on College Ave. She will be available for questions after the 9:15 service during coffee hour as well as after the 11:45 service. Louisa will participate in the Children's Message at the 11:45 service. Please join us for worship and spending time meeting Louisa.

Thank you for helping to bring Louisa back to the US to see all we are so fortunate to have to educate our children.

The photos are of Louisa talking with the parents and guardians of the children at the closing of the school term. Others show her in the classroom with the kids at Cyakabiri Preschool. She is so passionate about teaching and loves these children she has in her care each day!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hope Made Real Newsletter

Please go to the Hope Made Real website to see their October Newsletter. Go to the archives on the left of their Home page and click on it. Next go to October 2011.

One of their future goals is discussed on the second page of October under Cyakabiri School......A second preschool classroom will be built. They have requests from many parents and need space for at least 40 more children so they can begin school.

Under the photo of the turtle is a story of The Elephant and the Turtle, like our Tortoise and the Hare. Arlene sees Urukundo that way, setting their goals and staying the course. Slowly by slowly.

These boys in the photo are like so many others at the preschool, the fortunate ones. Since school is out until January some of the girls and I as well as the teachers moved furniture so the school can be painted and maintenance done.

The last photo is of a potential teacher finishing his studies. He is standing where the 2nd preschool classroom will be built. Please let me know if you have any questions about this project. And thank you for being a part of Urukundo!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Louisa in the US

Louisa, one of the preschool teachers that you helped bring to the US has arrived with us. Louisa will be here for 4 weeks learning about teaching methods and observations in early childhood education. But that is only part of what she will experience.

This is the first time she is leaving her country and so it is the first time on a plane. With wide eyes she watched everything around her. The most fun was helping her get on and off the escalators at the airport. Yes the first time on them. She was still laughing many minutes later recalling the experience.

Sitting in her seat she seemed relaxed but I know there were a bit of butterflies when it took off and when there was turbulence. But she took it all in stride.

A highlight was seeing the sunrise out her side of the plane as we arrived in DC. It was the most amazing show of color. What a grand welcome it was after 19 hrs of flying from Kigali, Rwanda through Uganda, Ethiopia, Rome and finally landing in DC. Louisa wanted to do it all so we had her maneuver a luggage cart.

She will be arriving in State College Thursday Nov 17 and will be here until I drive her to Williamsport on Monday Nov 21st. Many activities are planned. She will be at St. Paul's Methodist Church on Sunday Nov 20th but also going to see PSU's new Child Development Center. Of course she will go to the creamery, join me and my running/walking group Saturday morning for exercise and breakfast at the Waffle Shop, visit a local preschool, go to hear music, see the Discovery Space of central Pennsylvania and shop at Wegman's. These are just a few and Iam sure there will be more things she'll an to fit in.

Please pray for Louisa to sleep well and be refreshed each day, get used to the cold crisp air, learn from her experiences in education and most of all share special moments with all that she meets and know they hold her dear in their hearts.

Urukundo Learning Center

I continually realize that the Urukundo Foundation is so much more than the Urukundo Home for Children. Education is key to the future of Rwanda and Mama Arlene is stepping up to offer many opportunities. You learned about the Cyakabiri Preschool but they also offer English classes there.

In the evenings 2 people teach English to adults. Johnny and Vincent, who works with Arlene. They provide advanced English classes for a small fee if they can pay. Eric teaches beginning English to adults in the evenings.

There is such a need to continue to teach children during their almost 3 month holiday. So again Urukundo informed the community that there would be English classes for primary (elementary) aged kids. The families pay as they can. Eric also teaches this class. Jobs are provided and kids are learning! And Arlene provides the place.

Photos are of Eric teaching. One young girl is thrilled to be there and saying hello to me. Luki is still deciding whether to go. part of the building is being used as an area for basic medical care. They plan to add dental care where the classroom is. Until the dental chair and other needs are received it will be a classroom. No space goes unused.

Reaching out and being a presence in the Muhunga District is such a gift to this community.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I will be leaving tomorrow at 11:45am but not without some sadness. I will
miss the beauty of fertile soil and endless mountains, vibrant colors in the midst of such poverty, tired lined and aged faces with faith that God will provide and loving children that have breathed such life into my weeks here.

Yes an experience I will never forget! But it is a time of joy knowing I will be back next year. At the end of devotions tonight they prayed for me and sang a song to send me off.

Enjoy the beauty of this land as I have loved it! Thank you for being prayer partners with me and for following my blog the past two weeks. I will continue to write for a few more days as there is still so much to share. I hope you will follow along. Praises for every blessed day we have, to experience all God lovingly wants us to be.

Family Sponsorship

Mama Arlene has been working with local leaders who come to her with requests for families in extreme need.

Three years ago one of those requests was for a family with a teen as head of household because the parents died from HIV aids. These are HIV aids affected children.

One family, of 5 brothers, has been on their own for 3 years, since the oldest was 14 years old. John Peter is now 17 and cares for his brothers, John Paul 16, Claver 13, Janvier 10 and Felix 8.

A representative of the local village receives the money from Urukundo and purchases what the family needs including school sponsorships. They are fortunate to even have a house, but there is little else for comfort.

Felicite from Urukundo Home, a loving Christian woman working with Arlene, follows up with the family to make sure other needs are met such as clothing and simply connecting with them. This is an important effort to keep siblings together in the same household.

So all who have supported ME on this mission will be supporting this family of boys for the year. Of the many donations I received, $525 will support THEM for the year.

Please pray for this family of boys. Omitted from the photo are the two youngest boys that were out. Thank you for all you do for children throughout the world.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Future Leaders

The kids at Urukundo were abandoned, street kids, toddlers found wandering, infants found in ditches, and other heart wrenching stories. But they are the future of this country.

These are amazing kids that love God, love Mama Arlene and are so respectful. They will accomplish much in life.

They say they want to aspire to be a soccer player, doctor, lawyer, preacher, computer technician, electrician, driver and even one who wants to be the first female president of Rwanda.

It is a privilege to have been with them for two weeks. I have learned so much about their love for each other, their resilience and their determination to accomplish everything that God desires for them. Please pray for these precious teens.


Every child is supposed to attend school but like most developing countries many do not have the resources for a uniform and supplies.

Urukundo is involved in providing education on so many levels. They opened Cyakabiri preschool for 40 kids and plan on building another classroom for 45 more kids from the community. A great early start is so important.

They also provide educational sponsorships to 329 children from the community.

Urukundo has children in these levels: 13 preschool, 13 in primary level and 18 in secondary school.

Primary school is half day as there are not enough teachers or classroom space to allow full days. There are 60 students per teacher. Kids graduate to secondary based on academics not age as many kids might not have started school at an early age.

Secondary school is for those that can afford school as they are boarding schools. They attend 3 levels then take a comprehensive national exam to move further. If they fail this exam they need to repeat until they pass but in most cases they would drop out. If they pass they continue for 3 more levels where they concentrate on a profession they would like to go into.

Photos are of the older kids,the preschool and parents attending the final day, crafts I planned for the kids now that school is out and showing a baby animal calendar to the nursery kids with Oliver as assistant.

So many moments with these children that are very precious. I will miss them all!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Our food

Urukundo has gardens that produce greens, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, peas, greens beans, tomatoes, squash and more. They have 8 avocado trees. Sarah and Rebeka gather the fallen avocados.

There are also banana trees, 18 for cooking bananas and 11 for eating them fresh. The green bananas are cooked and are sweet because of special ingredients. A huge stalk of bananas can weigh up to 40 pounds. If you need to get any from the market they use old scales to weigh them.

Mama is standing by by the newly planted pineapple tops. They will produce one pineapple per top in 1 1/2 to 2 years.

We all pitch in especially if you want a special lunch. I fixed potato salad and greens for Mama Arlene, Jan and I and it was a nice change. Nothing like going to the garden and picking your meal year round! What a bounty they have. If you could only see how every spot is planted with food. And in Rwanda having gardens are a necessity for survival. Praises for all we are so blessed with.

Eating Rwanda Style

Many of you have been asking about the food I am eating here in Rwanda. Let me tell you it is so healthy. The kids all pitch in to peel the many potatoes. Cassava is also cooked like a boiled potato or as a sticky dough which is bland. I usually pass on it.

We have maize bread which is not really bread but like dough with a corn flavor. I like it. Then there are white sweet potatoes and what they call Irish potatoes that are mashed. And believe it or not we have spaghetti noodles. Two of those listed above are served at lunch and dinner.

It is then topped with a bean stew with lots of veggies from their gardens, squash, onions, cabbage, tomatoes and greens. A special treat are avocados, cooked bananas, pineapple and cabbage salad.

No complaints at all. Tomorrow is another treat, chicken soup with rice. The chicken will be quite fresh as they are raised at Urukundo.

The kitchen is very primitive. Can you imagine cooking for 44 kids, visitors as well as the staff over a fire? Monic (Monique) is the head cook and she is amazing. Bedde makes sure the beans are just beans. Then they cook for several hours. The finished product is so delicious.

After it's ready the little ones begin their dinner with a prayer many times eating outside. The rest of us eat together after amazing singing of grace. We do have much to be thankful for.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Community Worship

After our service at Urukundo we had been asked to join Pastor Joseph's worship at the local United Methodist Church. They began at 9:00am. We arrived at 11:15 and were warmly welcomed. The service continued with prayer, singing, preaching, Arlene and I speaking and finished at 1:15. There were almost 100 in a small rented space with wooden benches. Standing to sing and for prayer must be a welcome relief during a 4 hour service.

They said they are blessed just to have a place of worship and to be able to help those less fortunate, especially widows and women with HIV aids. Today there was a collection for the church, those in need and a special request to help pay a woman's rent.

With so little they do so much. Pastor Joseph is in the foreground and assisting the service is Pastor Antoine who I had met previously. I'm sure the singing and praising could be heard pouring out the open doors into the community. That gives new meaning to the United Methodist's saying, "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors".

Worship IPeter 4:8-11

Today I was one of the speakers for our worship and spoke about each of our gifts that we are blessed with. Liliane, one of the girls, was my translator. Then I read a prayer written by Desmond Tutu and his daughter. He asks that we turn to the stillness and listen to God speak.

I made you for myself,
I wanted you.
I made you like myself,
I made you good and I made you free.

Listen! For I have carved in you the heart to hear.
Listen and know that I am near.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.

Before you speak the word of worry or worship I hear you.
Before you sing your delight or moan your anguish I speak.
I am here.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.

With each breath I choose life for you.
I paint the pattern of joy in your heart and leave it there for you to find.
I build the frame of your flourishing in the center of your being and call you to search it out.
I kindled the spark of goodness in you.
With each breath I fan the flame.
I am here.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.

With each breath you choose my child, you are free.
Will you breathe with me the breath of life?
Will you claim the joy I have prepared for you?
Will you seek me out and find me here?
Will you whisper the prayer?
Will you breathe in my breath?