Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Day I

On Christmas Day the celebration was about the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of Jesus.

Arlene wrote," if you have never watched the Christmas story with little ones under six you have not lived. Ours was such a grand performance. The actors were the best. The costumes elaborate and directors award-winning.

Their rendition of the Little Drummer Boy was unforgettable. The best part is the kids, under the direction of Anitha and Tresor, did the whole thing themselves."

*The senior kids sang "Joy to the World" and other Christmas carols.
*Following the star.
*The shepherds sing "Away in the Manger."
*All sing "On Christmas Day"

Christmas Day II

Christmas Day included the Urukundo Family, friends and travelers from the US, Denmark, Sweden and Germany.

Bruce and Margie who live in Rwanda and their family who arrived from the US, provided 3 turkeys for the meal. They also brought gifts for the kids. Ice cream was a special gift too. Although the kids had mixed feelings about the ice cream because it was too cold.

Guests sang Christmas Carols from their country and shared in the celebration making this a special day for all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


What is the true spirit of Christmas? Celebrating the birth of Jesus and sharing the joys that we are all blessed with. The children at the Urukundo Home, some without families and some distanced from their families, but all of them loved, will share the gift of love. The gift of helping others and letting them know they are a part of their lives.

This year the children at the home are giving back to those in need, to staff members' families and others in the community. Urukundo receives many needed items throughout the year from visitors. But there is no sense keeping things for a rainy day when it can all be shared now. As Arlene says, "we do not have a lot but we are grateful and happy to share with those who have less."

36 children of staff members will receive a pair of shorts or a dress, toothbrush and toothpaste, a package of cookies, a piece of candy and a toy.

Children in the community will receive a package of cookies, a piece of candy and a toothbrush and toothpaste. Again Arlene says,"It doesn't sound like much but just the sharing is good for our kids and our neighbors kids."

Also a bag of clothes is going to the Mudugudu (village leader) to give where it is needed most. These are clothes brought by is good to share.

The older kids love to wrap and will make sure that all the gifts show the care that was given to prepare each gift.

Thank you everyone who donated much needed items for our team to take with us, flip flops, books, clothing, sewing supplies, yarn, toys, educational resources, vitamins. They are reaching beyond State College, and beyond the walls of the Urukundo Children's Home.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Virginia, Author

Virginia Loewen is in my bible study, Women of Faith, Hope and Love. Last month she came to me saying she wanted to contribute several copies of 2 books she had written. This is why...

"As a child, I loved books from the time I learned to read. The school I attended in rural southeastern Pennsylvania had a small library, but there was no community library, and my family owned only a few books. When school was closed during the summer, I remember saying to my parents, "There's nothing to do! I wish I had something to read."

My love of books and reading continued as I attended college and earned certification as an elementary school teacher, librarian and reading specialist. With a break of thirteen years for bringing up three children of my own, I taught for twenty-five years.

One of my favorite days at school was RIF (Reading is Fundamental) Day. On that day children came into my classroom to find tables covered with all kinds of fiction and nonfiction books. From that assortment each child could choose one book to keep as his/her own. For some this was a difficult decision since there were so many good books.

From RIF Days came my inspiration to write a rhyming poem called "I Love Books." I wondered, if I created a character with a problem, could my poem become a Big Book?

Eventually this dream came to fruition, and I've had lots if fun sharing my Big Book, "The Best Book for Terry Lee", in many classrooms throughout Pennsylvania. Although "The Best Book" ....and my second book, "Special Things", take place in a different culture, I believe that the children of Rwanda will also enjoy reading or hearing them read.

My hope is that Terry Lee's search for the best book for him will encourage them to read many kinds of books, thus gaining confidence in their own reading ability. Both.."Terry Lee" and "Special Things" lend motivation for writing or illustrating their own books as well. And when their world is harsh and painful, may reading and writing help to transport them mentally to a happy, peaceful place.

It is my privilege to donate to the children of Rwanda these books I've written. It is a way to celebrate the gifts I've been given, in the name of Jesus Christ, who loved to give." ~~Virginia Loewen.

*Virginia, new author
*Virginia now
*Her books
*Virginia with her Special Things, owls

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tribute to Mama Arlene

From one of her young men.

"Please let me introduce you to an amazing lady by the name of Arlene!

7 years ago I met Ms. Arlene Brown in my home country. During that time, I was one of many hopeless young men and women who not only wake up to find themselves struggling to make sense of life, but also have limited, if not zero access to anything that could possibly change or even make their lives a little bit better.

After meeting Arlene, she learned about me and quickly became a climax of the story of my life, thus far....!!! Through her work in Africa, I was given hope and inspired to be a man that I am today! Mama Arlene refused to retire; instead she chose to leave the USA at 75 years to spend the rest of her life giving hope and opportunities to as many children and families in Africa!

It blows my mind every time I take a look back to my life 7 years ago, but then again it gives me courage and reasons to believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Today I am blessed to have Mama Arlene in my life and I ask you to please share the joy of celebrating her 83rd birthday with me today!"


Kevin was 16 years old when he first met Mama Arlene. He had been sleeping on the floor of a church and asked to find another place to stay. He heard about Arlene and decided he had nothing to lose going to meet her. She gave him a place to stay and because his English was so good she hired him as her interpreter. he was not going to school but she worked with him to prepare him to take the TOEFL. After a year she connected him to a church in Tennessee who paid for his Visa and Passport and his education at a small US college. He is now working on his MS in business. Lives connect and doors are opened filled with hope and joy. Mama touches lives each day! He is one of them.....9 years ago!,,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A New Baby

A new baby arrives at the Urukundo Children's Home and one wonders what will become of this precious child. WE KNOW WHAT SHE CAN BECOME!!!

Two weeks ago an administrator and the head doctor at a local hospital contacted the police about an abandoned baby. Praises that she was left at the hospital and not somewhere outside. The police know Mama Arlene Brown and recommended the administrator and physician bring this 6 1/2 lb week old baby to the home, a safe haven. But it is so much more than a home. It is a family of 46 brothers and sisters and many mamas that share their love. And nourishment not only for her stomach but food for her soul.... spiritual nourishment. She is now called Jenny. Jenny has a chance in life like many of the other children at the Urukundo Home.

A chance like Lucie. She arrived as an 11 year old in 2006. She came from a family of 5. Her mother died young as well as her her brother and sister. Then her father died in a road accident. Her grandmother was a widow and loved her. But she worried what would become of Lucie if she died. Lucie is now a beautiful girl of 18 and still keeps in touch with her grandmother. She has a sense of humor that we all love and wants to be a pastor. WE KNOW WHAT SHE HAS BECOME!!!

Dada, her real name is Pacifica, lived in a neighborhood where the first location of the Urukundo Home was located. She was a child of laborers that had died and lived only with her grandmother. At 11 years old, in 2006, she would go to school with Lucie and others from the Urukundo Home. Soon she was sleeping at the home and eating meals there. Slowly she became a part of the Urukundo family. When the home moved to it's current location, Dada and her grandmother asked if she could come with the other children. Mama Arlene said yes but told her she must stay in contact with her grandmother, her only family. Dada is wonderful with the children, is creative and wants to make a difference. WE KNOW WHAT SHE HAS BECOME!!!

The reason I mention Lucie and Dada is the fact that in September they were a part of a social event at Gasogi Secondary School where they attend. The school has a Worship Center and the two girls were chosen as leaders in the worship service. It is an honor for both girls to have been chosen by their classmates. WE KNOW WHAT THEY HAVE BECOME!!!

Let's celebrate the JOY of life, knowing that children with hope, love and faith can become someone special.

*Jenny being delivered to Mama Arlene
*Vestine, one of our loving mamas, holding Jenny
*Dada, Mama Arlene, Lucie

Sunday, December 1, 2013


In Rwanda children have classes in Kinyarwanda, their official language as well as English and French. Most importantly are the English classes. Since school is out for a two month break it was decided to offer English classes to 6 and 7 year olds from the Urukundo Children's Home, the Urukundo School and the community. Typically English as a Second Language classes have been for adults so this is something exciting and new.

The two teachers are from the Urukundo School including Josephine a new teacher from Uganda. This is a wonderful opportunity for the children to immerse themselves in classes year round. Kids are learning English and their parents are learning English too!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

School Update

This is from a recent newsletter that Arlene Brown wrote to share with those that are just discovering the Urukundo Learning Center.

We believe every child should be given the opportunity to learn to read and write and reach his or her potential!!! Each child is unique. Our purpose is to provide educational opportunities for children in need and equip them with moral values to become independent, productive citizens.

Urukundo Foundation is a non-profit organization serving the vulnerable children of Cyeza Sector, Muhanga District, south Province, Rwanda, Africa. The need for affordable education for orphans, abandoned and very poor children in Rwanda is critical. Urukundo Children's Home and Learning Center under the umbrella of Hope Made Real in the US is building such a school system.

Having now established the Urukundo Learning Center (ULC) we have even tester outreach to children in the community. UCL includes Phase #1 of the Cyakabiri Preschool Project. It has 3 completed classrooms and presently serves 150 children with a staff of 6 teachers, a crossing guard, night guard and maintenance man.

Phase #2 Primary grades 1 and 2, each with two classrooms, is completed and 94 students will be attending in January 2014. In addition we have 1 room for the library and a combined music/art room. The primary school at present has three teachers and a security man at night. We need to employ 3 more teachers for January.

The project at present is to construct and equip 8 more primary classrooms. In time this school will include all elementary grades with 2 rooms for each grade.

Urukundo owns the land that is needed for this project. Donations will be used to help construct and equip the remaining classrooms. Please contact Carol at for more details to partner with us to provide education to so many children.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Graduation Day

Thank you for being patient while I took a break from my BLOG. I needed to focus on setting up classroom to classroom partnerships with elementary schools in State College, meet with those interested in going in 2014, speaking with local organizations and churches and working on fundraising for the many projects. I am excited to also share that I will be featured in the December issue of Town & Gown in Lunch with Mimi. What an amazing opportunity and an amazing woman to sit down to lunch with.

But back to Graduation in Rwanda. This year, this October, we had 37 six year olds finish Kindergarten at our school at the Urukundo Learning Center. Graduation to first grade is a big event so parents and families came to honor their children's success. And with kids graduating that means openings for 37 more children to enroll into our preschool.

I'll let the photos tell the story of this special moment in so many children's and family's lives.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Real Kids Readers

Lerner Publishing Group's Real Kids Readers brings stories to life using lively multicultural characters portrayed in colorful photographs and themes that work in the US AND Rwanda. These engaging stories like "Best Friends", "I Like to Win", "My Pal Al", "The Rainy Day Grump", "Loose Tooth Luke" and "I Am Mad!" are a few that provide the opportunity for practicing and reinforcing phonics skills and vocabulary.

These books are a hit inside and outside the classroom with the kids working together and helping each other improve their reading.

Lerner Publishing

What we are accomplishing in Rwanda, in education, depends on so many making a difference. And that is what Lerner Publishing Group is doing. They know the value of books as a tool for teaching English to children and also the adults. Through their generosity they have provided multiple copies of many titles in the Real Kids Readers Series.

Lerner Publishing Group has been committed to education since 1959. In the past 50-plus years, they have become one of North America's largest independent book publishers. They've created non-fiction and fiction books for pre-school to young adult readers and for libraries, classrooms and homes across the country.

Currently this company has over 5,000 books in print and releases more than 350 new titles each year. From richly illustrated picture books and solid non-fiction resources to entertaining fiction and graphic novels, Lerner Publishing Group offers a wide variety of materials to draw in young readers and help them "know more".

They bring together authors, educators, illustrators and photographers to ensure that each book is age-appropriate and meets curriculum standards. The books are thoroughly researched and exceptionally written with amazing illustrations and captivating photography that hold the readers' attention.

They believe learning never ends. It's a constant process, a result of interacting with the world around you. You engage in learning and the more you know, the more knowledge will reward you by opening your eyes and your mind.

Thank you Lerner Publishing Group!!!

These photos show the Real Kids Readers being using in teacher trainings.

Teacher Trainings

Each time I go to Rwanda I bring teacher supplies, classroom materials and many, many books. It has been important to weave these together to form a curriculum and themes for teaching. You can't simply give teachers what we "think" they might need without sharing the possibilities and relevance of these teaching tools.

In August 2012 we held 3 days of trainings and this past April another 3 half days. The teachers came in on their own time during the school break. A great starting point in April was for each teacher to teach the other teachers about their "classroom to classroom" partnerships they have with schools in State College, PA. they shared what materials went together and why, how they taught their class using these materials and what they and their students learned. Role playing is so important and was alot of fun!!

Next we worked on leveled reading books, that were donated by two publishers, as well as BIG books. Teachers learned one way of introducing a new book and the steps to use when reading it - prereading, reading, responding, exploring and analyzing. Again we used role playing to teach the basics of beginner reading.

I want to thank the many teachers that work with me before I go to Rwanda to teach me how to work with the teachers. These are retired teachers that work on curriculum as well as the teachers with the schools that have partnered with our school. They have been an integral part of education in Rwanda.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Celebrating Teachers

Cesarie, one of our Primary 1 teachers, has been teaching for 11 years. She shared some of her thoughts on education. "School is essential to improving your knowledge and sharing it with others. At school children learn to be responsible and to take care of their materials. They learn to play, be creative and take time to think through things. Each child comes with different skills so it is important for teachers to improve those skills and sometimes reorient them to improve other skills.

It is also about working with our parents so they understand the importance of their child's education. Parents are encouraged to help with homework, clean their child's uniform, reinforce good behavior at home and help the teachers to know their children to help them grow."

David is one of our amazing preschool teachers who is also taking university classes. He asked the children to greet recent visitors to their class and shared, "It is important to teach children to be respectful and to grow to be good citizens of Rwanda."

Louise says, "One-on-one time is important to develop opportunities for children to be creative and use their imagination."

*All lined up proudly in their uniforms
*David and his class
*Louise having special time