Saturday, March 30, 2013

To the Source

Carol Baney's Reflections ~

Today we walked a mile down to the valley to the source of the water, a natural spring. As we progressed down the steep mountainside it was difficult especially with a bad foot. We met villagers along the way who let us share a photo with them.

The children would follow us down with their yellow jugs for water. Along the way we hiked through banana trees that had under plantings of peas and beans. We also walked through fields of maize and cassava.

As you looked to the mountainside across the valley you could see children zigzag down paths to meet the muzugus (non-Rwandans). They were all running to see and touch us. I can't even begin to tell you the unbelievable emotions that surfaced. We spent about 15 minutes with the children.

Benjamin from Urukundo also explained the water system to us. There was a couple trying to wash their clothes but the water level was below the pipe so there was just a trickle of water coming from the spring. The pumps were not pumping the water up to us either so that was the purpose of benjamin's trip to the source with us.

There was also an older woman taking down a field of maize with a machete and placing them in stacks that would eventually be carried to her home on her head.

Back From the Water

Carol Baney ~ Continued

As we started back up the mountain, the kids that followed us down, started back up with us with the same empty jugs. The jugs were their excuse to go to the water and see us. Others waved and smiled to us as we left.

It was a difficult climb back since we were at an elevation of 9,000 as Arlene told us. All of us were panting and sweating and at times it was even difficult to get a deep breathe.

We saw two amazingly colorful chameleons along the path and took a rest to photograph them. A good excuse for US to stop. One bright green and one with beautiful colors. Good thing I was wearing my purple shirt that you have seen in many photos. A good backdrop for the chameleons to show up. What an amazing walk.

We saw homes, children, corn drying, crops, banana fields and beautiful
puffy clouds.

The trench for the pipes was the way we followed down and up. We used that to reach two water stations. Men and women from the community dug the trench by hand for the pipes fall of 2011. Now they could reach water stations along the mountain and not climb all the way down. This took weeks as they also had to carry rocks on their heads on in stretchers made of sticks for the stations. Oh how fortunate we are. Our water is now back on because the pump has been fixed.

We are sunburned and beat but it was so worth it all!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Linda's Class

Art has no boundaries! Linda offered art classes using pastels to the English as a Second Language class for women. She worked inside the first two days as storms rolled through and pelted the metal roof. Today was the final day. So outside they went to paint amazing vistas while sitting in front of the new primary school.

Having lived in Montana and Colorado it was as if I was there again! Mountains, greenery and fresh air at 6,500 foot elevation. The women were serious students as they quietly painted for 2 hours each day. Even a little one helped his mother. We were thrilled that women came from the community but also included our cooks and mamas. They loved experiencing creativity. For most it was the first time they created a piece of art.

After the art class they would head to the new sewing center for another hour of sewing class. It is absolutely amazing what is happening in this community. Watch for a story about the Urukundo Sewing Center.

Button Art

We continued the partnership with Mt. Nittany Elementary School by working on button art. Third grade teachers Linda Margusity and Tia Burget collected buttons and also worked on "button people." So we worked on two projects with Theogene's and Louisa's afternoon preschool class.

Carol and I each had a teacher to help with two groups of 5 children. One project was a picture frame that will hold a photo of the class in Rwanda. The other were handprints with button bracelets and rings. Each group kept their project a secret until the final reveal. What a surprise to see how different all three projects were!

We chuckled as the kids were not thrilled to dip buttons in glue and end up with sticky fingers. Thank goodness for wet wipes!

Then the teachers read the book, "Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons." We had a bit of explaining to do when describing groovy and belly button. You see Pete kept loosing buttons until all he had left was his belly button. A great story to go along with the art.

Theogene and Louisa will teach the other teachers what they learned and share the book and "Button People." They will also keep the 3 pounds of buttons for teaching math, sorting, sequencing and art.

I have more buttons at home, donated by women at St. Paul's, that will go to Rwanda to continue these fun activities.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Circle of Friends

The Child Care Center at Hort Woods at Penn State has had a classroom to classroom partnership with Cyakabiri Preschool for 1 1/2 years. Baskets have been exchanged, artwork, letters and photos. The theme for this time is a Circle of Friends.

Children in Nona Nina's class drew pictures and sent a letter to children in Teacher Andrew's class in Rwanda. The letters had a photo of the children from each country that were exchanging the letters.

We worked with the children today on their letters with the same picture pal photos and added mosaic art. They had such fun choosing colorful paint chips to glue on their letters. Yes, I had raided Home Depot and Lowes for paint chips. Then cut them by the bagful.

Nina Nina also included songs her children sang that I downloaded to play here, "Make New Friends" and "A Circle of Friends". They know these songs. I have also been taking videos, with my iPhone, of the kids singing and will share with schools at home.

This has been a wonderful learning experience for the children as well as the teachers. Sharing letters and art and seeing photos of their picture pals each year continues what has become an important relationship. A bridging of cultures and a sharing of friendship!

*Claude working on his letter and
*Carol working with the kids
*So proud of their works of art
*Artwork from the Child Care Center at Hort Woods to their picture pals

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Kid Time

Everyday is a new day with all the children. On Saturday morning after breakfast some of the kids came bouncing into the house sticking their shoes out to show us. Yes to show us their new shoes. You see many were shoes we brought with our team in August. I remembered packing them! Crocs, sandals and a few sneakers. So of course it was photo op time and what fun we had.

A quiet moment came when I passed along a letter and photo from 11 year old George from my church. You see he had his parents purchase Olivier's piece of art at the Hearts for Rwanda art show. He was thrilled to write a letter for me to pass along. I can't wait to sit down with Olivier when he writes back.

While showing off the shoes, the kids found pairs of garden gloves we had brought out when sorting suitcases. They now became "monster hands".

But always the memories are filled with tender moments. Need I say more??

*New Shoes
*Olivier with his pen pal letter
*Monster Hands
*Carol Baney and Soso, 2 1/2 yrs


We are so fortunate to be in Rwanda to observe Palm Sunday. This morning the children gathered so they could walk into the church singing hosanna and waving palms. The teens and even the littlest one, Kevine holding Carol Baney's hand and carrying a palm leaf made this so special.

Arlene shared what this day means to her. "People were expecting a king but when Jesus came as a simple servant and was humble to the people he was not acceptable." For Arlene it comes down to 1 song sung at church today, "Jesus is Alive in Africa" or in Kinyarwanda "Jesu ni Muzima".

The 1 hr 45 min service included the children from the Urukundo Home as well as others from the community. The evening before Linda practiced songs with the teens and even taught them "He is Lord". After we all sang it once during the service Arlene asked Linda if she would sing it. You always say yes to Mama. So, for the first time ever, Linda sang not only solo but acapella. It was beautiful! Thank you Linda!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


We were so fortunate to see traditional Rwandan dance performed at the school dedication. Even the children marched in with their teachers to perform songs for us.

A fun filled day that was almost a washout due to the fog that rolled in early and torrential downpour that started in the morning and lasted through much of the ceremony. I have never been here for this type of storm. Then the sun came out to allow us to tour the schools, the library, the new Sewing Center and attend the ribbon cutting.

The grand finale was a delicious buffet of salads, vegetables, sweet potatoes, fish and some unknown food we sampled.

Wish you all could have been here with us!!

Primary School Dedication

Today was the big day, the day of the dedication of Faith Primary School. We were thrilled that Arlene planned the event to coincide with our visit. Many dignitaries were invited including the Vice Mayor, the consular to the embassy, members of Arlene's board and village officials. She also had several university students that she is sponsoring join in the celebrations.

Thank you to everyone who helped our teams pay for one classroom at the primary school. And thank you Haley Justice, a State High senior, who raised the final $1,000 through the Hearts for Rwanda art show. This made the dedication so very special to all of us.

*Arlene with the President and Vice-President of her board.
*Arlene and I starting the day
*Maggie, Director of Schools and English as a Second Language Program
*The ribbon cutting

Friday, March 22, 2013

First Day

Inside and outside we met the Cyakabiri Preschool and Faith Primary School children in their cute uniforms. They gathered around with lots of hugs wherever we were.

In the 5 classrooms we visited, teachers led them in singing and greetings to us. I was amazed how organized and respectful the children were. One class was enjoying their daily nutrition of sorghum.

Later we visited the new library filled with many of the books sponsored by those at St. Paul's last July. Glancing at a shelf of featured titles I recognized a special one. There on the shelf was a book I remembered Linda sponsoring and writing a message in last July. At that time, she never knew she would follow her book all the way to Rwanda.


Leaving State College with the sun shining was perfect. Yes a big surprise after a snowstorm and the fact we live in Central PA. Two church vans driven by Ray Raker and Carl Pillar were loaded with all the luggage.

We arrived after 3 flights and many hours to a huge rainstorm in Rwanda. The pilots flew around it and landed smoothly. All 10 bags arrived and as we carted them to the van, the rain came. Finally all loaded, we laughed that we sure looked like a ragtag team. Wet hair, wet clothes and exhausted.

The hour drive was a beautiful sight all misty and rainy. Prayed as we drove past numerous accidents as the roads are narrow and many cars would not pass inspection in the US. I'm sure cars were driving without windshield wipers or the window defogger working.

It was wonderful to see all the kids and staff greet us, even though there was still a fine mist. Lots of smiles and hugs to go around.

Then a quiet dinner with Arlene. Great food - pasta noodles, vegetables in gravy and cucumber salad. Delicious!!

Off to devotions with the little ones as the older kids are at secondary school, boarding school. We were wowed as always by their singing, their dancing and their praise at worship. Even the littlest ones take turns saying prayers. Most was in Kinyrwanda but we knew love and joy for all God's blessings filled the room.

Then a good night's sleep at 9:30pm as we had been up for 32 hrs with little sleep on the plane.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Buttons and Letters

The BUTTONS....In October I was introduced to the third grade teachers, Linda Margusity and Tia Burgit at Mount Nittany Elementary school as they were beginning a study of Africa. After speaking to the two classes we wanted to continue to engage the kids and build a partnership with two primary grade one classes in Rwanda.

Buttons were collected by the students in Rwandan baskets and presented by Linda Margusity to Linda Schimmel who will be going to Rwanda with me. With enough buttons collected, they created an art project, "Button People" as a gift for the class. I will take the buttons, 3 pounds, with me so the children in Rwanda can create a piece of art to share with the State College students. All the students will compare what is the same and what is different in their art.

The class also came up with ideas that show how buttons can be made into toys, sequel and used for teaching math.

The LETTERS....what the students wrote were amazing. I offered a diversity of topics and asked them to write in detail about one topic of their choice. I suggested they use descriptions and their five senses. Well, the letters with artwork included were funny, informative and from the heart. They wrote about their families, their pets, their bedrooms, food they like and how to cook it, instruments they play, living on a farm, being in a wheelchair, collecting rocks, Halloween and sports.

Writing about playing baseball, 8 year old Miles' letter described the rules in detail and said "You try to hit a ball with a bat. Not the type that flys it is more like a stick of medal". Love that!!!

I had another chuckle when Avery, 8, wrote about snow. "When you eat snow that is colored it is a snowcone. There is a bottle that has flavors that make a snowcone, a snowcone, but if you found yellow snow already on the ground don't pick it up and eat it." I guess we will need to explain that one to the teachers too.

Genevieve, 8, said her favorite weather is rain because she and her sister like dancing in the rain.

And Aubrey, 9, shared about having accidents. "Have you ever had an accident? If you had you know some can hurt and some do not hurt. I had a accident that hurt once! I fell in a fire! Other accidents are only mess ups but since its an accident its a misstake. Both kinds are still accidents. We don't mean to do them at all. I fall off my bike some times it hurts then get better quick. Accidents happen no biggy there. You have them I have them."

Thank you Mt. Nittany Elementary letter writers. You brought smiles to my face and so many others!! And thank you for all the suggested topics you want the children in Rwanda to write about.