Sunday, June 30, 2013

Paul's Reflections

When I told people about going to Rwanda before we went, I said we were going to do "animal husbandry", not knowing exactly what we would do there on the farm part of the complex. I knew there would be children and staff, but was not sure how much we would interact with them.

The children from the home were a joy to be with and so eager to get to know us and share time, fun and games. I was amazed also that children from the community outside the home were almost as friendly and curious. The staff at the home was dedicated to serving the needs if the children and to serving the Lord. People in the community were warm and friendly, and curious.

We worked with Eugene, the farm manager and local veterinarian, and looked for improvements for the farm and it's operation. We supervised the construction of a pit silo to provide feed during the dry season, and construction of water troughs in the dairy cow pens.

Labor was carried out by Rwandans, providing paying jobs. We rebuilt rabbit houses, and helped create a system of rabbit ear tattooing and record keeping for a better breeding program. We put in the final touches on the chicken egg incubator, and the first batch of eggs was placed inside. We built an oversized chicken tiller (mobile chicken house) out of African hardwood, very heavy!!

Arlene was away in the States most of the time we were there, but we were able to share some time with her and hear her vision for the home and children.

Joanne's Reflections

Interacting with the children of Urukundo was very special. I was happy that they weren't as sad about our leaving as we were - Mama Arlene said that they have become vert accustomed to the fact that many different visitors come and spend a short time with them and then leave to go home. They are definitely a family - a different kind than mine or yours maybe, but a family nevertheless. I pray the children continue to grow, learn, and stay healthy.

It was a good team, and we got along very well, although with only 4 people it was much smaller than other mission teams we've been a part of. It was great for us that Dave and Kira had been there before, especially since Mama Arlene was not there the majority of the time that we were. It was great to see Dave share his agricultural knowledge and it was wonderful to see things through Kira's young, less traveled, set if eyes. And, as usual with these trips, I think we "got" a lot more than we "gave".

*Hiking to the source if the water.
*On a motor scooter heading to the market for supplies.
*On safari warding off the swarms of black flies.

Kira's Reflections

There are no words to describe my recent trip to Rwanda. I feel as though every time I visit that beautiful country, I leave my heart there; I leave a piece with the children, a piece with the breath-taking countryside, a piece with Mama Arlene, and of course, a piece with the farm animals.

It was great being able to reconnect with all the children at Urukundo again. They have all grown and matured so much since last year. I am very proud if each and every one of them. They are all making amazing progress in school, and their English is better than ever.

I pray they continue to make strides in their education and in their daily lives. They have such amazing potential! Needless to say, I cannot wait to return next year!

*With Oswald at and agriculture conference
*At worship

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chickens at Work

Last week I had a story about the how's and why's of a chicken tiller in farming. Arlene, just back from her visit with her family in the US, took a tour of the farm to see all the improvements Dave, Kira, Joanne and Paul made while teaching and working with Eugene the Urukundo Farm manager, farmers, vets and students. She was so impressed and thankful for their expertise and hard work.

Here are new photos of the chickens at work! And the children learning all about it.

Dave's Reflections

"One of the things that make for a really good mission trip are the people on the team! I had a wonderful group to take to Rwanda this year. Kira Hydock and I went with Carol Falke last year so we had some idea of what to expect but it was a new experience for Paul and Joanne Steindorf.

We had two weeks to finish a number of agricultural projects to help in the food production at the Urukundo Home. We were able to dig and fill a pit silo 2 meters deep and 3 meters across with the help of local farmers. This will provide the cows with food for the dry season.

We tattooed the ears of rabbits for breeding purposes. Much needed repairs were also provided to the rabbit cages. We also helped with providing watering tanks for the cows to make water available at all times. A chicken tiller was built to demonstrate how chickens in a controlled environment can take care of weeds and insects in a given area while tilling and fertilizing the soil. Temperature control equipment was added to an egg hatching incubator so they can hatch their own chicks.

We still had time for playing with the children and joining in their worship service each evening. It was nice to see them all dressed in their uniforms each morning as they went off to the new school. In some small way we hope that we could help them have a better life. They gave us a lot of love in the two weeks that we were there and we hope to return again soon." ~~DAVE

Dave checking one of the community water tanks that began this partnership with the Urukundo Children's Home and Learning center.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Chicken Tiller

I found a great website/blog called ModernStead which is a guide for small-scale homesteaders who want to live a simple, more self-sufficient life that nourishes both the body and the soul. On April 3, 2013 Julie wrote a story about chicken tillers which goes well with the work the team did in Rwanda.

The article:
"My chickens worked overtime this spring clearing weeds and grass for my new vegetable garden bed. Every few days, I moved their 5'X10 run and they went to work scratching, digging and tilling.

My five little hens cleared a 15'X20 area in approximately one month. The only thing I did was rake the dried grass and weeds out of the area after they did their thing. The chickens did the rest. I kid you not!

As a bonus the girls left behind a little fertilizer. Chicken manure is super rich in nitrogen and the best organic fertilizer available. I plan on adding a little more of this valuable commodity from a pile of "coop cleanings" that is now composting. It is important to let the manure break down in a compost pile a few months before using it. The amount they produce where they till isn't enough to do any damage. From what I can tell, chickens do most of their pooping while roosting at night.

Don't worry about my chickens having to work for their room and board. They enjoy being outside eating bugs and grass. It's what chickens do!"


The team built this chicken tiller for the gardens. It turned out to be so very heavy but once in the garden it had wheels so it could be rolled. Everyone worked on it including one of the boys from the Children's Home, John Paul. This was also a new project that the farmers from the community will follow to see if it can be used elsewhere.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Goats and Kira

Kira, a PSU Schreyer Student in Veterinary Science and International Development. She was on the August team and now is on the current team in Rwanda. Her thesis topic has been approved - The Study of Goat Operations/Herding in Rwanda.

Kira ~~ I have been extremely grateful to the farmers here in the Muhunga District for their willingness to speak with me about their goat operations. So far, I have spoken with 3 farmers and/or farm managers, as well as with two veterinary students and Eugene, the veterinarian here at Urukundo.

With the farm managers, I discussed the types of problems and constraints they have encountered while raising goats here in Rwanda. The major problem appears to be diseases and parasites. I was surprised to find that most people consider cattle the most profitable and goats the least profitable of livestock ventures. This was shocking to me because of all the research I had performed prior to coming to Rwanda spoke of the profitability and benefits of raising goats over cattle. I guess the information depends on the bias of the researcher.

Eugene, the farm manager, had some great suggestions in terms if improving goat herding. First and foremost, improved access to laboratory diagnostic tests would more readily allow vets to diagnose and subsequently treat diseases with which they may be dealing. In addition, more demonstration farms, such as the one being operated by Mama Arlene at Urukundo, would be more beneficial to educate local farmers in better animal husbandry and disease treatment techniques.

The vet students I spoke with also offered great perspective about the field of veterinary medicine in Rwanda. It is seen as a highly coveted field with many jobs available upon graduation. Interestingly, sector vets only need to complete secondary school, whereas district level vets must complete 4 years of university. District vets provide direction and instruction to sector vets actually working in the field.

Needless to say, I have had an incredible experience speaking with all these individuals. I am learning a great deal about goat herding practices and veterinary medicine in Rwanda. I still have another goat herder to interview before I leave for the US. I can't wait to see the techniques they use!!

Photos of goats at Urukundo and at a farm taken on several trips.

Water for Cows

Paul ~~ Another project the team worked on was water troughs for the cows. Previously the water trough was outside the pens and not readily accessible to the cows.

Now there will be a trough in each pen that should allow for better hydration and more milk production, assuming they are regularly filled. Some of the challenges with feeding and watering animals has been the inconsistency of providing to their basic needs. But it is all about sharing best practices and ongoing education.

*Benjamin, one of the builders, with the finished trough
*Dave and Paul discussing with Eugene the farm manager, different options for water
*Benjamin starting the construction of the trough

Friday, June 14, 2013

Worship and Praise

Joanne ~~ Sunday Worship

We had taught the kids the signing motions for "Jesus Loves Me" and also "Hallelujah Praise Ye the Lord" action songs during choir practice Saturday. They sang those and many others during worship and Kira joined them in "Dancing for the Lord". Fun!!

Paul really connected with Pastor Antoine last week when he (Paul) gave a message at devotions. He was then asked to speak on behalf of the team during worship.

Carol ~~ Visitors sharing their faith, their heart for missions and love for children is an important gift we bring when we are at Urukundo. It is more than what we accomplish in the "doing." It is about being present in spirit and being humble as we serve. And telling the children they are loved and are the light we bring back with us when we share our stories with our families, churches and friends. Their love travels the world with us!!!

Joanne Sharing

Tuesday was spent in Akagara Park, which was awesome. We saw a LOT of animals, and many birds. We had a very knowledgeable guide with a good bird book. We were in the park for about 8 hours and made it from the south to the north. The roads were very rough but no problem with Oswald our driver and a 4-wheel drive land cruiser. The only problem was the many many horseflies inside the vehicle making a meal of us.

This Wednesday the pit silo was finished - filled with grass and covered with several feet of soil. Exciting and we hope it will work as planned.

Day 5 for the incubator and it seems to be working well and keeping the eggs at 37.5 degrees Celsius / 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

****But the most exciting thing about Wednesday was that Mama Arlene arrived home today. All the kids dressed in their nicest clothes, sang a "welcome home" song for her and showered her with flower petals. And hugs. And kisses. She is happy to be home. And what a blessing she is to these children!

READ Tomorrow about the cow water trough and the chicken tiller.

*Dave and Kira talking with the kids about regulating the temperature for the incubator.

*Mama Arlene the day she LEFT for the US as I don't have a photo of her coming home yet. But the prayers and the love are the same coming and going!! Notice the flip flips and crocs the kids are wearing that St. Paul's sent.

*Dave and Eugene the farm manager conferring with farmers and vets.


Work continued throughout the week on the rabbit hutches. All the doors were fixed. Several Water bottles that were sent last fall worked so another 20 will be needed. These are ones that we use for pets in the US. Talia, a soon to be PSU student from Bloomsburg, will hopefully take them when she goes this July.

Another process they worked on was tattooing the rabbits for breeding purposes. The first photo shows them doing this. The tattoo kit was sent by Dave with a previous team but unfortunately the identification numbers were not included. They realized the farmers would not do this unless they showed them in person. Back home I quickly bought what they needed, sent them FedEx to Arlene in Virginia so she would have them a day before she left for Rwanda. It was the last set at the store. As you can see they arrived!! We make thing happen even across the world.

And of course the children are so very curious about all that is happening at the farm. Here Paul and Kenny discuss raising rabbits. Teaching goes on all the time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Akagara Park 1

This national park is in the eastern park of Rwanda bordering Tanzania. It was founded in 1934 to protect animals and the vegetation in three ecoregions: savannah, mountain and swamp. It covered 1,500 sq miles.

In late 1990's much of the savannah area of the park was given to former refugees of the genocide returning from the war. The park was reduced in size to 750 sq miles. Although much of the best savannah grazing land is outside the park,what remains of Akagara is some of the most diverse and scenic landscape in Africa.

There is also a fishing tribe living in the park and a new safari lodge. Over the next 5 years there are plans for a western boundary fence and the reintroduction of lion and black rhino.

*Looking across the Akagara River to Tanzania
*Boats at the fishing village
*Baboons making themselves at home
*Arriving at the north entrance to the park

Akagara Wildlife 2

Traveling through through the southern part of the park at 6:30am allowed us to view an array of birds, cape buffalo, wart hogs and an impala. As we were in the road heading out to go to the north entrance we finally spotted a giraffe. Little did we know how many beautiful animals we would see in the north.

There in the north we saw several types of impala, cape buffalo, one hippo out of the water and many hippo heads bobbing in the water, a croc, stork, zebras, and a field of giraffes that we drove right into the middle of. We heard elephants are hard to find as well as leopard.