Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Messiah College

Messiah College and Houghton College will partner with our Children's Home and Learning Center through GoED for the fourth time fall 2016!!! I'll be meeting the 10-12 students going when I take suitcases for them to deliver to Rwanda for us. This is the first time they will help us with this important need. And when I go in March I'll be working alongside two of the students that are placed with us.

Based in Kigali, Rwanda, the GoED Program in Africa engages students with the reality of global poverty, causes of conflict and the efforts for peacekeeping and reconciliation. The program fosters spiritual formation alongside academic courses and cross cultural experiences. In addition to classroom instruction, students participate in four-week practicum.

This March the two students i worked with were Jordan from Houghton and Jenna from Messiah. They worked on the farm, led devotions, helped in the classroom, worked one on one with pen pal letters and reading and most importantly loved the kids. These are amazing students that share the love of Jesus in all they do.

Monday, June 27, 2016

10 Years #1

What an amazing milestone the Urukundo Children's Home and Learning Center has reached...10 years. What started in 2006 as a house for girls has grown to a home for 54 children and youth, a sustainable farm, community worship center, school, library, dental clinic, sewing training center, mom and baby outreach and sports area for local kids.

A celebration was held in June with over 500 in attendance. We were thrilled that so many came including alumni volunteers. There were 4 young adults that have been coming from the US, Germany and the UK for several years. They are such dear friends and sponsors of some of the kids. Yes even at their age they are helping to sponsor our kids.

Another wonderful surprise was Jacque, one of Arlene's daughters who came to celebrate this special occasion.

***Please go to www.hopemadereal.org and at the end of the celebration Newsletter you can read Mama Arlene's message. I encourage you to read it to get a sense of where it started and how far it's come.

10 Years #2

Our beautiful university students returned for the celebration. The girls are studying IT, business, hospitality, aviation, nursing and the boys, sports management, computer science, medicine, business. Not all the university students could attend but they were there in their hearts.

In attendance were government officials such as the governor of the South Province and the mayor and executive secretary of the Muhunga District as well as representatives of the National Commission of Children, Esther's Aide and other community organizations. Also Bruce and a representative from the Carnegie Mellon Rwanda campus.

Urukundo continues exemplify what it means to be a good neighbor, to empower citizens of the community and to give hope and a future to so many in need.

10 Years #3

The children were a highlight of the celebration as they sang for the honored guests, performed traditional dance and karate, read poetry and thanked Mama Arlene for providing a loving, Christian home for them to flourish. And they definitely have!!!

Also the staff of 69 at Urukundo and others in attendance provided Mama with a few gifts that all could enjoy.

10 years #4

Tours were given to those in attendance with the highlight being our school. Over 430 children attend pre-k through 4th grade with 5th to open in January 2016. Jean Marie our executive director in white traditional clothing led the tour. Note the stones to the right in one photo that is the Pathway to Learning. Messages are written on the stones in honor or memory of many generous donors.

The grand finale of the celebration were the tables filled with amazing Rwandan food.

All I can say is blessing abound as the Urukundo Children's Home and Learning Center continues to be a strong presence in the community.

Thursday, June 23, 2016


A constant issue in our kitchen has been smoke and poor ventilation. The smoke turns the ceiling black and slowly destroys the panels. A gift of panels from Aziza Life and our good friend Tom McGregor enabled us to remove the old ceiling and replace it.

I've been there on Saturday mornings when they fry chipati for breakfast. If the conditions are just right, which is not good, there is a fog of smoke in the room. As I roll out the dough and help with frying sometimes there will be tears streaming down my face from the smoke.

Now our challenge is to find an exhaust fan in Kigali city, build a hood for over the cooking area and have ventilation that removes the smoke. It will be beneficial not only for the building itself but for the workers in our kitchen. Smoke is dangerous so this will provide a safer environment for our kitchen staff.

This is another reflection of the community working together to provide materials one group may not need. Recycle and reuse.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Our Staff 1

We are so proud of our dedicated staff of over 60. yes we are the largest employer in the district and wow what a great staff it is. Many have been with Urukundo since God led me here 6 years ago. Some have grown into new positions with more responsibilities. I can't share about all of them but will try to share about some of them.

Jean Marie is our executive director. Urukundo is sending him to university. He is currently finishing his BA in finance and administration. Most recently he was married to Larissa and had a little baby girl.

Julliette is our secretary and treasurer and mama to Edison and Gerry. Urukundo also sent her to university several years ago for a BA in accounting.

Olive is 25 and assistant to Mama Arlene. She came last year in Aoril from a position in retail in Kigali, the capital.

Delphine is the manager of the boys and girls homes and the nursery. She leads Sunday School for the kids and coordinates a bible study for the mamas.

Our Staff 2

How amazing it is to see how many important jobs are being provided to those in the community. They are all essential to the successful running of the Urukundo Children's Home and Learning Center. You've met teachers and sewing instructors in previous blog stories so I want to highlight others that have a place in all our hearts.

Cecilia our cook who came to us after being a head cook at a hotel in Kigali.

Amin, one of our boys from the home that attended culinary school and now cooks in our kitchen.

A break from all their responsibilities. Clarissa, Chantal and Josephine.

Knitters Francois (mama in the nursery) Chantal (our 15 year old), Betty (mama to the boys) and Josephine (mama in the nursery)

Our Staff 3

God continues to bless us with so many staff members that live in our community.

One of our guards that also polishes and repairs our kids school shoes.

Clarissa, a mama to the little ones at the home, is also responsible for coordinating the hand washing of all the kids laundry.

Rehab, a mother of two little ones, started as a cleaner at our school and now manages our shop.

Josephine a mother of two high school kids who manages Mama's household. Which means she cooks our breakfast, cleans the house and loves the kids.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Landslides and floods hit several parts of Rwanda in May after a period of heavy rainfall. Between May 8-9th, almost 2 inches of rain was recorded in one area during a 24 hour period. Northern Rwanda is particularly hilly, making it vulnerable to landslides during the rainy season. Government officials say that at least 49 deaths have been recorded so far, most being children. Some of the victims drowned in flood water, others died after houses collapsed under the heavy rain or landslide. Over 500 homes were destroyed.

The worst hit areas are the districts of Gakenke and Muhunga. Urukundo Children’s Home is in Muhunga District. 73 homes were destroyed and many more damaged. The 73 families lost everything. Our supply of drinking water was cut, but thank goodness we have water tanks throughout the property collecting rainwater.

Urukundo is also fine as retaining walls that were built several years ago protected the buildings. But Oswald, one of our Rwanda board members, said his home is no longer sound and cannot be repaired. He is in need of help. Urukundo is doing what we can by providing some funds for his family’s relocation.

Right after the landslides, government officials approached Mama Arlene to see how Urukundo can help those in the community that were affected. Two large containers, one with adult clothing and one with children's clothing were packed up and given for the local mudslide victims. Along with the clothes, 3 containers of cooking oil were purchased and vegetables from our gardens were shared.

Arlene is so thankful to everyone that has given clothing, baby items, shoes and kids underwear and socks to Urukundo. “Because YOU care we can share”.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tea Plantation Pt 1

Our drive 2 1/2 hour drive to the tea plantation was unlike anything I have ever seen in Rwanda. We were driving to the northern part of the country and the clouds were hanging so low. You could see the valley below and the mountains above! Stunning.

On the way there were steams, forest, acres and acres of fields planted with tea, people harvest and waving to us as we passed and people carrying baskets of harvested tea that would be picked up by trucks to transport to the factory for processing. Our last 10 miles were on a dirt road lined on both sides with tea fields.

Hundreds were working in the fields, most waist high among the bushes. I had heard it was a view so stunning and I was not disappointed!

We were heading to Sorwathe Tea Plantation Factory built in 1975 and run by an American Company, Tea Importers. Initially the company was in Rwanda to help with marketing tea internationally. Soon they were asked to to start this factory.

Enjoy the beauty seen on our drive.....

Tea Plantation Pt 2

Key information about this factory:

*Main asset - 2500 employees and 4500 tea farmers

*Production- 3 million kg or 6.5 million pounds of tea ore year which is 15% of Rwanda's tea production

Products: Black, green, white, orthodox and organic tea

*Fair trade

*Exported to US, UK, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Pakistan, France, China and Kenya.