“KORA IBYIZA BURI MUNSI”
(Do good every day)
we have an opportunity for you!
You Are invited to:
In November of 2012, I travelled to Rwanda with Vicky Trabosh, my dearest friend of 37 years, to see the land and meet the people that have become so much a part of her heart. And now I understand.
While I have journeyed to many places in the world, I had never been to Africa. After hearing about Rwanda and supporting Itafari for years, I told Vicky that I wanted to go with her on the next trip. The Itafari event last year in support of building the Kigali Parents Secondary School had touched me. Why couldn’t we get a school built? I wanted to see it for myself. I also wanted to see the mountain gorillas, which was an unbelievable experience.
It was an amazing trip. I would like to share some of my impressions of this land of a thousand hills.
I knew this would be an adventure. What I didn’t expect was the beauty of the land and how moved I was by the people. They are working hard on all levels to bring their country together and to rise up to become a modern center – self-sustaining and self-sufficient. They know they need help, but are not looking for handouts. There is an emphasis on education as one of the pillars of this development. They know that education is the way up. And I agree.
So, I am sponsoring a child. Over the years I have often thought of it, but never followed through. Then, I came to Rwanda. And I saw for myself what is happening there. People here are trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. Even the children are trying to make a better life for themselves and their sisters and brothers. How could I not
So, I am sponsoring Donata; helping her go to school and work to fulfill her dream ofbecoming a doctor. You go girl!!
It was clear that this small country does not have an abundance of natural resource commodities. But, they have people – lots of people. And people can be a great resource, especially when educated. Schools are only one way Rwandans are educating themselves. We visited Gahaya Links, one of Itafari’s partners. This is a cooperative where village women are taught to weave beautiful baskets and jewelry (sold by Itafari). It was clear how much it meant to the women to have a source of income to improve their families and communities. I enjoyed interacting with the women - watching them work and trying to talk with them. My Kinyarwanda is sorely lacking, but I’m very good at saying “Hello – how are you?” They were very warm in their responses.
One cannot visit Rwanda without facing the genocide. I went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial to learn and understand what happened here. Difficult emotions came up. “Over 1 million dead in 100 days”. It was impossible to wrap my head around it – both the blood shed and that the world did nothing to stop it. Everyone’s life here has been impacted by this violence. But the country is trying to heal itself and it is palpable. One can feel the collective strength of the people of Rwanda.
We also went to Butare to meet with Pastor John about a possible partnership with Itafari. John asked if we would like to come out to the construction site of his new church. Remember, everything is on a hillside in Rwanda. They don’t call it the Land of a Thousand Hills for nothing. So being the Muzungu (Westener), that I am, I assumed we would see a big piece of machinery digging into the red clay soil; leveling part of the hill. However, when we got there, I saw a different kind of machine. A Rwandan machine. I saw an army of women,and a few men, hard at work digging with hoes; leveling an area on which to build their church. Women with children on their backs. Women swinging hoes with an intensity I have rarely experienced.
And they were getting the job done! I realized that in my cushy modern life, I have lost sight of the enormous capacity of the human body and how much can be accomplished when moved by spirit and motivated by purpose.
These are a few reflections on my wonderful journey in Rwanda. You may have noticed that I didn’t speak about the school. I would like that to be the topic of my next post. I know we just met, but I hope you will stay tuned.
Murakoze cyane (thank you very much),
I have never had anything beyond my family call to me as passionately as this country and its people.
This trip will be filled with many activities:
Reviewing the progress of Kigali Parents Secondary School building that has continued with our great fundraiser in June which raised $50,000
Connecting with the children we sponsor – especially those John and I support on a monthly basis and those whose sponsors had a chance to send gifts
Finalizing the Christmas party for 207 children
Climbing to see the gorillas
Visiting and laughing with beloved friends
Attending the wedding of our country director (love is always grand!)
Meeting with women leaders to explore their wisdom and their collective ability to significantly influence the future of their nation
Investigating new opportunities for Itafari to make a difference through our programs
Showing my Rwanda to my beloved friend Julie Sklare who is accompanying me for her first trip to Rwanda
Julie and I met at Purdue University in 1976. She has been part of some of the most significant moments of my life. She was my maid of honor in 1981. She was with me at the moment my mother died. She has watched my family grow and change and is loved by all. We have traveled together, laughed together, cried together and believed in the other’s greatness. She has supported my work with Itafari from the very beginning in 2005 and cheered me on. After attending our event on June 1 2012 she wanted to know more. To see what more we could do together. And as I sit next to her on this plane on the last leg of our journey I love my dear friend even more for her support of this work.
It is wonderful to think about introducing one of the most significant people in my life to the actual people and country I speak of incessantly! What a gift. I look forward to Julie’s reflections and thoughts about improving how we do what we do in Rwanda. To climbing the mountains of Rwanda and be face to face with gorillas. To the laughter and shared memories we’ll add to this treasure chest of memories we have already stored.
Join us on our journey. Donate – help us build our school – sponsor a child – donate for the annual Christmas party – buy a goat – give to our general needs. Write to me. Ask questions. And never doubt that you make a difference in the world.
Kora ibyiza buri munsi (do good every day).
In 35 years of owning cars I have rarely raised the hood. I’ve been to car shows and the hood is raised and men (predominately) are standing around looking at the engine. The only other time I see a raised hood with an audience, happens when there’s a problem with the engine. As a woman who is not blessed with mechanical prowess, a hood of a car that is up is either: a) boring or b) a problem.
A few days ago in Rwanda there were men standing around looking at the engine of the car we were using and there was b) a problem. Car issues are never convenient and so it was the case that I needed to get back to the hotel to get ready for our final night’s celebration with our tour group and some of our Rwanda partners. An important night for sure, and not a good one to be inconvenienced by a dead engine.
It was 5pm. It gets dark at around 6:30pm each day due to the proximity to the equator. I know we are going to be challenged to get this fixed and get me back to the hotel. But no one seemed concerned and what I was most curious about was HOW we could get it repaired and WHO would fix it.
Our country director called a friend who was a mechanic and he said he would arrive shortly on a taxi moto. “Great”, I thought, “and then what?” Where would we take the car? How could he carry tools on the moto? How does he even know what’s wrong??
Within 30 minutes a guy showed up and joined the small but interested group of men staring at the engine. He had NO tools but he didn’t seem concerned. The problem was explained in Kinyarwanda, and he began looking around the battery on this car with 190,000 km on it (which I was told is “not so many!”)
It seems the ignition wire had burned out. But this mechanic noticed a bunch of wires wrapped around the battery (Storage? Securing it to the block? Left behind??) Whatever the case, in the few experiences I’d had in engine gazing, no battery I’d ever seen carried a bunch of wires in that place.
The mechanic unwrapped the wires. He then took one and stripped the plastic off with his teeth. He checked for a spark on the battery and then somehow connected his dentally enhanced wire to something else and started the car! Really??! He assured us he could have the car running in 30 minutes.
They got a car for me to get me back to the hotel. As I sat in traffic on the way back, I marveled at this Rwanda I love. I’ve said it before: nothing will stop people who are determined to win and succeed. Not lack of tools, not darkness, not time constraints. Innovation comes from a place of passion and inspiration. That mechanic didn’t have an office. He worked by phone. He was so confident he could repair the problem. It followed that all of us who stood around believed he would find and fix the problem. No one was disappointed.
Where is that deep sense of commitment to success in me? It seems to me that we are often hamstrung by the smallest of obstacles. Innovation; passion; focus; partnership; faith in ourselves and others; these are the things that must be present to create greatness in ourselves, in our country, a moment, and in a lifetime.
If you could have seen this mechanic who had the following tools: his mind, his focus, his confidence, his teeth(!) and watched his success, you would wonder as I do why we as individuals and the Itafari Foundation don’t accomplish more.
Our two weeks in Rwanda have come to an end. Our programs are expanding, changing, improving and being revamped. All for one purpose: to create programs and services that support Rwandans to reach their biggest dreams.
ONE of our programs: Child Sponsorship
Our child sponsorship program has over 205 children sponsored. We held a party with 275 children last Saturday. Three people in our tour group sponsored six children. To be here is to know that $30 a month for these children is life changing.
The eight of us sat in the main room of one of the mothers of the children we sponsored. The room was 8 X 8. Claudine had a woven mat on the dirt where we sat with our legs folded over each other. The cool cement walls covered handmade itafari (bricks). A door without windows. Breaks near the ceiling to let in air. Dark with a small candle burning to give us light. A tin roof to keep out the rain. And she appreciated all she had. Nothing wasted, nothing taken for granted. As we left, Claudine thanked us over and over for coming to her home. She asked that God would bless us. She prayed for us! She is not discouraged. She is hopeful. I gave her a small gift of money and she is going to use it for English lessons so that she can call me!
I’ll be writing more blogs as I reflect on our trip. This eighth trip only deepens my commitment to our Rwandan partners. We’ll continue to work with them to seek solutions.
Maybe Itafari represents the wire wrapped haphazardly around the battery. The battery represents the people of Rwanda. Inspiration is the spark. And I personally believe God is the mechanic.
Please consider supporting this work of Itafari. Sponsor a child, help us build the Kigali Parents Secondary School, buy a goat, purchase a basket, donate for a micro loan. Give a general donation to support the work that it takes to run a foundation.
Hold an event where I come and speak to your friends about this amazing country, its history, its progress and most importantly, its people.
Whatever you do, be inspired to know anything is possible in your life with just a bit of faith, focus and confidence in yourself and others.
Contact me or the Itafari Foundation to learn more about our work.
What do hippos, goats, and rollers have in common? Everything if you're in Rwanda.
I'm here in Rwanda for my 7th visit in less than five years. Nothing is better than doing what you're meant to do with people of vision and integrity. The work of the Itafari Foundation allows all of us to work with people determined to be known by their strength and resilience, not by a genocide that happened 16 years ago. The past should never be forgotten, but the future lies ahead of us: full of hope, challenges, joy, sorrow and impossible problems which will be solved.
One of our problems right now is getting water to the goats in our child headed households. Each of these 35 cooperatives, which are in the south, east and northern regions of Rwanda have been given 15 nanny goats and a billy goat from S. Africa. Their task: raise the goats, plant elephant grass for feed, use the manure for fertilizer, run their small business and within about three years become self sufficient. A huge task - much more so for children raising their siblings. But NEVER underestimate the power of the human spirit and a big dream to be independent.
Today I go back to Nyagatare to visit the first cooperative to whom we gave goats to in 2007. They call themselves the Power of Love! They get the need to inspire themselves and are aptly named. They've had success but also some severe challenges. Water is not always easily accessible. And goats are thirsty. The minerals they are given make them thirstier.
To get water to them requires the herdsman to fill jerry cans full of water. They each weigh about 45 pounds when full. Can you imagine carrying one for each goat each day over the land of 1,000 hills? The herd we were looking at has 35 goats. Can you imagine walking miles and miles each day carrying 45 pounds in your arms? Understandably, neither can the herdsman!
But if I've learned one thing in my work in Rwanda it's that you don't keep your problems to yourself; you ask others how they can help you.
Before I left for Rwanda I was speaking of my thirsty goats and said, "I don't know how we'll solve this impossible problem, but we will!" Two people from the audience came up and offered to help. One mentioned HIPPO ROLLERS which are on display at OMSI in Portland. Had I ever heard of them? No. the other person sent me the link to their site: http://hipporoller.org/ and then offered to buy three for Itafari and our cooperatives.
From there, the dream has grown bigger. The Hippo Rollers, which allow a woman or child to move 200 pounds of water EASILY only costs $100 each! It's the shipping that's the killer. But, impossible situations are meant to be solved, and we'll figure it out. In the meantime, the first person that offered to help donated $500, then another friend donated $1,000. We have enough to buy 15 rollers - and we've only just begun.
Have YOU ever been extremely thirsty? What do you do? Get water. Not so easy for a goat, a young person trying to carry water, or a group of people trying to thrive on their own. But you can help. Give us a hand, and literally, the children will do the heavy lifting which you have just made light.
Many things are changing in Rwanda - for the better. But there will always be challenges if you want to make a difference in the world. And I do. And so do all the many donors of Itafari. Join us. Send me an email letting me know your interest. I'll contact you when I return home on February 21st.
$100. In Rwanda, a hippo roller becomes a gift to a cooperative of children determined to raise goats, raise their standard of living and raise their opportunities in life. Can you imagine?
Write to me at Vicky@itafari.org or call the Itafari office with your donation at 503-636-3692. If you want to give on the website go to http://itafari.org/donate and check give any amount - make sure you note as you pay that you want it to go for a hippo roller.
Murakoze cyane! (thank you so much!) Warmly, Vicky
When the stock market went wild in the world last September, I was in a hotel room in Kigali. What little access I had to TV gave me dire predictions of an international financial meltdown. Fifteen minutes, twice a day, from CNN World and the BBC was more than enough news a year ago.
A year later, I wait to return to Rwanda. Indeed, some of those dire predictions have certainly come true. But others have not. Life goes on. Not as we thought it would and for many of us our future may be different than the one we envisioned. But I know that we must continue to do the right things right. We must continue to choose to make a difference in the world. And those who are so much less able to bear the changes continue to need our assistance. And NOTHING does more to buoy my spirit then when I have the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
Itafari has given so many of you that same opportunity. And I’m asking you to support us once more.
Itafari just celebrated its 4th birthday! And our work has just begun. Like any four year old, we’re learning our way, struggling to do things that maybe a bigger kid (foundation) would only have the courage to try, and finding that our efforts are working – but not as quickly as we would have hoped.
In spite of all the challenges, we continue. So many of you continue to support Itafari.
THANK YOU again for all you do.
Our challenge now is to finish our commitment of $250,000 towards building the Kigali Parents Secondary School. An amazing school that will support the Kigali Parents Primary School (KPPS). KPPS has consistently had the highest scores in the country for their children in the national tests. The highest. And the school is open to all children, regardless of race or ethnicity. A school we are proud to partner with.
And so what better way to build this school than brick (itafari) by brick (itafari).
The government recently required that all buildings be complete before they can be occupied. (we were going to build the school in phases). Our goal is to open the school for the January 2010 term. The building has begun! You can see the pictures on the website under VIRTUAL FUNDRAISER or on the presentation that’s also on that same page on the website.
A unique and personal gift. An incredible remembrance of a loved one. A statement that you believe in the power of education. A reminder to yourself that anything we do, large or small, changes the world.
You can donate online at the website, call me, or send your check to
27 El Greco
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
Your gift is 100% tax deductible. We will give you a beautiful personalized gift certificate. And you know that this brick, this itafari, is a sign for you and the children of Rwanda that we must never ever ever ever ever give up.
I hope to be back in Rwanda in January or February to see what we have accomplished together. Itafari by itafari by itafari.