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),
is unlike many African countries. One of
the ways they distinguish themselves is with their plan to transform the country
by the year 2020. This aggressive goal
is not just a good idea: it is the
compass by which the country and its leaders are charting their course.
the conclusion of the document the writers state:
“VISION 2020 represents
an ambitious plan to raise the people of Rwanda out of poverty and transform
the country into a middle-income economy. Some will say that this is too
ambitious and that we are not being realistic when we set this goal. Others say
that it is a dream. But, what choice does Rwanda have? To remain in the current
situation is simply unacceptable for the Rwandan people. Therefore, there is a
need to devise and implement policies as well as mobilize resources to
bring about the necessary transformation to achieve the Vision. This is
realistic based on the fact that countries with similar unfavourable initial
conditions have succeeded. The development experience of the East Asian ‘Tigers’**
proves that this dream could be a reality.”
note: **East Asian 'Tigers'
refers to the term Four Asian Tigers or Asian Tigers refers to the highly developed economies of:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
Please download the PDF to read more
about the focus of this amazing country and its leaders: click here for download
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.