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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 13 Sep 2011

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

MapTuesday, September 13th, 2011

Today was another Muhanga day but we decided to take a few minutes out of our morning and email home first. It’s always a struggle for me when communication is so difficult. It’s hard to be this far away with so little contact! (I guess it’s a ridiculous thing to complain about considering what people here have to face on a daily basis.)

After another beautiful bus ride out to Muhanga, we hopped on some bikes to go visit an orphanage called the Fred Mkunda Life Center. The 20 minute ride was uphill and I’m sure there was some fast talking going as to who would have to take Rob on the back of their bike, (he’s 6’6”.)

The orphanage, called JAM (Joint Aid Management) for short, was established following the Genocide in 1994. Since then over 12,000 children have lived here and then moved on, always coming back to visit of course! In African cultures, children are usually looked after by relatives but many of these orphans had none, since whole families had been wiped out. After the atrocities they had witnessed, many of them were suffering from PTSD when they came to the orphanage. JAM worked hard to provide counselling and hospitalized those they could not help.

At present there are 108 children living at JAM. Since many of the children grew up and moved on, and the dormitories were left empty, so until recently, much of that building was being used as a skills training centre. The donations that kept the training centre going have dried up so the rooms are currently just locked up.

Many of the children here received shirts from our Ironman donations. We only got a couple of pictures because most of them were in school today.

As we left JAM, were met at the gate by passing school children so we took out our Magic Walmart Bubbles. The kids were so excited, yelling, screaming and jumping to catch the flying bubbles. Afterward they sang a few songs for us!!!

We were biked back down the hills, and then we headed over to the GO office to meet up with the group from the GO Cooperative. These women and children are part of the larger group who received the totes and were at the house site when we were making mud bricks last year. We were met by four of the moms, twenty children and very elderly man named Des. I had met him last year so he was pretty happy to see me again. In fact, before the afternoon was through he had asked me to marry him and said he wants more children.

When we arrived, the group immediately began singing and dancing for us; all dressed in matching Ironman shirts. We passed out some small gifts and candy and then listened to the spokesperson of the group….”Thank God for you to know us. God gave us the love to love all the people of the world. I’m asking God to bless all volunteers. I was afraid before but since we received the gifts from you, I have hope. Now God is looking at us. We are happy to see you again. Everyday we are happy but we have a problem because many of the children have no school fees.” She went on to describe the costs per semester, etc. I decided to give them $200 that was donated by Pat Ostler from Whiterock. (She is Aaron’s dad’s wife.) Thanks Pat!!!!!! GO will look after the money and help them to decide which 20 children need it the most. It was only enough for the first semester but they were very grateful.

Later that night, back in Kigali we met Jean-Claude for dinner. Frank had arranged for him to drive Frank’s car out from Nyamata so he could take me to the airport to get my missing suitcase. Everyone here always looks after us so well!!!! If you stop someone on the street to ask something, people will gather around, all eager to help, and no one asks for anything back. People here are wonderful!!!!!

Getting my suitcase was a highly anticipated moment and I was so excited at the site of it that I left my passport at the airport with the security people. I guess it’s another trip back in the morning!!!! That’s Ok……. I get to wear something different tomorrow…. Yeaaaaaaa!!!!!!!