Here, There and Everywhere

Archive for June, 2011

Muneza’s Story

From Amakuru! News from the Rwandan Orphans Project.

Muneza’s Story

Unfortunately, Muneza has a story that is similar to so many Rwandan families who live in poverty. Muneza’s father died when he was very young, leaving his mother to care for Muneza and his three siblings on her own. She would work roasting corn on the street and selling it to passersby, making very little money. She often could not afford to feed her family, so Muneza and his siblings gradually spent more and more time begging on the streets of Kigali.

Here they would make enough money in a day to buy food for themselves and consequently would go home less and less. When Muneza did go home, he says his mother would beat him for being away so long, which only encouraged him to spend time away from home on the streets.
Muneza said that he survived by begging for scraps of food from restaurants or begging for money. He would sleep under the bridge of a river in a run-down part of town in cardboard boxes. He had three friends who he would sometimes sleep and beg with, but often he was on his own.

He lived like this for around one year. Muneza was found by the ROP’s Director, Celestin Mitabu, begging outside a bank in the centre of Kigali. Celestin asked Muneza if he would like to join a centre where he would get regular meals and a chance to attend school for the first time in his life. Muneza and a friend he was with agreed. That was in January this year and they have both been at the Centre ever since.

Muneza is a lively, boisterous child who is well known amongst staff and children. He loves to pull funny faces and play jokes and is a very bright boy who is doing well in school. He particularly loves to sing, dance, perform gymnastics, play cards and look at books (he isn’t able to read well yet). He says he enjoys life at the centre, especially as the food has recently improved.

Muneza says that someday he wants to be a big businessman, owning restaurants and cars all around Rwanda. With his charisma and energy, and a little help from the ROP, his dreams may very well come true.

Day of African Child

From Amakuru: News from the Rwandan Orphans Project.

ROP Hosts “International Day of the African Child” Event for Rwandan Government

The ROP was surprised but pleased to be chosen to host the celebration ceremony for the International Day of the African Child on June 19th, 2011. There are many centers for vulnerable children in our district, so to be chosen over all of them meant they see ROP as a top program.,That is something we are very proud of. Our joy was only tempered by the fact that we only had a week to prepare.
But as always the ROP family came together and worked extremely hard painting rooms, cleaning the grounds, landscaping and doing whatever else needed to be done so the ROP Center would look its best for the guests and officials from the government who were due to attend.

The big day arrived and the Center was in top shape. The children of the ROP dressed up in their nicest clothes, all except the football and rugby club players, who wanted to show off their team uniforms.

During the ceremony various guests spoke about the strife of orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda and how well programs like the ROP were working to improve their lives and provide them with a future. Celestin Mitabu, the ROP Center director, pleaded for the government to get more involved in the work of organizations like ours. Sean Jones, ROP coordinator presented certificates of achievement to three of the six students that graduated the ROP program last year who received full university scholarships from the Rwandan government. The children were also treated to songs and dances performed by their fellow residents and children from other centers as well as each receiving a Fanta as a treat from the Mayor.

Orphanage Kitchen Complete!

A new and much needed kitchen at ROP Center for Street Children in Rwanda was just completed.

Last week the ribbon was cut and ROP’s much needed new kitchen was officially opened for use. The construction was funded by Line Loen and her Metamorfose organization. Line visited the Center earlier this year and upon seeing the old kitchen, with its smoke damage, inefficient open fires and crumbling walls, decided to sponsor a new, safer and more efficient facility. She partnered with Manna Energy, based in Colorado, who funded and constructed the large “rocket stove” that is used to cook the large amount of beans and corn meal the boys consume every day. Metamorfose contributed funding for the bulk of the project, including sinks for washing food and hands before eating and three smaller stoves for cooking vegetables and other food.

Line, a very strong sponsor of the ROP, wanted to construct the new kitchen to promote cleaner cooking, better hygiene, better health conditions for the cooks and to reduce our firewood costs. Emmanual Habimana, one of the Center’s cooks, shared his happiness with the new kitchen. “We can cook more food, and cook it faster. Mostly, though, we can see what we’re doing and we can breath, thanks to the smokeless stoves and ventilation.”

Cloud Nine

Recipe from Luscious Chocolate Smoothies: An irresistible collection of healthy cocoa delights. By Gabriel Constans (Booktrope Publishers)

Luscious Chocolate Smoothies is a delicious collection of recipes that combines the rich, intoxicating taste and heart health benefits of dark chocolate, with a tantalizing balance of fruits, nuts, tofu, soy, liquor, juices and other unique elements to create cool, refreshing mouth watering drinks for all ages.

The book is interspersed with chocolate anecdotes, humor and history, as well as tips for blending and information on its vivacious ingredients. Discover the connection between love and chocolate; delve into The Hurricane, Coyote’s Howl or The Nutty Professor; and blissfully empty every cup to the last drop.

Cloud Nine

4 small bananas, in chunks
2 1/2 cups water
1 8-ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup firm silken tofu
1/4 cup protein powder
2 heaping tablespoons chocolate spirulina powder

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix on medium speed for 1 minute.

Pour into your favorite containers and drink up protein, potassium, vitamin C and great taste.

Per Cup: Calories 183; Protein 7 g; Total Fat 1 g; Saturated Fat 0 g; Carbohydrate 39 g; Cholesterol 0 mg.

MORE RECIPES

Help Deliver Soccer Supplies to Youth Around the World.

If you are traveling out of the country this summer (live in the Santa Cruz County area) and are willing to take a suitcase or two of donated soccer supplies (uniforms, balls, jersey’s, cleats, shorts, shin guards, shirts, socks, ball pump, etc.), please give us a call. 429-9511. Gabriel or Audrey.

Young people at orphanages, youth centers, schools and other non-profit organizations have little, if any, such items and LOVE soccer (futbol). People from all over the county donate their children’s used uniforms to us and we hand deliver them to various places. We’ve delivered supplies to 3 different groups in Rwanda, a center for street children in Guatemala, a school in Mexico and a school in Kenya.

Right now, we have a lot ready to go, but aren’t personally traveling anywhere this summer. We’ll bring suitcases full of uniforms to your home, if you can take them on a trip, deliver them to a youth center and take a picture when you deliver the items.

Thank you for taking the time to consider supporting this. It’s a small, easy way of giving back from the game we love to others around the world. Call Gabriel or Audrey at 429-9511.

Just Around The Corner

Excerpt from Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter
by Gabriel Constans.

Just Around The Corner: Hope and Healing

I fell in love with Robin the first day we met. She was playing her role, as a recently admitted hospice patient, with great style and flair, while I lumbered through my part as the experienced “seasoned” social worker.

She wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award and didn’t give a damn about her looks. Her body looked like a skeleton with a layer of skin painted on with a thick brush. A blue and green scarf covered her almond-shaped, balding head. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds and her smile hung in the air like the Cheshire cat.

She had a warmth and graciousness that the worst ravages of metastatic breast cancer could not hide. Entering her small, low-income apartment by the sea, felt like entering a sanctuary or coming home for the holidays.

Her one-woman play about a terminal disease had about a two year run.

She talked openly about dying, but more about living. She wasn’t afraid of death, but she loved life. She loved her mother, her boyfriend, her family and friends. She loved music, art, beauty and nature. She was thirty-eight years old and she wanted to live until she was an old woman with grandchildren. She kept waiting for a new treatment, another remission, some kind of hope or miracle. It almost came twice.

An experimental trial with a new drug regime was supposed to be available through her HMO but kept getting put off, then delayed, eventually fizzling away into the land of false promises. Then came the dream of a cure with Angiostatin and similar therapies, which exploded across the media and public airwaves as “extremely hopeful cures for cancer tumors.” Again she was told of some local trials and assured that she was eligible to participate, but this too seemed to fade into oblivion as time slipped by, leaving her to use whatever means she had at her disposal – blood transfusions, medications, hospitalization, intravenous therapy, diet, herbs, detoxification, prayer, meditation, visualization – she tried it all, but the cancer kept chipping away.

She went to the hospital for one final assault, then returned home. It was a glorious Indian Summer when I saw her for the last time. I knocked on her weathered door, heard her call out “Come in.” and entered her tiny sunlit living room, which was also her bedroom, library and dining area.

Moving towards the head of her hospital bed, I saw that she’d been through the ringer and was losing ground fast. Her face was black, blue and yellow, as if she’d just been in a bar room brawl. Her skin was almost translucent, stretched over her frame like a sheet of white plastic. Her arms were as thin as straws and she struggled to breathe deeply. In spite of her frailty and obvious diminishing returns, her eyes still danced and she spoke vibrantly about life and healing.

“I hope my life made a difference,” she said softly.

“You know it has,” I reassured. “You’ve given such love.”

“Yes, I guess so,” she said and touched my cheek gently with her fingers. “That’s been the best part.”

“What’s next?” I asked tentatively, wondering what she planned to do with her remaining days.

She turned away, looked out her large window and watched a mother and daughter lean against the cliff side railing, their hair blowing in the wind, the child laughing, screaming with delight. Without changing position, she replied, “I don’t know. What do you think?”

Part of me wanted to run. My many years of listening and learning how to be present seemed to slip out the door. “I don’t know,” I said lamely. “Part of me doesn’t want to believe this day has come.” I followed her gaze, not really focusing on anything. My hopeless grasping continued. “I don’t want you to die.”

“Nice thought,” she smiled, “but just a wee bit unrealistic.” She rolled her eyes and grinned with amusement.

“Yeah,” I blushed. “It’s just . . . I don’t know . . .” I struggled to find the right words then looked her way. “How do you let go of everything you’ve known with such dignity and grace?”

“I don’t have any choice,” she said without hesitation.

“I know we don’t always have a choice over what happens to us,” I blundered along, “but we have a choice in how we respond to what happens, don’t we? If I was in your position, I’d be screaming and yelling to my last breath.”

Without blinking, she reiterated, “Like I said, I don’t have a choice. This is who I am.”

Robin died two days later. She died like she lived, tenderly and peacefully. I, on the other hand, keep wailing away at the ravages of cancer, thinking I have more choices in life than are probable and hoping a cure for cancer is “just around the corner.”

MORE GOOD GRIEF: LOVE, LOSS AND LAUGHTER.

Tomas and Annalise – Vier

From It’s About Time by Gabriel Constans.
A novel based on a true story.

Vier

Tomas glided out of the kitchen with a tray full of breakfast delights and placed it on my lap. He sat on the edge of the bed and brushed the hair out of my eyes.

“Wow!” I said, drooling. “What a feast!”

“‘Tis the least I could do for my fair maiden,” he replied, kneeling down to kiss my hand.

As I pulled him closer, almost knocking over the tray, he kissed me again. “Thank you,” I whispered in his ear.

He sat up slightly and asked, “Where were you while I was trudging through the kitchen castle, slaying the stove dragon for your breakfast?”

“Alas, I must confess, dear prince, I was thinking of when we first met. Remember?”

“Remember?” he started, “of course; how could I ever forget?” He looked at me with mock surprise. “You were like a genie coming to life, but instead of me rubbing your lamp, you rubbed mine.” His laughter warmed the room.

“It was my second day in Chicago,” I recalled. “I’d just met your parents the night before and was pretty exhausted from the flight. You came in the afternoon. We were in the living room when I heard you come in the front door and yell out for your mom and dad. Your parents hollered back, ‘We’re in here, son!’ We all stood up, except for Jens, who sarcastically introduced you as ‘My older, but dumber brother, Tomas.’ You looked at him, as if you’d heard it a hundred times. ‘Hi, nice to meet you,’ you said. You looked incredibly handsome in your dark suit and tie.” Tomas blushed.

“You had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen,” I recalled, staring into his sparkling pools. “They took me in like the deepest ocean. When you shook my hand, your grip felt strong and gentle. I trusted you without hesitation or regret. You’ve never broken that trust.”

He kissed me on the cheek as I continued the memory. “Jens said he had some business to take care of and asked if you’d show me around. I was delighted at the prospect, and you didn’t appear to be to put out either.”

“It was a pleasure, to say the least,” he smirked.

“You were intensely polite and had impeccable manners,” I continued. “You spoke to me with dignity and respect. I felt like you actually cared about what I was saying. you betrayed not a hint of condescension, belittlement or false modesty. And your German was excellent. I’d never heard an American speak so well.”

“It’s gotten a little rusty,” he admitted.

“After a few days of you ‘showing me around,’ I started wondering if I was living with the wrong man.” My mied feelings bubbled up in the retelling. “I was excited, bewildered and terrified. I remember telling myself to stop considering such crazy ideas. You were my boyfriend’s brother, for God’s sake, but the more I tried to stay away, the closer I got. It was like someone had put a chocolate sundae in front of me and said ‘Don’t touch!’ You were all I thought of, night and day. I’m not sure you knew what to make of me. You probably thought I was a slut or something.”

“No,” Tomas remembered. “I was confused all right, but not by you. What scared me was what I was feeling towards you. It was terrifyingly wonderful! I tried to forget about you by calling some old girlfriends in town.”

“You called a girlfriend?!” I kidded. “How could you?”

“They were useless.” He shook his head. “All attempts at releasing you from my heart were futile. I told myself Jens didn’t deserve you and I was right – but he was still my brother and you were his girl, so to speak. The clincher was the day before I left, when you pulled me into the bedroom, closed the door and kissed me with such passion and urgency I thought I’d ignite.”

“That wasn’t planned!” I laughed. “It happened before I could stop myself. You know me,” I said shyly. “Would you ever have expected me to be so bold?”

“Not then,” he exclaimed. “Now, yes!”

“Only with you.” I grabbed his robe and forced him closer. “You deserve this,” I exclaimed, as my arms wrapped him up and our lips collided.

After we’d caught our breath, I told him to look in the pocket of the suitcase.

“What for?” he asked.

“The letter.”

“What letter?”

“The one you sent me after we met,” I said. “I brought it with us.”

He found it, came back to bed and handed me the envelope.

“No, you read it.” I handed it back. “I want to hear it in your voice. Please?”

“It’s been a long time since I wrote this,” he said, as he looked it over. He lay down beside me and began.

“Dear Annalise. Your letter arrived last week and I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, trying to think of a way to respond. You seem to have a hidden talent for making a person feel special when he’s around you. There’s something I must confess before going any further: I played with you a little bit at first, in the hopes of making Jens jealous. It seems that he takes you for granted and that made me made. I hate to see anyone used as if they were a piece of furniture. Aside from that, I also believe he thinks no one else would ever have any interest in you. I never figured my plans would backfire and I would start falling in love with you. But I’m glad things turned out the way they did. This might change your feelings towards me, but I hope not.

When it comes to good-byes, they’ve always been rather hard for me, ‘besondous dieses mahl.’ I wanted to get closer, but then the tears really would have started to flow and for some strange reason – which I can’t quite figure out – I don’t like to see myself betraying such emotion. Seeing you go bothered me very much inside. It seems we’d only known each other such a short time and then we had to part. Time can be cruel when you’re given so little of it.

Sitting in this crummy little apartment that the Foreign Service provides can be rather dreary, but when I think of you, that makes it more bearable. I don’t remember when I began feeling the way I do. Perhaps it was when we shared that kiss. My feelings are something one can’t really pinpoint; they just seem to have developed beyond my control. Love Thomas.”

We sat in silence, holding hands and sighed. The memory of that meeting sunk deep into our bones.

Tomas finally turned, wondering, “Why did we let it slip away?”

“We didn’t let it slip away darling; it was taken,” I reminded him.

“I guess so,” he said softly.

“Jens didn’t trust me with anyone, “I recalled. “I don’t think, at that point, he consciously knew how much I was drawn to you, but unconsciously, he must have felt something. He’s such a jealous bastard!”

“Of course he felt it,” Tomas said. “How could he have missed it? Too bad we didn’t know what to do about it.”

“You mean,” I asked, “if I hadn’t been such a chicken and felt so guilty.”

“No,” Tomas quickly corrected. “I mean, if I hadn’t been such a coward, we could have been together like this years ago.”

Tomas looked down at the floor.

I lifted his head gently, my hand under his chin. “We don’t know what might have happened. We’re here now and I love you so much!”

His eyes watered, his chest heaved and he began to weep. I held him to my chest and felt his salt tears dampen my skin.

MORE BOOKS AND STORIES

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