Here, There and Everywhere

Christmas In Rwanda

Dear Family and Friends,

First of all I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones and that you enjoyed stuffing your faces with all the delicious Turkey Day foods I miss more than I could possibly describe to you.

I’m writing to you because I want to ask you for your help. All of you know the work that I’m doing here in Rwanda with these orphans and former street children, and although we’re always struggling for funding I try not to take advantage of my relationships with you by asking for donations or making you feel pressured to contribute to our program throughout the year.

That being said this time I am asking for your help. We really need any and all help we can get to give our 100 boys a Christmas celebration this year. In the past we have been able to get local businesses and donors to sponsor our Christmas celebration, allowing us to provide a special meal and a small paper sack full of simple gifts like a couple pairs of underwear, some pens and notebooks for school, a tennis ball, some sweets and a few other items. As many of you have seen from photos of past Christmas celebrations that this is the boys’ favorite day of the year.

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However, this year we have struggled to find any partners or sponsors for Christmas. Starting this year the Rwandan government began a program called Agaciro. Publicly billed as voluntary, Agaciro is a nationwide program virtually requiring all businesses and individuals to donate money to the government that they say will be used for the development of the country. Often employees, whether street sweepers or doctors, are told to donate one month’s salary to this fund and businesses and organizations (like ROP) are pressured to also make large payments or face the possibility of being blacklisted and being unable to get services from the government. Basically it’s a unofficial tax in a country that already has a tax rate of 30%.

So what does this have to do with ROP? Well, because organizations and individuals are having to make these “donations” to the Rwandan government they have no money left to give to the orphanages and other charities like ours who need their support. In November we sent out dozens of letters to local businesses asking for Christmas donations and so far the response has been extremely disappointing. Jenny and I are becoming very concerned that we won’t be able to give our boys a nice Christmas.

That is why I’ve written you this letter. I know the economy is still shaky and the holiday season stretches everyone a bit thin, but I’m asking that you please consider helping us out this year, even if in a small way. If we can collect enough donations of any size in the next couple of weeks we will have just enough time to organize a Christmas Day dinner for them, buy them some small gifts and put together their little gift bags in time for the big day. If you can donate $10, $20, $50 or even more it will go a long way towards giving these wonderful kids a celebration they deserve. If you would like to help the easiest way is for you to visit our website, www.rwandanorphansproject.com. The method most likely to get the money to us before Christmas is to donate via Paypal, but you can also send us a check to the address listed on the same page. We are looking to raise only about $700 for dinner, a drink and some small gifts. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

Finally, thank you all for the support you give both to me and our program. So many of you make contributions to ROP and I can’t begin to express how valuable each and every one is to us.

Happy holidays and merry Christmas to all of you!

Sean
ROP Center for Street Children
Kigali, Rwanda

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