Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘orphaned’

Orphaned Baby Elephants

This is a story of tragedy that’s turned into a tale of hope. It’s the story Suni and 12 other orphans need you.

Most of the 13 baby elephants’ mothers were killed by poachers, and now they require round-the-clock care.

That’s why IFAW has entered an exciting new partnership, the Zambia Elephant Orphanage. I’ve committed $100,000 this first year to help protect and raise the orphaned baby elephants. I’m hoping you’ll play a part by helping today.

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Like me, you feel a special connection to animals. We both know that elephants face many threats, and orphaned baby elephants need special care to survive. Will you please help by making a holiday gift for elephants today?

Suni was found dragging herself along a road, her right back leg paralyzed by a horrific axe attack by an unknown assailant. She was rescued and brought to the Orphanage.

The round-the-clock care given by the Orphanage’s Keepers and veterinarians has helped Suni regain some use of her leg, but she still is not able to walk normally. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the constant veterinary care she’s receiving at the Orphanage will result in a full recovery.

The Orphanage was started by Game Rangers International to give orphaned baby elephants a safe home to grow up in. Working in close partnership with the Zambia Wildlife Authority and The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, IFAW is supporting the Orphanage’s efforts.

After a period of months or even years, the elephants will be moved to the protected Kafue National Park, where they will hang out with other elephants and continue their rehabilitation. Eventually the grown-up orphans will say goodbye to their keepers and become part of an existing wild family.

We’re protecting the baby elephants and providing them with nourishing food and medical care, as well as a nurturing, mothering presence. It’s a team effort and we need you on the team.

We’re working in many ways to fight the heartless poachers, but while that struggle continues we need to care for orphaned baby elephants, like Suni. Won’t you please help Suni and other animals in need today?

Thanks, and happy holidays.

Jason Bell
IFAW Program Director, Elephants

Birthday in Rwanda

Volunteering for three weeks with a medical team and trauma specialists to provide care to children orphaned by the 1994 genocide and AIDS in Rwanda, is not a young man’s usual birthday wish on their fourteenth birthday, yet that is what Shona Blumeneau, a teenager from Santa Cruz, California experienced at ROP Center for Street Children. “It was really cool and different,” he says with a warm grin. “The people are very kind.”

Some estimates put the number of orphans in Rwanda at over a million. There have been vast improvements since the nineties, but thousands of kids are still living on the streets and many of the orphanages and youth centers that have taken in survivors (also referred to as “street rebels”) are struggling to provide basic needs, let alone education and vocational training for the children in their care.

Shona and his family held yard sales, received donations from relatives and friends across the country and had a local musician put on a piano concert to raise funds for their journey. “I worked as a referee and as a coach at a summer soccer camp,” Shona recalls. He saved half of any money he got for his birthday or holidays and put it away for his airfare to Rwanda. He says could have stayed home with friends, “but I really wanted to see Africa and make a difference.”

When he arrived in Africa and started working at ROP Center for Street Children in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, Shona found that “half the time the kids accepted me and tried to bring me into their culture and the rest of the time they wanted me to get them things or bring them home to The States.” He said they all assumed he was rich because he was from America and comparatively speaking, he is. The average daily wage in Rwanda is about one US dollar per day. “It would be hard to grow up in an orphanage and not have a family to support you,” he reflects. Every morning they returned the boys and girls would approach, grab his hands and ask if he remembered their name. They wanted to be seen, heard and reassured that they would not be forgotten. “It was awkward when I said ‘No’,” says Shona, “but I couldn’t remember everyone’s name.”

The team Shona traveled with came from throughout the U.S. and included two nurses, a psychologist, family therapist, nurse practitioner, dentist, minister, two teachers, journalist, photographer and a quilting instructor. They worked with six translators, from early morning until evening, with hundreds of children at ROP for almost three weeks. Shona assisted the nurse practitioner and dentist to give these children the first check-up they’d ever had in their lives. “At first I took pictures and then I started taking their height and weight and testing their eyes with a wall chart,” Shona proclaims. “Whitney (the nurse practitioner) taught me how to look in ears and what to look for and Jim (the dentist) showed me how to record information about teeth and gums.”

Most of the children at ROP are in their teens and adopted the young American as their brother or “inshuti” (friend in Kinyarwanda). “Everyone has a story,” says Shona, “about how their life has been since the genocide. There was one kid whose parents and siblings were killed, except for a baby sister. They were stuck on the street, taking care of the sister and eating rotten food until the director of the orphanage found them and brought them to ROP.”

His time at the orphanage was not all work and no play. “Sometimes I was just chilling with them talking, trying to communicate and understand each other. A lot of them are learning English and I picked up a few words of Kinyarwanda.” Shona’s family also brought four suitcases of donated soccer uniforms they had been collecting from parents and kids back home and provided enough outfits and balls for four teams. Shona, who has played soccer since he was four years old, would make foray’s to play with his adopted brothers and sisters on the mud and rock strewn field behind the orphanage and come back after twenty minutes dripping with sweat. “Those guys are really good!” he’d exclaim, trying to catch his breath, as he collapsed on one of the thin wooden benches used by students during class.

The words “life-changing” are often thrown around loosely in our society. To Shona Blumeneau, the words are real. “This trip has changed my life,” he says. “I don’t think I’ll ever whine about anything again.” His perspective on the privilege he enjoys in America was matched by his new found appreciation and understanding of Rwanda. “Even though there is poverty, it isn’t as bad as people describe it. Most of Africa is poor, but there is also a lot of development and hope. The kids really want to learn everything they can. I have a lot of respect for them.”

When asked if he would like to return to Rwanda, Shona, who is now a high school senior, said quickly, “Absolutely! I learned that even though I’m in another country, I still like working with kids and I can do that anywhere, even if I don’t speak their language. I think I would like to work in the medical field and I love traveling.”

You can bet your last dollar that this determined young teen from the United States will indeed make his way back to Africa, where the orphaned children of The ROP Center for Street Children will hold his hand, look him in the eye and ask, “Do you remember me?”

An Orphan’s Life

When this story about Franco was first written, the orphanage was called El Shaddai. It has since changed it’s name to the ROP Center for Street Children and moved to the other side of Kigali.

If it isn’t difficult enough to be a teenager, try growing up in a country that just over 16 years ago experienced one of the worst genocides in African history and combine that with having both of your parents die from AIDS when you are only 15 years of age. That’s the life into which Franco Gakwaya was born, but it is not the end of the story.

Rwanda is in East Africa, adjacent to Lake Kivu and bordered by the countries of the Congo, Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. It is a land-locked nation, known as the “land of a thousand hills” for its rolling iron-rich red landscape, fertile fields and volcanic mountains. Some of the rarest species of mountain gorillas live within its northern borders and chimpanzees are protected in national parks in the east.

Even though Rwanda is now a bustling and successful country that is providing health care, education, jobs and economic growth to it citizens, most people only know about the 1994 genocide, in which a million people were killed by their neighbors over a 30-day period. It was horrible and still affects every single Rwandan.

The AIDS pandemic has also touched Rwanda. As a result, there are thousands upon thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children. In the last twelve years, many of these children have been placed in foster homes, orphanages or boarding schools, but far too many still roam the roads and live on the streets. Franco is one of those who found a new place to call home, an orphanage called ROP Center for Street Children. ROP is located in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, the most densely populated country per square mile in all of Africa.

“We sleep four to a bunk for the older boys,” says Franco, “and six for the younger smaller kids.” MORE

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Rwanda’s Children

Rwanda has made incredible changes and strides in the last 17 years, since the 1994 genocide. Most people who lived in the country previously, would not recognize the advances now made in education, health care, the environment, reconciliation, security and work. They still have a lot to do and have not always had completely fair open elections, but what the government and people have accomplished after having to start from scratch (in just 16 years) is remarkable. A lot of people don’t realize it is also a beautiful country (landscape and people).

I’ve been to Rwanda twice and worked at an orphanage there called the ROP Center for Street Children, which provides shelter, food, water, education, vocational skills and health care to homeless children. There are now over 100 kids at the center (age 5 to 18). It is run entirely by Rwandans, with a sister organization in America called The Rwandan Orphans Project, which helps raise funds to keep the center going. They pay for the water, food, teachers, nurse, clothes, rent, utilities, transportation and some secondary and college costs for the children.

These children are the future of Rwanda, East Africa, the African continent and thus the world. Please consider making a donation to this non-profit organization, which started out taking in children who had been orphaned from the genocide. 100% of the money raised goes directly to the center in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda). The administrative costs by the Rwandan Orphans Project in the US are completely done on a volunteer basis. READ MORE

There is a book I put together from stories the children at the center told me. It is called The Skin of Lions: Rwandan Folk Tales. All of the royalties from its sale go to the Rwandan Orphan’s Project. TAKE A LOOK

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