Greetings from Rwanda!
We hope you are having a great summer! There’s been a lot going on around the Rwandan Orphans Project’s Imizi Children’s Center, so we wanted to tell you what we’ve been up to since our last update.
The biggest and best news is the fact that we have been able to fully pay off our new land. That’s right, back in May we were able to make the final payment on our new home, and we are currently in the process of finalizing the paperwork that will secure the property, and our future, for many years to come.
When the ROP started out in an abandoned industrial warehouse the idea of having our own permanent home was nothing more than a dream. In 2010 we were able to move to a better location, but there we had to pay rent, which was a significant burden on our budget each and every year. Today we have finally realized our goal of securing a permanent facility for our children’s program, and we couldn’t have done it without you.
Another great achievement happened just last Friday when one of our graduates, Jean, graduated from the National University of Rwanda having earned himself a bachelor’s degree. Even more impressive was the fact that he graduated FIRST IN HIS ENTIRE CLASS! That is no small feat at all, especially considering he graduated with nearly 2,000 other students.
Jean is a survivor of the 1994 Genocide, the tragedy that saw approximately 800,000 Rwandans killed, including his own parents and siblings. He is the sole survivor of his family, and the physical and mental scars were never easy for him to overcome. After losing his family he ended up surviving on his own on the streets of Kigali until, at age 12, he found the ROP. No student worked harder in the classroom and when Jean wasn’t in class, washing his clothes or doing other chores his nose would be buried in any book he could get his hands on. The results of his commitment to aspire to a better life combined with the opportunities ROP was able to give him are now celebrated by us all.
When speaking to our boys at his party he told them, “I attended classes with rich kids and kids who had ‘normal’ families. Many of them doubted me and discouraged me because, in their eyes, having been a street boy, I could never hope to achieve anything. First I proved them wrong by being elected class president in my second year. Many still doubted me, so I showed them by becoming the best student in the entire school. Now they can’t doubt me. Never let anyone doubt you because of where you came from. The only one who can stop you doing great things is yourself”.
Please support the Rwandan Orphans Project’s Imizi Children’s Center.
Posts tagged ‘Rwandan’
Rwandan Orphan’s Project First Photo Exhibition
Rwanda, October 14, 2013 by Jenny Clover
As you may have read here our boys have been getting weekly lessons in photography from American teacher Amber for the last few months. We’ve all be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work the kids have been producing and are often amazed at the shots they take, which show the Rwandan Orphans Project through their eyes. Last week Amber organised an exhibition at a communal office space in Kigali – called The Office – to show off some of the photos the kids have produced.
We picked 9 names out of a hat, they got dressed up in their best clothes, and we all excitedly set off in a bus from the ROP to town.
The kids’ photos were mounted around the large office space, everything from close-ups of their friends’ faces, to the acrobatics the boys are so good at, to documenting daily life at the ROP. One wall was dedicated to photos the boys had taken of their own bodies, which they’d colored in and written over. Some chose to write about themselves or their bodies, others about their hopes and aspirations. For us to see them writing about their dreams for the future when we’ve seen how hopeless some of them can be at their lowest point was really nice.
The evening was packed from start to finish. Hundreds of people came to see the boys’ photos and ask them questions about their work and their lives. The kids told us that at first they were nervous and didn’t know what to say to all these adults. But gradually, and probably with the help of the multiple sugar-ey drinks people kept buying them, they opened up and were confident enough to go round pointing out their photos and explaining them.
When not busy playing on the table football and ping-pong table and slurping their drinks, the kids were happy mingling, meeting different people and showing off their photos. They told us afterwards that they held a meeting around the football table where they discussed how nervous they were. One of them pointed out that all these people were here for them, and to see their work, and they agreed that they shouldn’t be nervous and should instead enjoy it. It’s great to see our kids developing into mature, proud, open-minded little people before our eyes and it makes us very proud of them.
From Trauma to Peace
Can we transform TRAUMA and its debilitating states of anger, violence and hate, to PEACE – compassion, forgiveness, hope and love? We can, and it’s beginning to happen in isolated regions of Africa.
Kamal, a young Rwandan boy, suffered many atrocities. The scenes of his mother dying of AIDS and his uncle being killed in front of him during the 1994 genocide were always before his eyes. A massacre he witnessed in a refugee camp in Uganda added to those terrifying images; images that were always in front of him, like they were happening today. The traumas of the past haunted him. They gripped him in fear and limited his ability to move into a hopeful future.
Then, a team of therapists brought TFT or tapping (a unique healing modality using the body’s meridian system) to the orphanage. Kamal began tapping, struggling to focus on the horrid past, but within minutes, he jumped up and shouted, “It’s gone! It’s gone!” He danced around the room. He pulled his therapist up and danced with him. He dashed outside and ran around joyfully. He came back in and hugged his therapist. He became free of the past. Kamal can now feel joy, and he can focus on his future.
Jean Pierre, a Rwandan man, was forced to watch his wife and children being massacred. He was then attacked himself and left for dead. He bears the wounds from the machete on the back of his head. He heard about the miracle tapping the orphans were doing and came to ask for help. He too had nightmares and flashbacks for over 12 years. One of the therapist team members tapped with him, and he too got over his nightmares and his anger and hatred toward others. But the real telling change was not just relief of his suffering, it was his spiritual transformation. Three days later, he attended a church service at the orphanage where he said he had been given the gift of healing, and he volunteered to take three orphaned children into his home and raise them. He had his life back and was now reaching out with love and forgiveness.
There are now over 100 Rwandan community leaders using TFT to treat members of their communities, members like Jean Pierre and Kamal. The mission of the TFT Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is to spread the use of TFT and its profound benefits throughout the world. Many Rwandan and Ugandan therapists are already trying to help us do that.
The TFT Foundation has developed and proven a model that can bring TFT training to any traumatized community, where the leaders can be trained to help their fellow countrymen. In three random controlled studies (two in Rwanda and one in Uganda – one published and two being prepared for publication), the results have been highly significant. Two-year follow-ups have demonstrated that the results not only last, but the symptom reduction improves over time.
The Foundation has documented the changes and healing of this region in Rwanda, and the beginning of the healing process in Uganda, over the last six years. The completion of the documentary, “From Trauma To Peace,” will enable us to share this model of healing trauma with many more regions of the world. The film will be of the quality needed for PBS and film festivals.
A mayor in the Northern Province of Rwanda commented: “People who I have never seen smile, are smiling. People who were not productive, are now productive.”
Please help the TFT Foundation continue sharing and expanding this transformational healing on a global scale. This film will help us create the awareness that entire traumatized communities can help themselves and others end suffering.
The film and its distribution will serve as a way to raise money to help the Rwandans, Ugandans, and others use TFT to help their countrymen. Your donation will go toward the completion of the filming, editing, promotion, and distribution of this important documentary. Additional funds from the campaign will go directly to the centers actually helping the people, assisting them to become self-sufficient and productive. People CAN break the cycle of violence and feel hope and joy again. Please help us in our efforts to bring peace to our world, one person–and one community–at a time, through TFT.
See more at Trauma2Peace.
From ROP Stories
We’ve come a long way, baby!
31 March, 2012 by Sean
Sometimes it’s hard to believe just how much progress the Rwandan Orphans Project has made in just the last couple of years. The reason I bring this up is because we are approaching the second anniversary of the Center’s move from the dark, dank warehouse that we had called home for several years to our wonderful current home on the outskirts of Kigali.
The building itself was bad enough: little more than a two-story warehouse that was actually meant to be three floors but construction ceased during the 1994 Genocide and never restarted.
We occupied the “second floor” which meant our roof was never meant to be a roof, and therefore it wasn’t built to withstand the elements, particularly Rwanda’s heavy rains. The only thing keeping water from flooding the classrooms and dorm rooms was the plastic sheeting that composed the “roof”.
This also meant that the building’s electrical and plumbing work had never been completed, or, in truth, barely even started. We had two light bulbs in the entire place, one in the foyer and another in the teachers office, and most days neither worked. I recall our teachers grading papers many times by candlelight or the light from their phone screens in the middle of the day. Scattered randomly throughout the Center, usually on the floor, were bare wires that the staff and children would wrap around plugs to power radios and the keyboard that was missing about 30% of its keys. When it rained the inside of the center became filled with various puddles and the boys would snake the wires around them, but often they would end up in the water anyway. I received my own fair share of 240 volt shocks from this setup.
Below us on the ground floor was a warehouse for storing beans, maize flour and other foods. The men who worked there were gruff and not particularly child-friendly. Actually, they seemed to see our boys as more of an annoyance than anything. I recall a couple of times when our boys were playing football and they would accidentally kick the ball near these workers. They would often kick the ball over the wall into the swamp or taunt the boys telling them they were keeping it for themselves.
Speaking of football, I would say the “playground” at the old Center was a joke if it wasn’t for the fact that it was so dangerous. Freight trucks would lumber around it as the children were attempting to play. The makeshift football ground was also a danger. The grass was always knee high and it masked all the stones, glass and metal scraps beneath, causing endless wounds because the boys had to play barefoot. In their usual creative way the boys made a makeshift volleyball court inside the warehouse by stretching a string from one pillar to another and using a ball made from plastic bags, banana tree leaves and scrap string they scavenged. This same ball was usually used for football and any other ball games.
The kitchen was a sad affair. It was nothing more than a large pot cooking on a three stone fire in a mud-brick hut. Water for cooking had to be fetched from the facility’s only tap on the other side of the building.
Every day, with very few exceptions throughout the year, the children ate beans and maize flour (ugali). On the rare occasion that someone donated fruit and vegetables we had to eat them within a day or two otherwise the rats would finish them off. When the food was ready about 200 boys would line up to get their plate. Some ate outside while others went back into the building and would sit on the floor to eat. We had no tables for them to sit at.
Back in the Center, the learning facilities were rather basic as well. The “library” consisted of donated books, most of which were decades old and pretty much all of them had water damage to some degree. The teachers had to share lesson books and even pencils due to the lack of resources. Despite these challenges our teachers were able to perform amazing work with the not-so-easy task of trying to educate the 200 children living at the Center at the time along with the 150 or so “day scholars”, kids from the streets and local poor families who crowded into our Center each day for the free lessons.
Then there were the dormitories. There were three dorm rooms in the Center. Two were for the young and middle-aged boys and they were the most crowded. Each was full of rusting bunk beds with old moldy mattresses and shredded mosquito nets that really served no purpose at all. Bigger boys slept two to a bed while the smaller children slept three to a bed. These rooms were the darkest, dampest and stinkiest in the building. Bed bugs, moths, rats and other critters also shared these spaces.
The oldest and biggest boys occupied their own room on the far side of the building. Here they propped up sheets, tarps and any other materials they had scavenged to create their own private spaces. They had also ran electrical wires from the front of the building and setup their own ad hoc power grid to power their radios and charge their phones. It seemed more like a back alley hideout than a place for people to live.
In February of 2010 the ROP changed our role from being solely donors, dismissed the staff who had been mismanaging our funds and formally took over the management of the Center. In March the Rwandan government came knocking, telling us that the warehouse was an unsuitable place for children to live and they we must move. We agreed with their assessment but we hadn’t another place to go to nor the funds to rent another facility. We rushed around Rwanda hoping to find an abandoned building or some old place we could rent cheaply while we looked for another place. Near the end of March the government came back and gave us 15 days to move or they would shut us down. We feared the worst.
A few days later we were told about a school just outside of Kigali that wasn’t being used anymore. It was owned by a large secondary school across the road but hadn’t been functioning since 1994. The people who owned it sympathized with our plight and told us we could move there and stay free of charge. As you can imagine the place wasn’t in the best condition but it had potential. It was in a nice, quiet area far from the dangers and temptations of the city. It was open and bright and had plenty of room for the children to play. It was a new home for our boys and a fresh start for the ROP. We gladly began moving out of that dark and claustrophobic place the boys had called home for so many years.
Fast forward two years and our new home is better than ever, thanks to all the creativity, effort and money we’ve poured into it. Thanks to all the hard work of our staff and children, along with all the wonderful assistance we’ve received from our donors, we now have…
A teachers office
A real volleyball court
An amazing new kitchen
A big dining hall with tables
A sprawling playground
A nursery school
A formal health clinic
Real classrooms with proper benches and natural light
A football team
A capoeira team
I could go on and on, but there are plenty of other blog posts here that share all of the wonderful things that we are able to offer our children at the ROP.
As great as this story is, this is not the final chapter. Unfortunately we do not own the land or the buildings, and the people who do have decided to begin charging us a large amount of rent every month. This puts a huge strain on our already tight budget, and as a result the future of the ROP might be at risk, as well as the futures of the children under our care . Thankfully, last year we received an extremely generous donation from Tony and Carol Roberts from Australia that allowed us to purchase our own land not far from our current location. We are grateful to them every day. While this was the first step towards our independence it remains difficult to raise funding not only to continue operating at our current location but to also put aside money for building facilities on our new property. We remain optimistic, however, that people within Rwanda as well as those from around the world will see just how far we’ve come in such a short time and will give us the support we need to not only survive, but to continue to thrive.
Read entire story with additional photographs at ROP Stories.
Donate to the Rwandan Orphan’s Project at Donate
Meet Alex, the newest member of the ROP (Rwandan Orphan’s Project) team.
Alex Kaberuka’s story mirrors the backgrounds of so many of the boys living at the ROP. Alex was just five years old on April 7th, 1994, the day the Rwandan Genocide began. His father, an employee at the International Red Cross, gave Alex to his friend and coworker, who was from Kenya, and made him promise that he would take his son with him to Kenya and that he would put Alex through school so he could have a future. He then rushed back to his office at the Red Cross to see how he could help other victims. By the end of the day the killers found him and Alex no longer had a father.
Fast forward 12 years and Alex was back in Rwanda, having finished school in Nairobi as his father’s friend had promised. Alex became a professional soccer player in Rwanda (not a very lucrative job) in 2007. In 2010 he met Sean, one of the ROP’s coordinators and before long the two became good friends. In 2010 Sean decided to organize the ROP’s first official sports team, the ROP Eagles football team, but he wanted someone to lead it who would not only be a coach of soccer, but a mentor and a role model for the boys. Alex stepped forward and volunteered for the role.
Alex took a haphazard group of young boys and teenagers and transformed them into two disciplined teams who had learned the importance of leadership, teamwork and hard work and the rewards they offer. The boys took to Alex from the first practice and nearly every day boys were asking, “Where’s Coach?”
When the ROP Playroom was opened Alex was our first choice to be in charge of it. Alex’s patience with the younger boys and his ability to get them to respect rules and even to come to him with their problems were assets we simply couldn’t pass up on. Then, in December, long time caretaker Osea retired from the ROP, leaving us with a gaping hole in our caretaking staff. With barely a second thought Alex was offered the position. All the staff was thrilled with the choice, and when we announced it to the children they erupted in applause.
Since then Alex has continued to deepen his relationships with both staff and children. The ROP Eagles have become a team that are respected in the local sports community and the children continue to look to Alex for advice and solutions for their problems, as if he is their older brother. When asked what his favorite thing is about working at the ROP he says, “I really enjoy working with these people and having an opportunity to improve the lives of these boys”.
From ROP Stories
ROP has a Day Out for a Football Match
Posted on September 1, 2011 by Sean
On Sunday the ROP Eagles played a match against children from OVC Rwanda (another orphanage across town). The event was meant to be an all day tournament featuring the ROP Eagles, OVC Rwanda, another local center and a team composed of mixed players, including myself, but at the last minute one of the teams cancelled so we decided just to have a friendly match against OVC. The event was organized by Veronica, an American working in Rwanda who wants to organize fund raising events that multiple centers like ours can participate in.
The day of the match Coach Alex prepped the players at the ROP Center while Jean de Dieu, the Center supervisor, loaded up all the non-players on a bus to bring out to the football field near the airport. Jenny, myself and some of our friends were already on the pitch when the bus arrived, and soon the bus door burst open and dozens of our small boys started flooding out. All them were very excited to not only have a day out of the Center but to have the opportunity to support their older brothers from the sidelines. (excited fans below)
Shortly after the Eagles bus arrived OVC Rwanda pulled up in their own bus. The two teams changed into their uniforms and began their warm-up routines as the other children mingled with each other and with the various guests who were there to watch including Jenny, myself, my cousin Chris and his wife Sherri, Jonathan – our new social worker volunteer – and Veronica, the organizer. Also in attendance were Mary and Patrick, two Americans who had just came to Rwanda from Uganda and wanted to see the boys play football. Since Patrick was a neutral party we talked him into being the referee for the match. But first we had to improvise by making yellow and red cards for him to use. We just colored two pieces of paper with markers. (The ROP Eagles below)
At 2:30 sharp Patrick blew the whistle and the competition had begun. OVC Rwanda struck first in the 5th minute with a shot that was just out of the short Eagle keeper’s reach. The Eagles looked a little overwhelmed playing on this new, large field and it showed in their lack of good passing and confusion on defense. They pulled together and in the 20th minute scored an equalizer from a nifty counter attack, bringing loud cheers and shouting from the ROP supporters on the sideline. Their spirits were soon dampened, however, when OVC scored two more goals in the last ten minutes of the first half. The referee blew his whistle and the half ended with OVC Rwanda ahead of ROP Eagles 3-1.
Read the rest of the story, see more photos and find out the exciting conclusion of the game at ROP Stories. ROP Stories is the blog for the Rwandan Orphan’s Project.
An Excerpt from ROP Stories by Sean Jones.
I an a Child, Same as the Others
Back in May we held a Celebration for Africa Day of the Child. During the ceremony one of our boys, Lucky, read a poem to the audience. Lucky is one of our boys who has been living at the ROP Center for many years. This is his final year with us as he is graduating from secondary school in December. He is the Center’s most talented performer, having written and performed many poems and songs about the lives of street children, songs that the children and staff request at virtually every celebration we have.
Lucky read his poem in Ikinyarwanda, so I didn’t understand much of it, but the children in the crowd, both ours from the ROP and others in attendance, cheered loudly after he finished reading it, so I knew it must have had meaning to them. A few days later I asked Lucky if he would mind translating it to English for me. He seemed very excited that I had asked and very enthusiastically promised to do it. Due to his school commitments he wasn’t able to sit down and take the time to write it in English until last week. He found me and handed it to me with a great smile on his face. I thanked him for it and asked if I could share it with the world. His reply was, “Of course, it’s for everyone.”
Despite the struggling English the poem hit me straight in the heart. It’s simple and genuine and even in its brevity you can’t help but get an idea of the pain these children must feel, and the hope they somehow find in life once someone, anyone, offers to help them. That’s all I say. I’ll let you make your own judgments.
Read entire story, Lucky’s poem and see more photos at ROP STORIES.
Kinyarwanda is spoken in a number of East African countries, most importantly for me, primarily in Rwanda. I’ve been trying to learn it for 5 years now and still only remember a few words here and there.
When I’ve been in Rwanda to visit the ROP Center for Street Children and other reporting and projects, I’ve given it my all, but still feel like a child learning to read for the first time. I even had a teacher for awhile, but she’s probably embarrassed to claim such, since her student is so bad at it.
Here are some examples of Kinyarwanda to English (or vice-a-versa). It’s not that difficult to read, but to speak is another story.
umwana – child
abana – children
umwigisha – teacher
abigisha – teachers
umwigishwa – pupil
abigishwa – pupils
afite – she (he) has
bafite – they have
That doesn’t look to difficult, does it? Put them into a sentence though and I get lost.
Unwana wanjye – my child
Abana wanjye – my children
Be abigisha – her (his teachers)
Umwigisha wabo aravuga – ???
Mbese umwigisha wanyu arahinga? – ???
For now, I’ll have to smile and say “Murakoze” (thank you) or “Imana aguhe umugisha” (God be with you). When in doubt, it usually works to nod my head “Yes” as if I understand and smile.
At one time, all of the children in this book lived on the streets of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Their parents died from the genocide in 1994 or from the AIDS pandemic. They have been given new life and hope at an orphanage called ROP Center for Street Children.
The stories from The Skin of Lions are taken from their personal experiences, traditional folk tales or unique creative imaginations. The children range in age from ten to nineteen and tell tales for all generations. They share their words from a thousand-year-old oral tradition and speak for all those that have been silenced.
The Skin of Lions by AHIKIRIJE Jean Bosco (Age 17)
There was a man, named Cambarantama, who looked after his sheep and cultivated his fields. One day, while he was looking after his sheep and leading them to the grasses, he found a small animal in the bush that had eaten some of his crops. When the man came back the next day, the same small creature had eaten more of his crops. He took the little animal back home and said, “I’m going to have to kill you for eating my crops.”
The small animal said, “Wait; please don’t eat me. Forgive me and I will not eat your crops any more.”
Cambarantama had a good heart, forgave the little animal and let him go.
On his way back to the shamba (field) the next day, Cambarantama was approached by a very big animal. The big animal told Cambarantama that he had to kill one of the sheep in the field and give it to him for his kettle. Cambarantama was scared and did as he was told. He went and killed one of his sheep and gave it to the big animal. This kept happening day after day.
One day, on his way to his shamba, Cambarantama met the little animal that he had forgiven. The little animal said, “I see that you have less and less sheep. What has happened?”
Cambarantama replied, “There is a big animal that comes every day and makes me give it one of my sheep. That is why you see so few that are left.”
The little animal he had saved said, “The next time that big animal comes I will be next to you, hidden in a bush. I will tell you what to say.”
READ END OF STORY AT ANGIE’S DIARY
GET YOUR COPY OF THE SKIN OF LIONS: RWANDAN FOLK TALES. Edited by Gabriel Constans.