This summer Susan Boyd returned to Rwanda to deliver Peace Pals to 94 children enrolled in a pre-primary center in Kinigi. Although virtually every single child was coughing badly and many of them also suffering from ringworm, each one was smiling when Susan delivered the Pals. She says, “I am so happy to be bringing some joy into the children’s lives and to see their smiles, feel their hugs (in spite of rampant ringworm and HIV) and to know that in some small way we are all helping these kids understand a broader vision. There are realities of which they cannot yet conceive, although those realities will be the key to their future. All we can do is support every person in envisioning the future. All thanks for the 145 knitted/crocheted dolls . . . I cannot express our appreciation of your support.”
Susan’s additional reflections are very thought-provoking:
“Rwanda is currently in conflict with the Democratic Republic of the Congo . . . We have heard mortar blasts from our safe home in Musanze, but there are so many others who are not safe, and so many refugees seeking asylum from Congo. This is not an easy country. Fraught with a turbulent history, a poverty-stricken reality now and an unsure future it amazes every ex-pat who interacts with the people face to face that they exhibit such peace and wholeness after only 18 years since mass civil war. How can that be? How can people who have committed mutilation and murder, and people who have witnessed familial violence forgive and re-invent a society? I always ask that of Rwandans with whom I am comfortable. What made the change? What one element can attribute to the fact that Rwanda is the least corrupted, most peaceful democracy in Africa? When I find out that answer I will let you know as the whole world needs to tune in.”
So here we sit with the Congo forces reportedly crossing Mount Sabyinyo into Rwanda only about 10 miles north and have already murdered a Park Ranger/Tracker. Scary times indeed. Not so much for us, but what about the unprotected people in the northern provinces?
When we took the sheep to the foothills of Mt. Sabyinyo last Friday (approximately 8,000' altitude), the locals who greeted us so warmly were cold. No shoes, no sweaters, no coats, no rain gear even in this rainy season. Only a piece of cloth over their shoulders for protection.
One woman gave a young girl whom I assume was her daughter a 1,000 RWF (about 70 cents) crumpled bill to try to buy the planks of wood the workers were unloading from the truck carrying the sheep. Needless to say, the boards were filthy, swept but not washed from the effects of frightened sheep, yet that wood represented heat and fuel for her.
Perhaps one day all will realize that the false reality greed has spawned in our minds is simply garbage. Living and loving is the true reality. ALL of God's creatures are equal and vital parts of our existence. I think of creation as a giant photograph; if we blot out certain pixels the photograph is no longer whole. So goes the world.
Are the village people who carry 50+ pounds of potatoes on their heads going to market happy about their lot? Probably not. But they work every day to survive and put aside a meager portion of their market sales to make sure their children at least begin education. That is a HUGE commitment. I personally cannot recall a single time when I made such a sacrifice for my family, and I am eternally humbled by their love.
To have a child hug you and snuggle is a treasure you just cannot perceive until you actually experience that encounter. Expressing love or in fact any emotion is simply not a part of this culture. A beautiful young Rwandan friend came to visit us yesterday, and said that although she understood her mother cared about her children and would sacrifice her life for them, the statement "I love you" was NEVER spoken. No hugs. No warm contact. In fact, there are very few words in Swahili or Kinyarwanda that describe emotion - that is a subject never discussed in this culture. Imagine trying to deal with sights and sounds of genocide with no vocabulary to even name the terrors you feel?
These are the real stories. This is the real truth. Rwandans have a expression: "God goes about the Earth during the day but comes to Rwanda to spend the night." There is profound beauty here amid the grittiness. Beautiful country, beautiful people. And they consider themselves blessed by God - can we even conceive of such spiritual strength?
December 4, 2012
More about the mal-nutrition testing:
The malnutrition measurements include the MUAC (middle upper arm circumference), height and weight. According to World Health Organization standards for height among 3-6 year olds, here are the results from a group of 131 kids:
So 73% of all boys ages 3-6 and 48% of all girls were in the 3rd percentile world wide. That is pretty alarming, isn't it? Although their MUACs were pretty much in line with only about 5 being under the 13cm cut off, their height is really showing the effects of malnutrition by stunting their growth.
The One Egg program (www.oneegg.org) that I work for finds sponsors for these preschools and then each child in that school receives a hard boiled egg every day. One egg a day really does supply the animal proteins they need to avoid kwashiorkor (protein malnutrition) plus the vitamins and minerals they do not get from a carbohydrate rich diet.
Jomba is first on the list of "next in line" to receive eggs, as soon as a donor steps up. The cost is sixty dollars a child per year or six thousand dollars for a whole center. Our execs are going on a major fundraising tour starting Monday, so please keep them in your prayers as well.
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