It is our 4th full day in Rwanda and I am happy to report that everyone who sponsors a child was able to meet their sponsored children and their families! We had a long day of driving across the country to two different schools in opposite areas in order to make our visits and drop off other gifts that team members from back home had sent with us to give to their kiddos.
First we went to Kyonza, a school that has had amazing transformation and progress over the past few years. A couple of years ago, the top student in the country came out of this school full of sponsored children and it really attracted a lot of attention! Government officials and more well-off families came trying to get their kids to go to school here because the education was so great. The school was awesome and the kids seemed really happy to be there. Two of our team members, Chilee and Sarah, were able to meet their children for the first time here and it was so touching. I told Chilee I had never seen her smile so big than when she met her little girl!!
It only became more touching when we went to her house to meet her family. The story was heartbreaking. Her mom is a single mother of 2 who, after surviving the genocide in her younger years found love, got married, and had her 2 beautiful girls. Soon after the second child was born, the father left and she was now alone trying to provide for her family. She has been struggling extremely hard to pay her rent, food, and school fees through her hair braiding business. Chilee’s generosity in sponsoring the little girl’s school fees and the fact that we brought $50 worth of food (which can last 3 months or more for this little family) took a HUGE burden off of the mother. She was clearly so grateful and though times are hard, she is so in love with her precious children and wants nothing more than to make sure they have a better life than she has.
We were all so touched by this story and then were saddened when we came to the next house and the story was almost identical except this time, there were 5 children and the family had been abandoned by both the father of the children and the grandmother of them. The wonderful part that we learned is that the 3 oldest girls are now all sponsored, in part thanks to Sarah from our team! Originally, only the oldest daughter was eligible but when her social worker Betty saw the conditions the family lived in and saw the potential in all of these brilliant little girls, she requested that Africa New Life add the next two children to the sponsor list. The oldest daughter and mother were in tears and they thanked us for the blessings we brought. Another beautiful part of this visit was watching Betty from New Life as well as Jackie from These Numbers Have Faces. These women were just so touched by the stories we saw that day even though they are involved in this kind of work all the time. It really showed us how serious the situations of some of these families really are and also just reinforces the passion these women have for their jobs and for the people of Rwanda.
After Kyonza we headed over to Kadgeyo B, a school that has been growing recently but still has very difficult conditions and way of living. We also got to do some 2nd and 3rd time visits with a couple of our team members, Clare and James. We actually visited both of Clare’s sponsored children today and it was so awesome to see! She has been on this trip before and the families recognized her and were so grateful that she was back so soon to say hi and show her support. One of the little boys, Emelyse held her hand tightly as we drove almost an hour to his house. He clearly felt so safe with her as he knew she was there for him and his family and truly, is a part of the family now. James’ sponsored boy had been struggling with his grades last time we came and had not made it to the next class level in school. During that visit last May, James made it clear to him and his family that he expected more and that he needed the family to support his studies and take this seriously. We were pleased to see that the boy had not only moved on to the next grade level since the last visit but is now 7th in his class! This is really what sponsorship is about. It’s not just about donating money, it’s about the person behind that monthly payment. It’s about the support and the encouragement that these kids need in order to succeed. That’s what James provided and it is obviously making a difference.
One of the visits that really touched our hearts was Justin’s first visit with his sponsored child. The reason this was so exciting for us is because Justin has been sponsoring his little girl for three and a half years and during this time, has formed a bond between her family and his. His 2 daughters have been writing letters back and forth with the little girl and when he met her and her family, the bond was clear. They asked for prayers that one day, the whole Vollmer family would be able to visit so that the Mother could meet Justin’s wife and so that the girls could play together. It was a truly beautiful visit and Justin is now planning that trip for his family.
During the visits, some of us stayed outside to play with the kids in the different villages. We brought bubbles and jump ropes and Soccer balls and had an absolute BLAST hanging out with the little ones. They were so happy to just have fun and be kids with us for a little while. All in all the day was hot, humid, filled with a ton of driving, and was absolutely amazing! The smiles on the kids’ faces, the tears of joy in their parents’ eyes, all of the love and respect and hope was just incredible.
In anticipation of AN AFRICAN SAFARI tomorrow!!
Check out Aspen Heights Awake to learn more about our humanitarian & non-profit initiatives.