Monthly Archives: October 2011

2011 Trip – Oct 27

October 27, 2011 | Steve Fredlund

Several of us woke up before sunrise so we could watch the sun lift over Lake Ihema. Unfortunately, the fog and cloud cover did not allow for a glorious sunrise, but it was beautiful as the sky brightened and we began to look around. While we were looking at the lake, we realized there were several baboons around the lodge area. This was cool as we tracked them and took pictures of them throughout the morning.

At one point several of us were up by the rooms (2nd level) when we realized the baboons were about to run up the stairs toward us. We started backing up (some running) and they went right up the steps and up the side to the roof with the exception of one baboon that was looking at me and started taking a few steps toward me. I backed up enough until he went up on the roof and away. It was a bit disconcerting but thought it was kind of fun.

As we were at the table waiting for breakfast, we realized that a few of our team wasn’t there yet. Soon Eric and Nicole arrived with the message that “a baboon stole Gina’s bag.” I ran over to find out what was going on and the story can only truly be told by Gina. The summary is that Gina got mugged by baboon! She had just left her room with her bag which included bananas and Clif bars. A baboon jumped out from behind a wall and grabbed her bag and started going through it; Gina was apparently screaming. Having taken what he wanted (bananas and two boxes of Clif bars), the baboon was off to the edge of the woods where he proceeded to unwrap and eat the Clif bars. It is an amazing story which can only be told best by Gina. Needless to say, after that point, we traveled in groups and carried a baboon pole with us wherever we went during the day.

After the events of the morning, we took off with our drivers in search of some African wildlife and we were not disappointed. During the three game drives which started at 7am and ended about 6pm (with lunch in between) we saw many unique birds, giraffes, zebras, antelope (5 different kinds), warthogs, and hippos (which really were amazing). It was a great time of laughing and just hanging out after what had been an intense and emotional week. After the game drives, we had supper and made our plans for our final day in Rwanda.

2011 Trip – Oct 26

October 26, 2011 | Steve Fredlund

This was our last day in Kivuruga. After breakfast we drove to the local market in Kivuruga where we really experienced what the market is like. There were a few purchases made including myself who bought 5 cassava roots for about 450 RWV (under $1). I’m going to try to bring them home. We looked at a number of different items for sale and saw some cool things like Mark’s sponsored child (Immanuel) finding him at the market, some bulls nearly goring people, a child we had given a soccer ball at the school seeing us and telling his friends “futbol” meaning we were the ones to give him the ball, and the opportunity to hand out yet another soccer ball to kids in the street.

After the market, we traveled on to Kigali where we spend a little time in sort of a souvenir strip mall where we bought items for ourselves as well as for Our Response. Following this we were driven to the restaurant for lunch and to switch from our World Vision drives to the drivers who would take us to Akagera National Park. It was very difficult to say goodbye to our drivers from the past few days, but we exchanged hugs, gave them gifts, and wished them well.

Shortly after lunch we were on our way to Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda for a couple days of rest, relaxation, and sharing our experiences and the road ahead. The drive took about 3 hours from Kigali to Akagera with the final hour or so being quite rough. We arrived, took out all our bags, signed in, and were then asked if we wanted a tour of the cottages. We thought that would be a good idea, so we were led by flashlight through some long paths to our cottages. The cottages themselves were beautiful, but so were the several lizards and spiders inside. After conferring with the group, we asked if we could have rooms in the lodge instead which were available so we went that route instead. After some dreaming about lizards and spiders, we all fell asleep, excited to see what Akagera National Park looks like in the morning.

2011 Trip – Oct 25

October 25, 2011 | Steve Fredlund

HIV Caregivers with Miss Clarisse

After breakfast and morning devotions/sharing we headed out from our hotel to Kivuruga once again this time to begin our day at the home of 24 year old Clarisse who is HIV positive. We were initially met by Florence who is the volunteer in charge of the 126 Kivuruga ADP volunteer caregivers (56 men, 70 women). Two other caregivers were there to help us understand the process. There were other neighbors and family there as well as a number of neighborhood children (as always).

The Caregiver program started in May 2008 to encourage HIV positive people to accept themselves, keep hope, and follow the instructions given by caregivers and doctors including taking their anti-retro virus (ARV) medications. Before the World Vision program they lived in isolation with deep stigma and now have a sense of belonging and hope. Part of the program is to discourage pregnancy because of how it weakens the body and hurts the immune system when the woman is HIV positive. The caregivers bring food to families and encourage them to eat a well-balanced diet; WV also does the same for those left orphaned as a result of AIDS. Currently 307 people in Kivuruga have come out with an acknowledgement that they have HIV or AIDS. Once World Vision is aware, they encourage them to join associations.

Clarisse shared that before she acknowledged her status, joined the association, and listened to the caregivers that her hair was turning bad and her feet were swollen, but after these things she was filled with joy to have people help her. The ARVs she takes required a balanced diet; the animals given by World Vision provide milk and also produce manure which is used to grow crops; both of which lead to a more balanced diet.

The WV caregiver training includes sanitation and hygiene; prior to their involvement, the house was much dirtier. WV also provides pigs for those suffering with HIV both for money when they sell them, but also for the manure to improve their plants. The caregivers then went through the different things that are in the kit and thanked us so much for providing these so they can do their ministry. WV also has given them umbrellas as boots. WV support leads other people to come forward with their status which leads to more people impacted. Another element WV provides are bead necklaces used to understand the fertility cycle and family planning for those that will be engaging in sexual activity. We asked if this ministry would exist at all without the presence of World Vision and the answer was a resounding ‘no’; World Vision through the sponsorship dollars and unbelievably committed volunteers is literally saving lives in Kivuruga, Rwanda…. So thank you to all you sponsors.

The main challenges the caregivers are facing include the vulnerability of families without food as their immune system is even further threatened; they also struggle with transportation and would like to have bikes to travel; also, they would like to have rain coats as they are easier to continue to do work rather than umbrellas. Hearing this, Pastor Joel grabbed his rain jacket and gave it to the lead caregiver. Others followed suit and they were given about 8 raincoats or ponchos in total. After walking to the jeeps, we were able to give them many other things that we had including medical supplies and about a dozen Norwex anti-bacterial towels (these will be much more comfortable and effective for washing these patients before they begin treatments). These Norwex towels were donated toward the trip and we could not think of a better use.

The volunteers (Florence, Innocent, and Daryl) visit patience depending on the level of their illness. It may range from every day to once per week. In addition, twice per week they travel the villages trying to raise awareness of the help they can give and encourage people to open a conversation with them. The caregivers are trying to start an association to grow crops & livestock and they want us at the launch!!! They were so excited to think about us helping to launch this transformational work.

Nutrition Center & Medical Facility

Our journey continued with perhaps the most impacting element of the entire trip for many of our team. We traveled to the Bushoka Nutrition Center and Medical Facility led by Edith and her nutritionist Solan. World Vision assisted in building a new kitchen at the facility that is now about 2 months old (through sponsorship dollars) as well as training the cooks on how to prepare a well-balanced meal for those who would be receiving it. When we were there, they were cooking cassava leaves with oil & ground peanuts to provide protein, vegetables & nuts. They were also cooking rice with carrots and preparing a fruit cocktail with a number of local fruits. They were also preparing a juice made from passion fruit and carrots. Although the initial cost of the kitchen were borne primarily by World Vision, most of the food supply comes from parents bringing food when they are able (they wish to start an association also) otherwise money comes from World Vision and the Center staff purchase the necessary food. Some of the other elements are donated by WV including pans, buckets, plates, cups, tables, and chairs.

We found out that every day, volunteers travel throughout Kivuruga looking for malnourished children under the age of 5. When they are found, they are first weighed and measured to determined their status. If they are Green, they stay in their homes in the community. If they are Yellow, they stay with their families but are eligible to receive one meal per week at the Nutrition Center and the mothers are taught nutrition. If they are red, they receive one meal per week for about 1-2 months and if their situation does not change, they are transported to the hospital. Children under 6 months old that are found to be malnourished are transferred to the hospital right away. The meals are typically served on Thursday, but a special Tuesday meal was prepared because of our visit.

The Nutrition Center also has a cow that gives milk used as part of the meal and also given out daily to eligible children. The cow cost about $600,000 RWF (about $1,200 USD). There is a field near the cows that the mothers of the children work together to ensure the food are available; this includes carrots, mushrooms, green peppers, cabbages, and tomato trees. The Nutrition Center teaches about how to grow seedlings; the women bring the seedlings home or just take their learning and go plant at their home. The meals and milk that are provided are completely free. The funding for the ongoing costs comes from the government, food from the community & parents (when crops are good), and World Vision as needed to supplement the other sources.

There are 28 villages in Kiuvurga ADP and the goal is to have a full Nutrition Center in each one. Bushoka is the first one to be launched in the Kivuruga ADP.

We then toured the medical facility which has a nurse with no medical training (although she has been a nurse for 10 years), no electricity, and no running water. We visited the maternity room where babies are delivered; the room is about 10’ by 10’ and has two deliver beds but does not have electricity, a sink, a drain in the floor, or a place for the baby after birth. Prior to birth, mothers wait in the regular waiting room with the rest of the people (including people suffering from all sorts of ailments) and immediately after delivery they are moved to that waiting room. The maternity room covers all of Kivuurga and has about 50 deliveries per month. No surgeries can be completed here so if there are any complications at birth, an ambulance is called. The nearest hospital is about 25 miles away and road for the last few miles to get there was the worst one we traveled in all of Kivuruga; in fact, often the road is flooded and they need to walk the woman to meet the ambulance. The 50 mile trip will take a minimum of 90 minutes. This was very moving to me as, given my personal family situation, if we lived in Kivuruga there is a high likelihood that my son Ryan and my wife would have died during his birth. What an injustice of geography. The cost to get the maternity room improved is about $120,000 USD and a proposal was submitted in October to World Vision and is currently under review.

One of the issues facing Kivurugans with health care is that the lowest cost of insurance has doubled. Previously they would pay about $2.50 per year for limited access coverage and the cost has increased to about $5 per year for a more comprehensive plan. This difference in cost is too much for many who live in Kivuruga and they therefore do not have health insurance. The uninsured can get coverage, but only in an emergency situation.

The health clinic also performs immunizations for children birth to 9 months. On the premises is a medical laboratory that was built by the Rwandan government through the U.S. Global Fund.

After the very difficult tour of the maternity area and the rest of the clinic, we walked back to the Nutrition Center where we participated in feeding the children. This was very moving for all of us as well as these children were all severely under or mal-nourished. We heaped up their plates very high; these were full size plates that we packed with food. We then delivered them to the children and their mothers helped feed the children. This food was more than I could eat and the kids were gobbling it up. It is clear that they have not eaten well (if at all) since at least the week before. Knowing the mothers do not eat well either was difficult because they were watching their child eat this huge meal without getting any for themselves. It was a moving picture of a mother’s sacrificial love.

Once we were done serving meals, we couldn’t stay much longer and it was time to say goodbye. As we left, we were met by the Nutrition Center staff who presented us with two beautiful gifts that we will treasure for ever as evidence of the impact Our Response is having.

Life…. Kivuruga Style

After lunch, we went to the home of a family that lives near the Kivuruga ADP and helped them with their daily chores. Some of the group took their empty water jugs, went to the water source, filled them, and brought them back. The ladies who didn’t do water tried their hand at weaving a rug while the guys that didn’t go (Eric & I) helped the old man of the house work on weaving a winnowing fan. After our time weaving, I chatted with the old man about the differences of life in Kivuruga vs. life in America. He said that it sounds like we (Americans) work hard and therefore have much more money that those in Kivuruga. I wanted to scream that we (me) work about 1/10 as hard as they do and somehow get paid many multiples more (the average annual income in Rwanda is $240 USD). It was a difficult, but wonderful conversation as we navigated the pros & cons of our two different countries and lifestyles. Part of our conclusion was that the difficulty of Rwanda also led to one of its advantages that the family and community are always together, dependent on each other, and therefore build wonderfully tight relationships with each other (something that we in the U.S. desperately need).

After this time, we traveled back to our hotel in Musanze.

2011 Trip – Oct 24

October 24, 2011 | Steve Fredlund

Primary School

After breakfast and morning devotions/sharing we headed out from our hotel to Kivuruga once again along the winding majestic roads arriving at a primary school.  Once again we were greeted by singing & dancing from the school children which was piercing with its volume and passion.  We all had a chance to dance with the kids who continued pressing in against us as the staff and volunteers tried to give us a little room; it was awesome.

We gave the school a number of soccer balls donated by Immanuel Church and Pastor Mark and I each traded a new ball for one of their homemade soccer balls that you see throughout Rwanda.  We will be bringing these soccer balls home to show you all.

This primary school has 695 students between ages 7-14 that attend in two different shifts (morning & afternoon) with a total of 10 teachers; some classes have well over 50 students in them.  The school is run by a lady named Adeline who is actually the mother of one of Trent & Karry Pepper’s sponsored children.  In Kivuruga, there are primary schools (such as this) the last for 6 years and then secondary schools which are split up into O-Level (Ordinary Level for the first 3 years) and the A-Level (Advanced Level for the following 3 years, but students must pass a test to get into the A-Level).  The government is introducing a 9-year program that includes, at the end of it, some technical training for those who do not pass into the A-Level but are capable of continuing education and skill-building.  After secondary school, some students are able to attend the University in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda).

The staff was proud to show off the new water tank and faucet that was provided through World Vision through dollars coming in from the sponsorship program; there was some money for the foundation raised through parent donations to help build ownership in the project.  There is a gutter system that collects rain water and puts into the tank which holds a total of 10,000 liters which would last an estimated 2 weeks once full.This is considered a miracle in this area which allows children to bring water home from school instead of having to take another, longer trip to get water.  Please note again that this is a project that has just been completed as a result of financial resources brought in through child sponsorships (way to go Our Response!).

Also, the current classrooms are in rough shape and have no glass windows; only wooden shutters.  This means that when it rains, the wooden shutters are closed and the room falls dark so no teaching can continue.  There is a project underway to build four new classrooms which will have windows and provide a much better learning opportunity.  This will also create a space for an office for the head mistress who currently offices in an old classroom currently holding all of the building supplies.  All of the supplies for the new classrooms (bricks, concrete, sand, lumber, etc) has been purchased by World Vision through sponsorship dollars (again, thanks Our Response!!!).  This is a total of about $60,000 in US dollars.  The labor will be paid for by donations from parents that will total about $8,000 US dollars once fully raised. They have a ways to go on this, but it is critical that they are invested in the project to ensure the right level of ownership going forward.

We also went and pet the rabbits that were provided by World Vision to the school.  The rabbit program will give two new-born rabbits to the poorest children in the school who will raise them, giving the first born back to the school to enter the program while using remaining rabbits for the needs of the family (again, sponsorship dollars here also!).

These are all new projects that have been started since the 2009 visit; so if you are wondering about the impact of the sponsorship dollars on the community, you can know that the educational component of World Vision’s community transformation model has been greatly impacted.

HIV-positive mushroom co-operative

For many of us, perhaps the most inspiring work of World Vision that we have been introduced too is their involvement in an agricultural co-op started and inclusive of only HIV+ participants.

After a drive and walk, we found ourselves again greeted by a few dozen men & women (of course children were tracking us everywhere too) who were clothed in beautiful garments and singing & dancing for us outside a small house at the end of a dirt path.  After hearing them sing and greeting them, we were given some background by the leader of this co-op and introduced to the other co-op officers.

After starting in 2007 with an investment of $20 USD from each of 49 members, the co-op was launched.  But lacking management skills and knowledge of operating a co-op, it quickly began struggling.  A couple of years ago, they approached World Vision to help.  Using sponsorship dollars (do you notice a theme here?), World Vision helped them re-structure the cooperative, secure a couple of houses, and begin working toward a productive co-op.  One house WV helped them secure was purchased for about $40 USD and is now worth about $160.  The success has been insane.

In addition to helping with other crops (potatoes, corn, bananas) and livestock (cows, pigs, goats), World Vision just recently introduced a mushroom project (which we were able to walk through).  This has been greatly impacting in a couple of areas.  First, living with HIV is made much more difficult when there is poor nutrition; mushrooms provide a wonderful nutrient sources that has radically impacted the lives of many in this co-op of about 65 people.  In fact, two women were asked to come forward as representatives of people who were very sick and couldn’t stand before the mushrooms were brought in; they are now active participants in the co-op and feeling quite healthy.  The second impact is that the mushrooms not used by the co-op participants are sold with the money being shared among co-op participants and reinvested into the co-op.  Because the price that can be received for mushrooms is significantly higher in Kigali than in Kivuruga, World Vision is currently working with multiple potential buyers to negotiate bulk sale of mushrooms and a significantly higher price.  This is something these co-op members would not have been able to do without World Vision.  I asked the co-op leader if she thought the co-op would even exist if it were not for World Vision; instead of only she answering the question, as soon as the interpreter posed the question, the entire group gave a resounding “no”; if it were not for World Vision (and the sponsorship dollars), this mushroom project would not have been possible, the co-op would have disbanded, and several of the members would have continued to have been sick if not have died.

They asked us many questions including how HIV-positive people are treated in the United States and what sort of care they are given.  We were very excited to see this level of interest and engagement and we were able to encourage them about how their unity, collaboration, and love for each other inspired us.

As you know, through child sponsorship, you not only have the opportunity to build a relationship with a child in Kivuruga, but your dollars are pooled with the dollars of other sponsors to transform and entire community including thousands of children.  In about 3 hours, we say amazing examples of the power of World Vision’s efforts in Kivuruga and the impact from the sponsorship dollars that many of you are providing.  Thank you – it was unbelievable to see such tangible results.

Cultural Event

After returning for lunch at the hotel, we headed back north to the intersection of Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo to experience a traditional Rwandan cultural event.  The experience was centered around traditional Rwanda including how the King & Queen would live and rule and advise; it also included a medicine man, a blacksmith, grinding sorghum, archery, and traditional singing & dancing.  I think we all had a great time and laughed so much; it was so good for all of our souls.  All of this was happening with the volcanoes as the backdrop; incredibly gorgeous.  Please trust me that this was fun and do not ask to see any pictures.

Phwew; another great day.  We are sad that tomorrow is our last full day in Kivuruga, but excited to travel to Akegera National Park and ultimately home to see our family & friends. This trip has absolutely blown me away. I thought since I had been here before, it might not be as impactful… but it may have been even more impactful than that first trip.  I’m moved to even new levels of respect for World Vision and commitment to building unity throughout East Central MN.  If you are a church or civic organization in East Central MN not involved with Our Response, look out because I will soon have you in my sites!!!!  Seriously, if you are involved in this effort, I can tell you that lives are being saved (literally) and a generation of children is being raised in an environment where they can be healthy, be educated, be productive, and prepare their children for even greater opportunities.

Thank you.