Author Archives: Steve Fredlund

Baby at the Nutrition Center

Josiane’s story

October 5, 2013 | Steve Fredlund

During 2010 through 2011, the people of East Central MN helped fund a Nutrition Project which included education, training, and the enhancement of a Nutrition Center in Kivuruga. We visited this center in 2011 and had a chance to meet several of the 30 children in the most desperate stages of malnutrition. We even had a chance to serve them a meal. On our most recent trip in August, we visited the Center again and found out that all 30 of those children survived; their families are involved in an agricultural cooperative to continue to improve their health.

On this last trip we also met Josiane Twizerimana who, when her mother began attending health sessions established by World Vision, had just been identified as having a severe case of malnutrition. On our visit we watched as the staff measured and weighed Josiane; at 11 months old she weighted 4.7 kilograms—just a little over 10 pounds. The World Health Organization child growth standard is 8.7 kilograms, about 19 pounds. Clearly, it was time to intervene with Josiane.

Josiane at Nutrition Center

Josiane at the Nutrition Center

On our visit we asked that we be kept informed of her progress as they began to take the next steps. This past Friday we received an update from Kivuruga. The following is the update…


Josiane is daughter of Gakuru Rose Mary resident of Kivuruga sector, Gasiza cell, she was born in October 2012. Gakuru Rose Mary is mother of two children and Josiane is second born. The woman got first pregnant when she was 21 and second pregnant when she was 24 years old. She lives with her only father and she is used to go and work for money as house girl. Late in July she was identified by health workers and she was registered to attend PDH sessions. Josiane has severe malnutrition and the measurement shows that she weighs 4.7kg with 11 months of age.  She measures 61cm high.

What is already being done?

After the visit of OR we have been advised to closely follow up this child and on Thursday 8th August 2013 the lady was taken to health center for HIV test together with her children, all of them were found negative. The ADP used a small amount of money to buy food for immediate intervention since during the visit we have found the family was without food during the last two days.

The family received clothes given by the visitors. On Friday we have contacted Bushoka health center to negotiate transfer so that the child is transferred to Nemba hospital for further treatment. The transfer was signed on 10th August 2013 and the child was immediately transferred to Nemba hospital.

Josiane has been admitted and she is expected to spend two weeks in Nemba hospital for rehabilitation. She was put under therapeutic nutrition appropriate to children with severe malnutrition. Fortunately the child does not present any other disease apart from this. On 14th August the ADP team visited the child, we started seeing an improvement because she shifted from 4.7kg t0 5.5kg after two days under treatment as testified by Gratien in charge of nutrition service in the hospital.

The hospital will continue to monitor her for three months after leaving the hospital, with nutritionist at the health center regularly checking her weight. Her mother will continue to receive support on how to care for her and will visit the hospital twice a month with her for check-ups.

Current Situation

Twizerimana josiane left the hospital on 23rd September 2013 when she completed her therapeutic nutrition rehabilitation and her stunting regulated as reported by the Hospital. She shifted from 4.7 kgs to 7.7kgs. Her mother is today happy to see her daughter in a good health status and testified that with health education on nutrition received at the hospital, she will take care of her daughter. The ADP in partnership with the health center will continue to assist the family and other children through Health and nutrition program. Also she was advised to join cooperative of mothers in her community which will be involved in economic activities in the coming years.

Thank you people of East Central Minnesota for your compassion. Josiane is just one of many children whose lives you are changing because of your generosity.

Presentation of soccer ball.

2013 Trip Review from Steve

August 29, 2013 | Steve Fredlund

In early August, a team of 11 people from East Central Minnesota travelled to Kivuruga, Rwanda, to continue to build relationships, bring encouragement, capture stories, and view the impact Our Response is having in this beautiful, remote corner of the world. It is extremely difficult to summarize our experiences, but I will try to touch on the main items and invite you to follow up with me, or any of the trip team members, for more details. We are expecting to hold our 4th Annual Celebration on January 26 at the high school in Cambridge, where we will be able to share some specific stories with you in person.

In 2010, Our Response funded the expansion of a Nutrition Center in Kivuruga by raising $40,000. In 2011, we visited that center and were able to feed the children the one meal per week they were able to receive. We met 30 children who were severely under and malnourished, which was both heartbreaking—but also exciting—to think that our community was actively being part of the solution. On this most recent trip, we were able to visit the center again and find out that all 30 of those children had survived and were now part of an agricultural cooperative raising nutritious food for their families.

It was immediately apparent, however, that we still have much work to do. We were introduced to an 18-month old, severely malnourished girl, who weighed only 11 pounds; she was just one of many children in the area struggling to get nutritious food. I have heard it said that Rwanda is a place where hope and despair run so closely together; this was never more apparent than at the Nutrition Center.

On the same site as the Nutrition Center is the Bushoka Health Center. While rooms have been added in the past two years to help separate the delivery area from the general sickness ward, there is still much work to be done. The delivery room (the only one in all of the Kivuruga area) is still very small (perhaps 10’ by 10’), has two beds, and continues to lack running water, a floor drain, or trained staff. We would like to see Our Response address these needs going forward.

We had a chance to visit a school and, despite the fact that schools were on break, hundreds of children showed up on their day off to greet us with singing and be part of our experience at the school. Two of the educators with us on our trip, Shawn and Shannon Kirkeide, had the opportunity to teach a lesson in U.S. geography to the class of Rwandan middle schoolers. It was a priceless moment for both them and those of us who were watching. We were so impressed by the respect, knowledge, and eagerness for learning displayed by these Rwandan children.

Personally, my most impactful moment came when we visited a home where a meeting was taking place with the leadership of the volunteer HIV and AIDS caregivers, a group headed by Florence, who I met in 2011. Florence and I quickly reconnected as we shared our excitement in seeing each other again. During the 2011 trip, we asked Florence what her team of 126 caregivers needed most. Florence said “raincoats” would make their job easier during the rainy season. Pastor Joel Preston of Pine City, who was on that trip and had his raincoat with him, quickly took it out and gave it to her. Florence was thrilled. On this most recent trip, Florence was sharing with the entire group and recalled that moment when she received a raincoat; she was overflowing with joy and came and gave me a big hug I will never forget. It was an amazing moment to then announce to her and the entire group that Pine City Evangelical Free Church had led an effort to collect raincoats; we shared that we brought with us nearly 100 rain jackets to help in their efforts to care for the many people living with HIV and AIDS in Kivuruga. The singing and joy that followed were overwhelming.

So many more things to talk about, but here are just the main highlights:

  • Visiting all of the children sponsored by those on the trip, and having a chance to visit many of them in their homes. The families that were visited were as different as families in the U.S., but each experience was deeply meaningful to the child sponsors and the families of the children.
  • Visiting a community of people and their new, closer source for clean water. This was a spring that was re-opened with construction to keep it open, as well as cement basins for laundry and drying. For this community, this means far less time spent walking to get water. When we asked them what else they need, they could only speak of their desire to pipeline the water to those living on the other side of the hill. The people of Rwanda are incredibly grateful for the little they have, and deeply selfless; they are far more focused on the “we” than the “I.”
  • Going through the Genocide Memorial in Kigali to understand the impact that period in Rwanda’s history continues to have on the current culture.
  • Meeting with the World Vision Rwanda national staff, including Director George Gitau, where we heard about the impressive work of the Rwandan government, and the ongoing transformation of Rwanda since the 1994 genocide.
  • Attending a church service in Kivuruga and engaging in the singing and dancing on the hard-packed dirt floor. We also saw people bring offerings which included eggs, beans, bananas, and sugar cane.
  • As we continue working in the area of economic development, we visited a small business started by women who are sewing dresses. We crammed into their small shop as they showed us their fabric, dresses, and how they do their work. Following that experience, we walked to another small business where women were weaving beautiful baskets and bowls. The larger baskets take nearly five days of work to create with a cost of approximately five U.S. dollars.  We would love to get involved in helping them sell these beautiful baskets and increase their income.

Our entire team is still processing everything they experienced during their time in Rwanda. As I talk with those who were on the first two trips (2009, 2011), they are also still processing. The lessons continue to emerge as we live our “regular lives” back in the U.S.  With that said, I think that there were two key lessons everyone learned:

  • Gratitude – We take for granted that we will have clean water, nutritious food, electricity, a place to sleep, education, and a reasonable standard of living. This trip drives up our appreciation for these things, realizing that much of the world does not have access to many of these necessities.
  • Passion for Life – Often we fall into the doldrums of life, despite having more materially than most Rwandans can ever dream of. We saw people with nothing have more joy and enthusiasm for life than most people we have ever met. It is inspiring and something that will burn inside each of us for the rest of our lives.

Our team was proud to represent all of East Central Minnesota and we made that clear with each person we met and with each group we addressed. We are hoping the trip will build even greater momentum within Our Response and open doors to new opportunities to raise awareness and funding for our friends in Kivuruga. We are not yet accepting applications for the next trip, but if anyone is interested, I recommend getting on the email distribution list so you will know when the process begins. Our Response is fueled by passionate individuals and over 40 organizational partners, including churches, schools, businesses, and other groups. If you would like to sponsor a child in Kivuruga, talk about being part of this movement, or discuss the benefits to your group or organization, please contact me at or 651.587.5435.

Thank you for your engagement and support in “our response” to a world in need.

Website Relaunch

May 30, 2013 | Steve Fredlund

Director Steve Fredlund

Our Response is thrilled to present the relaunching of our website. We are so excited to have an updated tool to keep you informed about what is happening. The refreshed site will also include news events and stories from those involved with Our Response. There are so many people passionate about compassion in East Central Minnesota, and we are excited to be able to highlight those stories and inspire others to live a life of impact. We also have an updated presence on Facebook and look forward to multiple ways to continue building momentum.

The website, and the blog in particular, will continue to be updated regularly, both of which we believe will be powerful tools to deepen the sense of community that is developing through Our Response. On the blog you will learn of people throughout East Central Minnesota who are offering their skills to help our friends in Rwanda; you will hear perspectives from child sponsors and others involved; you will be able to follow the trip team as it heads for Rwanda; and you will have the opportunity to engage in the discussion that begins with each blog post.

I would like to take this opportunity introduce you to one of my favorite people, Janie Pearson.  Janie is a board member of Our Response, travelled to Rwanda in 2011, and is passionate about the people of Kivuruga and the impact we are having in our community. Janie will be helping manage the new website and the blog, where she will be a primary contributor.

Thank you for engaging in this journey of transformation occurring in both the people of Rwanda and in the people of East Central Minnesota. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.


2013 Rwanda Trip

May 28, 2013 | Steve Fredlund


In late July and early August, a team from East Central Minnesota will travel to Kivuruga, Rwanda. This team will be the third group of individuals representing Our Response to travel to Kivuruga. I had the opportunity to travel to Kivuruga as part of the first team in 2009, which resulted in the founding of Our Response, and I travelled there again as part of the second team in 2011. The single word that best summarizes Our Response’s impact between 2009 and 2011 is staggering. At least ten water collection and filtration systems were constructed; a nutrition center was remodeled and equipped to serve meals and milk to children; educational programs in nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, and disease prevention were launched; schools were constructed and remodeled; agricultural cooperatives were founded; and the residents of Kivuruga were gripped with the extreme power of hope.

Since that trip in the fall of 2011, the residents of East Central Minnesota have rallied with even greater intensity to financially support the efforts of World Vision in transforming the community of Kivuruga. We receive regular reports about the progress of the individual children and the entire community, but I am anxious to return this summer for a number of reasons: (1) to continue building relationships with the friends and compassionate partners I met on the first two trips; (2) to see firsthand the impact of Our Response and World Vision; (3) to hear residents describe how their lives continue to be improved and how hope keeps building; (4) to have others on the trip confronted with the problem of extreme poverty and exposed to the solution of community transformation; (5) to share experiences and build relationships with other members of the trip team that we will value forever; (6) to represent all of East Central Minnesota to these beautiful people; (7) to bring the compassion of an entire community from the other side of the planet; (8) to once again spend time with my family’s three sponsored children—Gerome, Jean de la Croix, and Claudine, who are growing up (like my own children) so quickly; and (9) to capture stories (both hard and beautiful) to bring back and share with as many people as will listen.

Another thing that I am excited about is the opportunity to bring gifts from the people of East Central Minnesota. In coming blog posts, you will learn about several of these opportunities, but here is a summary of the duffle bags of items we will bring to Kivuruga, along with the individuals who are coordinating the efforts to fill the bags:

•   Medical supplies (Kris Johnson in North Branch)

•   Raincoats (Joel Preston in Pine City)

•   Eyeglasses (Chad Christenson in Cambridge)

•   Boys shorts and shirts (Ellen Lance in Rock Creek is coordinating several sewing groups)

•   Soccer balls (Mark Coughlin in Forest Lake)

If you have an idea and want to fill a duffle bag, please let me know!

I could go on for hours about the first two trips and my excitement for the upcoming trip, but I will save some of that for future blog posts. (Plus, Janie might edit me!)

I am thrilled that we have relaunched our website and increased our efforts on Facebook and Twitter. These avenues will be the primary ways that you can follow us on our journey in Rwanda. We would love to hear from you if there are questions we should ask or things we should find out, we would love to have you engage in the conversation as we post pictures and stories during the trip, and we would love to connect with you after the trip to share our experiences. Thank you for joining us on this united journey of compassion.