Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I have been asked many times, "How do you see Rwanda?" The only way I can respond is, "I love it."  I have a hard time explaining it.  There are no words to explain the calmness I feel as I rock side to side in the bus as it climbs the hills out of town.  There is little to be said for the grace and poise with which people transport hundreds of pounds of goods.  I cannot explain why driving past tea fields dotted with brightly colored laundry makes me feel at peace.  Maybe it is the air or the simplicity of life.  It could be the smiling children chasing after deflated footballs or the joyous laughter after I try out a new word in Kinyarwanda.  Frankly, I don't think I will ever be able to pinpoint it.  But in many ways I have grown up here.  I arrived a bright-eyed and eager 18 year old--- now, at 22 I could not imagine my life without this land and these people.  The red dust has infiltrated my lungs and no matter how hard I scrub, it has stained my feet forever.

Friday, June 14, 2013


My Spiderman has grown into quite the little man.  I no longer feel like an overprotective mother hen who worries about him getting through the day or being successful.  He is no longer the baby of EDD and I am thrilled to report, can now wash his clothes by himself and get along just fine on his own!  He is off and running.  It is a joy to watch how confident he has become, he is self-assured and now helps the littler boys navigate the center and their daily routines.  I no longer see him off in the field sitting alone reliving his horrific memories. I know this early experiences will never leave him but it seems he has found ways of coping and no longer let them dictate his life.  His English has improved so much and he is eager to soak up information.  He happily informed me that his mother told him he will be an English teacher.  Today, I sat on the football pitch and watched in awe at how far he has come.  He wasn't afraid to jump right in, it is obvious the other boys respect him.  He is the "keeper" of the little boys football team, something that obviously brings him great pride.  And he has become a keeper of the center.  Today he stayed to help me clean up the library and he looks after the little boys with kindness and care.  His little light is now shinning so bright.

E, is a newer boy at the center.  He arrived, not long after I left, from another street child center in Kigali that was closed by the government for mistreating the children.  He is around eight, though just a guess since age is not well recorded here.  His day to day existence is a struggle.  He truly is just bursting with love.  I watched as he tenderly moved hair out of someone's face and saw his face light up as he waved at a butterfly that flew by.  But some of my most frustrating moments have come as I watch him intentionally hurt himself.  He will stare directly into the sun or hit himself with a rock, as if he isn't worthy of not feeling pain.  I try to explain to him that it hurts me when he hurts himself, but it seems to be lost in translation. But then he will come grab my hand and hold it so gently. And moments later he will bite me.  He yearns for attention and any attention is good attention.  He will stare at nothing and I wish I could jump inside his little head and remove all of the toxic memories it stores.  He is just a little boy who wants what every human being wants, to love and to be loved.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dreams Realized.

 I first came to Rwanda four years ago, a wide-eyed, naive 18 year-old who felt a strong desire to return to Africa.  On that first trip, with an international volunteer service I was placed at Les Enfant de Dieu and so my long-term, long-distance relationship with the center began.  During my time there, another volunteer and myself discovered a stockpile of books, markers and other supplies that had been donated to the center; most of these good were inaccessible to the boys and kept behind lock and key--they were being hoarded more or less.  This hoarding is a phenomenon I have seen time and time again, the boys will collect what seem to be the most arbitrary objects (bottle caps, pieces of plastic, broken pens) and they guard them with their lives.  I think this stems from coming from so little that anything and everything is valuable and they do not want to let it go or lose it.

Anyway, the other volunteer and myself wanted the boys to be able to access the books and other supplies and so we developed a sort of cataloging and check-out process that we hoped to be a library.  We spent hours color-coding flash cards and making sets of markers and colored pencils.  We were able to get the boys more access to things and hopefully more than anything we got the ball rolling for a future library. 

After I returned to the states I would sit in class and dream of ways I could find money to build a library complete with shelves and couches, a fun place the boys could spend time.  When I returned in 2011, the boys were able to check-out books from the teachers room and volunteers would get out markers and games from the social workers office.

As my time was ending, there were plans to wall-in and turn the old dinning hall into a library.  Well, I am thrilled to report that today, EDD has a fully-functioning library.  The boys have access to hundreds of books, games, and art supplies.  It is currently run by the volunteers, but I am hoping to talk to the staff about turning over the keys to the boys and empowering them to run it themselves.  A small seed was planted four years ago and today it has become fully realized. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Coming Home

There are few things in life that bring me as much joy as stepping off a plane after 20 hours onto Rwandan soil. That aside, there is NOTHING that brings me joy like walking through the gate at Les Enfants de Dieu. 

Friday afternoon after far too many days in between, I finally saw my beautiful boys.  The center has grown and changed since my last visit.  The dormitory is finished and most of the buildings that stood on my first visit nearly 4 years ago  no longer exist.  There are many new faces and many new little boys-a lot of the older ones are either back home, away at secondary school or in vocational training.  But I was still greeted by so many bright faces and wonderful beings. 

I saw my Spiderman (for those of you who followed last time you will remember my stories) and I had to choke back my tears.  He came running from across the center- full speed into my arms, I don't think life gets much better than that.  The magic of my neverland is still very much there and my lost boys all seem to be doing quite well.  I always say it is a place, that may have flaws, but allows so many who have had it so hard to be children again.  I asked many of them how old they now were, most of them seemed to have grown younger or had miraculously not aged at all.  It is a place where at least for the little ones, for now, growing up is optional. 

I feel exhausted, but a great exhausted.  It feels like I have come home.