A two hour drive found us in Kaleere today, thankfully the road had dried out and was passable, if a little rough.

The songs and dancing by the elderly, dressed in their Sunday best, as the service started were a delight.

Ian preached, and Canon Eriab translated, to a full church on Ephesians 1 v15:23, as usual an excellent sermon which appeared to be well received by the congregation.

As is normal in Uganda the offering consisted largely of vegetables, eggs and coffee beans. Once the service ended everyone remained in church and the produce was auctioned off, a strange experience but it provided food at an affordable cost for the community and funds for the church.

We had been presented with a large number of gifts of fruit when we visited the homes yesterday and this was added to the pile. The bananas were not terribly popular but were bought by various members of the congregation to be given to the children. We followed them outside but it soon became clear that we would not have nearly enough for everyone. We had something of a Loaves & Fishes experience as we broke each banana into three and each piece was given one between two, barely a bite each but they all received something.

Then it was time for some CHI (Causing Havoc Intentionally) as we ‘stole’ a banana leaf football and played soccer with the children, after Carmen tried to kill a couple of younger ones with badly aimed kicks a game of catch seemed a better idea. Much high fiving and a game of scary muzungu (white person) and it was time to go back into church and meet with the elderly who are supported by our Parish Project.

We learned of their successes, failures and challenges, then spent some time meeting with them outside the church. We didn’t need words to understand their gratitude for all that has been done in this parish or their joy that we had returned to visit them. Despite warnings about not shaking hands for fear of spreading the Coronavirus, much hand shaking and hugging took place, like people the world over, these folk just want to be loved and cared for and we were not about to deny them this show of affection.

    

Requests for glasses and dental treatment were made by some and we ended our visit with a house call to one of the elderly ladies who was in bed sick, she needs an operation but her family do not have the means to either transport her to the hospital or pay for the treatment. She is just one of many, it is heartbreaking that we cannot offer this form of assistance to individuals. The request that the health camp be held twice a year to enable seasonal treatment to be given was made, we will consider this, along with the many other proposals once we return.

Ian praying for for Jalia

All too soon it was time to leave, but we will be back tomorrow to visit the school, homes and wells that have been supported in this community. Everyone has agreed NOT to pray for rain tonight!!!

Oh dear, it’s 8.30pm and it just started to rain.

The Saturday morning project is a time of worship, play and crafts for the sponsored children. We joined them for worship and were then entertained as they sang a song they had written especially for us.

Letters and gifts from sponsors were distributed to those who were lucky enough to have been sent one, and then we received gifts from the children.

As the children were taken out to be given porridge we gathered the tennis balls and inflatable beach balls we had bought with us; time to CHI (Cause Havoc Intentionally). You would not believe how excited these children can become over a few balls. The cricket set and parachute we bought on our last visit came out and a wonderful time of play, fun and havoc ensued. For these children, whose lives and circumstances are so hard opportunities to simply be children are few and far between.

Then back inside as some of the older children were taught tailoring skills on the sewing machines purchased by CHI, and the younger ones showed us how they could weave mats and make beaded items.

As the children left we were given lunch, then it was into the car to visit the homes of some of the children.

When we receive details of the children requiring sponsorship the information is fairly standard, poor home, unable to support the family, etc. The reality we see when we visit these homes makes us realise just how inadequate word are to describe the lives these children live.

We visited eight homes of children sponsored and awaiting sponsorship today, and more than once we were almost bought to tears. The poverty is unimaginable, one room homes no more than 7ft square, accommodating families of 5, with a scrap of cloth for a door and no windows. Sick or disabled parents, unable to work to provide food for their hungry children. Emmanuel’s home was one of these. Emmanuel is an only child, his mother abandoned the family when he was a baby, his father has cared for him but is now bed ridden with a broken leg, he is probably around 60 but looks 80+ and, we suspect, may not be around much longer. Emmanuel does all the chores and cares for his father, but they have no means of income. He is a happy smiley boy, and yet he has so little to smile about, and we cannot help but be concerned for his future. Sponsorship ensures he has an education, attends the Saturday project where he receives a breakfast of porridge, learns crafts which may one day enable him to earn some money, and has the opportunity to simply be a child, most importantly he learns that God loves him and has a plan for his life. We doubt his home has an address but if it did it might go something like this; off the main road, past the tip, down the mud track, the house on the end with the boarded up window. Beyond sponsorship we are at a loss to know what we can do to help, just heartbreaking.

       

Despite the challenges these people face we were welcomed, invited in (it was a squeeze), hugged, and given gifts. We sat on the floor on woven mats laid down just for us, and could offer nothing but a prayer that by some miracle their lives could be improved.

By the time we returned home we were all emotionally drained, certainly a day of two halves

Today we were scheduled to visit Kaleere in Rakai Parish about a one and a half hour drive south. After a night of heavy storms the rain was in no hurry to let up, we set off a little late with some trepidation. The last half hour of the ‘road’ to Kaleere is something of a challenge on a good day and today was not a good one. During a short stop to change up some money (we are now multi millionaires in Ugandan Shillings) a phone call from Canon Eriab in Rakai advised us the road to Kaleere was not passable it had been washed away, and our schedule would need to be adjusted.

After meeting with Canon Eriab, and a very muddy stumble to the ‘facilities’, we headed up the hill to Rakai School instead. Of the 257 students, 50 of whom are orphans, virtually none are able to pay their school fees. A meeting with the head teacher and some of his staff explored the possibility of an income generating project to involve the Church, school and community.  We await their proposal with interest.

It was cooler than normal for Uganda and, whilst we found it quite comfortable many of the children in their thin and thread bear clothes were visibly shivering. all we could do was hug them to try and warm them up.

As we came out of the meeting the children were leaving their classes for lunch, at least, some were, many others simply waited around at the top of the hill, they could not pay and therefore cannot have lunch.

We heard how the CHI provision of water tanks following our last visit means water is no longer a problem and the children do not have to walk to the lake, and brave the hippos, to collect water.

This school are also in dire need of new toilet facilities as the existing pit is full!!!

By this time we were nearly as wet and muddy as the children, so we carried on down the hill to view the Eucalyptus Trees funded last year. There have been problems with drought and termite damage but around 7,000 of the original 10,000 trees are growing well. In another two years these will provide a cash crop for the benefit of the community and can be pollarded each year.

Then it was back to the office for further discussions with Eriab where we handed over the camera we had bought out for him. His previous camera had been stolen, which made providing the required photographs of the projects something of a challenge. He seemed very pleased with his gift.

With the rain finally easing up we bade farewell and headed for home with a prayer for better weather over the next two days, Ian is preaching at Kaleere Church on Sunday, we really need to be able to get there.

A good night’s sleep and a leisurely start to today saw us all feeling a lot better than we did last night.

After a short walk to St John’s Church, Kijjabwemi Ian and Carmen felt like they had never been away. A tour round the new ‘House’ being built for Rev Canon Patrick (or so we thought). The building is enormous, is this something of a extravagance we wondered? Until Patrick explained how; two of the rooms and one bathroom are for families who need temporary accommodation; one is for visiting dignitaries; one room is for church meetings and conferences. The area of the building for his private living consists of one family bedroom with bathroom and a living area. Patrick has four children of his own and two adopted children!!!!! This building is a Parish resource, not an extravagant private home. Once again our western assumptions have given us cause to eat humble pie.

We met with the ‘staff’ who administer the Sponsorship Project in Uganda Field Assistant David, Harriet who assists him, as well as working as a teacher at the senior school and running Sunday School, and Patrick’s admin assistant Talent. Their enthusiasm and commitment to this work is a joy to see.

We saw the piggery project funded by CHI. The local youth are assisted to care for these pigs, they learn animal husbandry skills which serve them well in these largely rural communities, as the pigs breed they are given to local families in need to help them become self sufficient. They in turn pass on their first born piglet to another family. Throughout this process they are supported by the church and as faith grows, many come to know God and His love for them. We also saw the sewing machines purchased with CHI funds, these  are used to teach sponsored children, and others who attend the Saturday project sewing skills a means of providing for themselves in the future. For security, when not in use, David stores the machines in the small room he calls home in a building on site.

  

We were shown the vegetable patch which provides food for the project and training for the children. Every opportunity is taken to give these youngsters the skills required to provide for themselves in later life.

After lunch we set off to meet with Bishop Henry Katuna Tamale and his Diocesan admin team. A relatively new Bishop this was our first meeting with him, we were made very welcome and will forgive him (eventually) for making us sing, we don’t think he will ask us again!!!! We also met his wife Rev Canon Elizabeth Katuna and had very interesting discussions surrounding her work with Mothers Union.

Meeting Bishop Henry and his wife Elizabeth

Then off to Bexhill High School to meet with some of the sponsored children, this is a senior school and these children board here as it is too far to travel daily. Although very shy they assured us they were enjoying being at this school, and their head teacher told us they were all very good students. We also met a very eloquent young lady named Pauline who told us she hoped to become a doctor. Her English was exceptional and we have no doubt she will achieve her goals.

The two Paulines

We arrived back at Banda in time for a quick swim before dinner. How very civilised.

 

 

We have arrived safe and well if a little ragged round the edges 26 hours after leaving home. Ice on the wings at Stansted followed by too much wind in Dubai resulted in both flights being delayed and very little sleep achieved. We made up some time en-route and were met by a slightly concerned Pastor Patrick. Finally, a four hour drive to Masaka, with a quick stop at the equator for a picture (it was Pauline’s first time to cross), and we have arrived at Banda Lodge, our home for the next three weeks.

Surprisingly enough we are going to bed. Tomorrow we meet the Bishop, we need our beauty sleep!!!

 

Posted in CHI


It seems like only yesterday we returned from Rwanda, can two years really have passed that quickly?  As we think back on all we saw, and all the projects we hoped to support on our return, we can only thank God for your support that has helped achieve so many of those aims and more besides.

And so Ian and Carmen are off again and Pauline is on her maiden visit, this time to the projects in Uganda. Our flights and accommodation are booked, vaccinations done and malaria tablets bought. We have a busy itinerary but we are looking forward to meeting our partners again (they have become firm friends over the years), and making new friends as we visit the communities where your support has changed lives and bought many to faith.

The travel challenges are not so extreme in Uganda, and the accommodation is delightful, despite being the most economical we can find, however, we will greatly value your prayers for safety and stamina, and for God's wisdom as we visit, evaluate and discover new challenges along the way

Posted in CHI

After three weeks of travel around Rwanda WE ARE HOME.

We have been;

  •  welcomed and offered hospitality by those who have so little.
  • inspired by the people we have met.
  • moved by the stories we have heard.
  • encouraged by the progress being made in Rwanda.
  • challenged by the work that still needs to be done.

Now we need time to;

  • process the information
  • decide on the projects to be supported
  • raise the required funds

As our partners kept reminding us, plan, pray, do what we can and God will do the rest.

Please pray that our decisions will be guided by Him and the funds will become available to meet the needs.

Thank you all for your messages and prayers during this trip.

 

 

Today we attended the consecration of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kibagabaga, Kigali. How to get there was our first challenge as we have now said goodbye to Emmanuel & Jacques. But God always has a plan, so when we met Bishop Augustin of Kivu Diocese at the guest house last night it seemed only fitting to ask for a lift!!!

As the very formal service came to an end and the Bishops processed out of the cathedral Archbishop Onesphore trailed behind high fiving the children.

The 4 1/2 hour service was followed by cake and a drink. The cake had a firework on it and, after the cutting of the cake by Archbishop Onesphore he served the children.

   

Then Bishop Augustin offered us a lift back, what he actually said was “come we will go together”……. We found ourselves at a rather posh hotel eating lunch with 7 Bishops, an Archbishop and their respective wives!!!!

Today’s Bishop spotting completed our full house of Bishops for the eleven Diocese in Rwanda.

Tonight we dine with Archbishop Onesphore, Archbishop elect Laurent and their respective wives. A somewhat surreal day all in all.

We are all checked in for our flights home tomorrow as our journey comes to an end. Tonight’s prayer will be for warmer weather in the UK.

The size of the areas covered by each diocese here is staggering. As we head off to visit the home of one sponsored child (Ian’s) we are told the journey is 2 1/2 hours  each way.

The rain has damaged many of the hill roads and the journey was not easy, even in the 4 wheel drive Land Cruiser we have been using. Thanks to the skill of Jacques, our driver for the last few days, we arrived safely.

Ian was pleased to meet Gedeon his sponsored child and his family in their very basic home.

It was explained to us that sponsoring children in these remote areas is important to show the people living here that they are not forgotten and to give them hope and encouragement in their daily struggle. Once again it was our visit more than the practical support that had been given that meant so much.

After an unscheduled stop at the pastors house for a meal, the rain arrived before we left. The drive back was more than challenging and it was dark before we left the hill tracks and arrived back. If we were tired it is hard to imagine how Jacques felt.

This morning a mercifully short drive found us taking the footpaths to the homes of Paul’s two sponsored children

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The first a remote location that was not served by a road, where we met Placidya – a charming young girl who proudly showed us the hens she had bought with the gift she had received.

There were some vertical challenges for those of us who are not too keen on sheer drops!!!

The second location should have been a drive but the rains had made the road impassable. Eric has been sponsored since 2003 and it was clear to see how his life had improved as he proudly showed us his cows, hens and pigs as well as the plot of land he was cultivating. He hopes to be a farmer when he leaves school and we think he is well on his way to success. We not only met his mother and brother but also his 98 year old grandmother. It is hard to imagine all the things she has seen in her life.

All together we walked about 4 miles at around 8000ft, up and down the hills of Byumba. We considered the need for a base camp and oxygen was required by the time we returned..

Then it was back to the church to meet with a number of the sponsored children and hear their testimonies. Once again CHI stood for Causing Havoc Intentionally as we distributed the remaining tennis balls.

A quick cup of tea and we headed for Kigali. Said farewell to Jacques and settled into our rooms for the last two nights of our trip.

 

 

 

Posted in CHI

After a meeting with Bishop Emmanuel in Kibungo, who was suffering from malaria and came to the Diocesan office just to speak with us, we started the last leg of our journey as we travelled to Byumba. We broke the 4 1/2 hour journey with a very pleasant lunch in Kigali thanks to the local knowledge of Emmanuel who has driven us a fair few miles this trip.

Ian’s day was complete after managing to photograph a pair of Crowned Cranes on the drive to Kigal

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A change of driver in Kigali and we headed to Byumba, a fairly good road until we hit roadworks but we arrived safely and were met by Pastor Thaddee with whom we have worked for many years.

A long and very productive meeting over dinner with Bishop Emmanuel of Byumba, Pastor Thaddee and Didacienne, the field assistant who oversees the sponsorship project and it was time to post the blog and head for bed.

A long day ahead tomorrow as we head to a parish a mere 2 1/2 hours drive away, we are assured the road is not too bad!!!!

Prayers for journey mercies please.

 

After breakfast, omelette of course, we left for today’s visit.

The road was definitely an improvement on yesterday and we arrived in Rwintashya Parish without incident. This Parish overlooks Sake Lake and is a very peaceful and attractive location.

A wonderful greeting in the church by some of those who had received goats and we set off to visit a few of the homes. Whilst each of the testimonies are very similar and it is easy for us to feel we have ‘heard it all before’. It is important to remember that for each of these families receiving a goat was beyond their wildest dreams and really is life changing. Time and again we have heard from pastors whose congregations have grown and people have been given hope and a renewed determination to improve their lives. Of course not every one is a success story but that is the way of life.

Recipients are forming support groups, savings schemes and meeting to read the bible. They help each other through challenging times; communities are being drawn closer together and churches are growing. Who would have thought a few goats could have such an impact in these villages?

It is rare for muzungu (white people) to visit these remote villages and some of the children are cautious about coming near. They creep along behind us but will not get too close. Carmen had fun with the children by pretending to be ‘scary muzungu’ . We do hope they don’t have nightmares tonight!!

Back to the pastor’s house where we saw his bike which was provided to the diocese through CHI in 2014 and passed on to him by the previous pastor of this church.

Back for a quick lunch of chip omelette!!!! and it was off to visit Itetero Primary School where some furniture and books had been provided for the library. Funding had been sent for one cow which has now become four. The children attending this school now have milk in their porridge.

We visited the classrooms where the children were encouraged to ask us questions. One child wanted to know how old we were – today’s lesson….. never ask a child to guess your age.  Paul is 90, Ian 92 and Carmen 82!!! This trip has obviously taken a bigger toll than we realised

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Tomorrow we move on again, this time to Byumba. Hopefully we will have internet for the last stage of our journey. Watch this space.

As you read this post please keep in mind the torrential rain we experienced yesterday.

Today we were heading to Ndego Parish, where goats have been provided for a number of families. But first the puncture needed to be fixed!!!!

After the obligatory omelette for breakfast and already an hour late leaving we set off on the one hour drive to the parish church. This area is one of the hottest, driest regions in Rwanda. We were welcomed by Pastor Jean Pierre and invited to share food and drink. A large roll and boiled egg later we headed off to visit some homes in the local area, then on another 45 minute drive to a sub parish close to Lake Nasho, once part of the Akagera National Park but now given to the local population. The landscape here is totally different to anything else we have seen in Rwanda. It is relatively flat, very dry with minimal vegetation. 98% of the local population are subsistence farmers and providing goats gives a good supply of manure for improved crops and some income. Many are now attending church as they see God’s love in action through this provision. Pastor Jean Pierre told us how he had baptised 250 people in one ceremony due to the distribution of goats and the opportunity it had given him to evangelise.

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Rain is scarce here and drought is a constant challenge. That is until Carmen visits but we had to get there first!!!!

Thankfully the strategic positioning of some rocks and dried banana leaves together with the appearance of a couple of local men with muscle and we were free, if a little muddy!!! In the middle of nowhere, not a soul in sight, where did these men come from??

We arrived for our 11am meeting with a local government official at 1.30pm.Thankfully a very short stop before visiting the church and the homes of some of those who had received a goat. There is no doubt the gift of a goat is changing lives and we were welcomed wherever we went.

The daily thunderstorm arrived as we left, although we only felt a few drops of rain and it was back in the car and headed for the pastors house……. for a 3.30pm lunch…… which turned out to be a full traditional Rwandan meal.

We were scheduled to visit a second parish this afternoon. We arrived at 5pm! The light was beginning to fade and an hours journey on hill track roads lay ahead. We agreed a quick visit to meet another family before we headed off. Pastor Alain told us he had baptised 141 people in September as a result of the distribution of goats. Then an invite to enter the pastors house revealed another full Rwandan meal laid out for us. We did our best but couldn’t do justice to the effort that had been put in. We hope they forgive us.

It was dark by the time we left and many a prayer was offered as Emmanuel negotiated the treacherous road home. We had to decline the meal that had been prepared for us at the guest house. You can only manage so much of a good thing!!!

As we post this blog the rain is once again blessing us!!! Please continue to pray for journey mercies as we visit another parish tomorrow.

A night of thunderstorms and torrential rain caused some trepidation as we left for Gikonko School situated around 5000 ft above sea level. The road to Gikonko has always been a challenge. Prayers were said for journey mercies and we were off

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Much to our delight the rain stopped, the road has been improved and widened almost beyond recognition and thankfully we arrived without any fearful moments, in no small part due to Pastor Emmanuel and his skilful driving.

This boarding school is an inspiration. It excels in many areas despite facing huge challenges as many of the pupils here come from very poor families and are unable to pay the fees

.The cow provided some years ago is alive and well and has multiplied and the school now has 3 cows and another one due. These cows provide milk for the students and the aim is to increase the herd to at least six.

The school has performed so well that the government has provided them with 100 laptop computers. What progress from our last visit 5 years ago, when we saw 12 computer towers all of which were in need of repair. We subsequently sent funds for that purpose. These computers are now used for maintenance and repairs.

The children are well disciplined, very smart and the school has a very happy atmosphere. They have performed well in sports and their girls handball team is the top national team

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After a time of discussion and light refreshment it was on to Butare (Huye) our home until Sunday. We have very limited internet here but will endeavour to post the blog each day.

We are struck, as we drive through the country and speak to many people, by the sense of purpose and determination we see. They don’t just have innovative ideas and wait for someone else to provide the means. As we have heard many times, they plan, pray, do what they can and leave it in God’s hands. The outcome is amazing. It is such a privilege to be a small part of the huge changes we are seeing here.

     

We had a wonderful start to the day when Brigitte, our sponsored nurse from Gikomero Health Centre, arrived at the Guest House. She had made a special journey before work to bring us a gift made especially for us by her family. Two days ago we heard how she works every day and does not get much time with her family as the clinic is so short of staff.

Today she brought us a gift which must have taken a considerable amount of her valuable family time. How much clearer could it be that support for these nurses is really appreciated? We were so touched by this very special gift..

Next stop Shyogwe Health Centre where we toured the maternity ward and saw some of the beds we had provided four years ago

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The centre was well kept and seemed to be efficiently run despite overflowing with patients waiting to be seen. One man was lying on the waiting room floor having apparently fainted; there was no one to attend to him.

Despite being connected to the mains and having 3 water tanks the clinic often runs out of water. They need 4 more tanks to meet their needs.

Then on to St Peters School where we operate a School Partner project. Our tour was cut short rather abruptly when today’s thunderstorm hit, but we were able to see the workshop we had funded and the gardens where good quantities of vegetables were being grown for the students’ meals. Funds sent by CHI had been used to purchase the seeds.

We were given lunch and were amused to find the gravy in a washing up bowl!!!

We didn’t see the cow previously purchased which had apparently gone blind and been sold!!!! Yes day 8 and we have lost the plot 😉

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Today Paul has been asked to preach at the parish church in Gisanga.

We were collected at 8am for the one hour journey on the dancing road. This country definitely has more than 1000 hills!!! Services here start at 9.30am and last for three hours. Worship Rwanda style is very different from that which we experience at home. The church is filled with joy and exuberance despite the uncomfortable looking mud pews. Thankfully, as ‘honored guests‘, we had chairs.

The majority of the congregation were young people and, as this was the one week in the month when the four chapels which make up this parish all come to the parish church, the church was full to overflowing with some standing outside listening to the service through the windows and doors. No pressure on Paul then!!!

The choirs from all the churches sang and danced. We attempted to follow the Kinyarwandan hymn book and join in the worship (not entirely successfully) and then it was time for Paul to preach. His sermon was taken from Psalm 19 and translated by Pastor Jean Pierre from Shyogwe Diocese. We have to trust it was translated accurately because he received a round of applause at the end

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Having been photographed with all the key people in the church we were directed to enter the pastors house for lunch. The many members of the congregation watching on were not being given the chance to say hello so, in true CHI style we caused a little havoc and went to meet them. Not wanting to worry Kevin but he may have a rival!!!

   

This impoverished community have spent five years building a new church big enough to hold them all and a few hundred besides. Their belief that the church will grow does not allow room for doubt. The church has been constructed brick by brick as means allowed but now they have reached the roof. 167 roofing sheets and framework will cost around £4000. Most cannot even afford a bible!!! But we are left in no doubt the roof will go on. Will we be able to play a part? More for us to consider on our return.

Back to the guest house by 1.30pm and a welcome afternoon off. The sun shone and we headed out for a walk to the church on Zion Hill. Yep, up another hill.

An interesting chat with a very intelligent young man over a cup of tea rounded off our afternoon nicely.

If you have tried unsuccessfully to leave a comment on our blog please try again, the technical issues have been rectified.

Shyogwe Guest House is fairly new, we have electricity and hot running water (in some of the rooms at least). A pleasant breakfast, no porridge in Shyogwe, but the regulation omelette soon appeared.

Then it was off to Gikomero to meet with Bridgitte the nurse supported through our Nurse + Project. This was our first opportunity to meet her but we felt we knew her already from her letters and photo’s. She greeted us like long lost friends and became quite emotional as she tried to convey her appreciation for the support she has received, she wanted to say so much but did not have good enough English to express herself. A great deal of smiling, hand shaking and hugging delivered the message very clearly

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As we stood talking with the clinic director, Carmen seemed to collect children – two hands to hold just weren’t enough

This health centre, started just 6 years ago with one microscope in a small house, the pastor’s wife (a nurse) started doing blood tests to check for malaria and other parasites. With funding from the local government and some input from larger charities, this health centre now consists of 4 new buildings treating up to 150 patients a day plus 20 beds and a maternity unit. The staff consist of eight nurses, only two of whom are qualified to degree level. Five are government funded, the Diocese have to fund the rest, they have never had a visit from a doctor!!!

The challenges are immense, lack of medicines, equipment and a broken water pump are just a few of the challenges faced, the staff however, far from moaning and complaining, work very long hours, smile, praise God for the things they are able to achieve and pray they will be paid at the end of the month (there are no guarantees).

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We have been in Rwanda less than a week but in our hearts have already allocated all our available funds, our heads of course will not make final decisions until we return to the UK.

The rain continues to make the roads interesting although many have been improved beyond recognition. There is real progress being made by the government here improving the infrastructure and supporting rural communities, but there is still so much to be done.

This morning we said goodbye to Kigali and headed south to Shyogwe Diocese, our home for the next 3 days.

A warm welcome from Bishop Jered, some light refreshment and a tour of the training centre found us running an hour late. The scheduled 1.5 hour lunch was achieved in 20 minutes and it was back on the road to Gisanga where we are supporting a Parish Project

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The main roads in Rwanda are fairly good, but once off the main road it is a different story. They are commonly known as ‘dancing roads’ or as Bishop Jered explained, a free massage, we have yet to be convinced!!! One hour and well massaged later we arrived in one of the driest areas of Rwanda we have yet experienced.

The new school building had been funded by the government but, in order to create enough land for the building, the Pastor had given the land he used to grow food for his family. 1002 children and 14 teachers attend this school, the books we had purchased will never be enough!!!

We saw the water tanks we had provided and visited the head teachers house where some repairs had been funded.

We are so humbled by the welcome we receive wherever we go and the constant message is, your practical support is valuable but your visit means so much. These people have so little, they feel forgotten and find it hard to believe anyone cares enough to come all this way to see them. The stories we hear are heartbreaking but they put on their best clothes, smile and praise God for our visit.

There is so much we can do to improve lives here, the first phase of this project is complete but we think a phase two is looking likely.

Another thunderstorm saw us seeking shelter in the pastor’s house, how can he possibly minister to his people living in these conditions? After some discussion we learn that he has no transport and his attendance at parish meetings requires him to walk the distance it took us an hour to drive.

We left Gisanga at 6pm in heavy rain for a 7pm dinner date with the Bishop, is it very bad manners to keep a Bishop waiting!!? No time to change but he didn’t seem to mind.

A very pleasant evening with some traditional dance, joining in was not an option, we’re not sure our version was quite up to scratch.

 

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Rwanda is known as the land of 1000 hills and today we seem to have been up and down 999 of them as we visited two more remote parishes and met more sponsored children. What a blessing and a privilege it is to hear the testimonies of these families and to witness their joy at the hope they feel they have been given for the future. It is also humbling when we visit their homes and are welcomed like long lost family.

Alphonsine (below) was so overwhelmed she could not stop dancing and singing praises to God.

We saw two cows funded in 2015, each of which had produced calves, and heard about the difference such a relatively small gift was making to the welfare of the parishes. The calf was called Joy of Christmas, guess when it was born??

The view from the top of the hills would have been far better without the thunderstorm that accompanied us for the latter part of the day, neither travelling or holding a conversation under a tin roof are easy in the rain.

 

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A quick breakfast and we were on the road again. A major change since we were last in Kigali is the volume of car traffic. This city has grown and developed beyond recognition since we were last here in 2013.

A 30 minute drive and we arrived at Kikangahara for a visit to Hope Academy Nursery School. Supported through our School Partners Project this building now has new windows, doors and a coat of paint, inside and out. A security fence and play equipment make it a happy place for the children to come. As with all the church run facilities they take the poorest children who cannot afford the privately run facilities. Without these Nurseries pre school age children would often be left alone whilst the parents went off in search of work. They are now reasonably well equipped with desks and chairs but are in desperate need of other basic educational materials.

Next stop Bumbogo, we had very clear memories of this journey on our previous trip and approached it with some trepidation, located at the top of the hill the road had proved a challenge. As we headed off the tarmac we held our breath, but amazingly the road was flat and as we wound our way up the hill it became apparent the government policy of providing improved roads to the more remote villages was having an impact. We arrived at Bumbogo in record time.

A visit to their new nursery school, built by a larger charity, found 167 children in 4 classrooms. They had benches but no tables or any educational materials, this was best demonstrated when the children proudly showed off their counting abilities, using discarded bottle tops!! For the first time ever we met children with special needs in school, the young girl on the mat was a wheelchair user, how anyone uses a wheelchair on these hill tracks is beyond us. Despite the lack of materials the children were happy and greeted us with songs. A relatively small sum could make a huge impact in these classes

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Entering the church we were greeted by the children sponsored through CHI and their guardians singing and dancing in praise to God for the opportunity to be sponsored.

The testimonies given by both children and adults left us in no doubt of the value of sponsorship, the additional benefits from sponsorship in the Gasabo Project gave us a great deal to think about.

After a hot lunch it was on again to Kinyinya and yet another nursery which was in the process of construction when we last visited. Here we met more of our sponsored children and had the opportunity to visit two of them in their homes.

        

The highlight of the day was probably Ian meeting his sponsored child at Bumbogo Parish.

Over all a very encouraging day as, despite the obvious ongoing hardships, the support offered through CHI sponsorship really does seem to be having an impact which goes far beyond providing a basic education.

 

Posted in CHI

The ‘new’ Kigali guest house sits in the Cathederal compound which we can see from our rooms.

The day started with a breakfast we didn’t expect…. porridge!!! That said it was very pleasant and followed by fresh pineapple was a good start to the day.

We were then visited by Merard, a very eloquent and successful young man who was one of CHI’s early sponsored children. Now married with two children of his own and a successful career in the Kigali planning dept. his is definitely a story to encourage any would be sponsors.

A walk to the local ‘shops’ to stock up with water and it was back in time to be collected by Arch Bishop Onesphore for lunch at his home. En route a visit to two church plants in the Gasabo Diocese, The first in Gisozi Parish had a foundation but worship was in a ‘big top’ not allowed under Kigali law.

The second at Batsinda (meaning ‘they always win’) where the land and rather sorry buildings had recently been purchased. However a small mothers union group were enjoying a time of worship.

Over lunch and through the afternoon a time of discussion with AB Onesphore and his wife Josephine regarding the work of CHI and the impact it has in the lives of those supported and the impact on their ministry.

Tomorrow the work starts in earnest!!!

Posted in CHI