Journey of the Heart

Little guy in the background broke out his big smile when he saw the camera!

Little guy in the background broke out his big smile when he saw the camera!

Thousands of miles traveled and our lives are changed forever.  The heart of Rwanda is permanently imprinted on our hearts.  It is hard to express how a people who have suffered unfathomable loss and struggle with crushing poverty can be some of the happiest, warm-hearted people I have ever met.  Their kind spirit is intoxicating.

Recess

Recess

We are home in the USA now, but know that part of our hearts will forever remain in Rwanda.  The experience that we have shared as mother and son has been fabulous.  I am so incredibly proud of Darren for his flexibility and open heart.  He has shown me that love is boundless and can create connections that enhance our lives in ways that we could never have imagined.

DSC_0725A kind word, a hand on a shoulder, a smile, a hug, seems like a small gesture but if we stop and really press our hearts into those gestures we connect and show people that they are cared about.  We know we will be going back to Rwanda, we have many loving friends now that we must visit.

Thank you for following our journey – it has been a ride that we are so happy to share.  Until next time…

Darren and Suzy

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Hiking the Countryside

Lunch at Serena hotel.

Lunch at Serena hotel.

Having lunch one last time with our sponsor son at a super posh hotel was really fun.  We told him it was his opportunity to dream. He stared at the swimming pool for a long time and giggled when we splashed him with the water. It was hard to say goodbye to him and hardest for Darren. He cried and cried… he told me his heart hurt to say goodbye to him. I told him that the hurt means that he truly has opened his heart and although it hurts he has created a connection that will last a lifetime.

Little ones taking care of little ones.

Little ones taking care of little ones.

We hiked through the countryside visiting homes and bringing them much needed food. It was beautiful to see their smiles even with the little they have. They are so happy to see us – we represent hope for them. When you say muraho (hello) to them they consider you a friend… I have many new friends and gave lots of smiles and hugs.

Smiles!

Smiles!

Darren gave her his water bottle - she loved it.

Darren gave her his water bottle – she loved it.

Steep inclines to visit homes.

Steep inclines to visit homes.

Darren Delivers Hope

Today was a very big day for Darren. Through the generous contributions from friends and family towards his fundraising efforts, he not only raised money for food and goats – he raised enough money to buy two cows for a school! This is huge for the school children; the milk from the cow provides much needed nutrition for many years to come.

Hope, the cow, walks off the truck to her new home.

Hope, the cow, walks off the truck to her new home.

Darren was involved in the whole process of purchasing the cow. On the day of the purchase he was asked if he would prefer to purchase two young cows or a pregnant cow. He found out that the pregnant cow would be a huge help to the school so that is what he chose. He rode in the truck with the cow and helped unload her from the truck. They asked him what the mama cow should be named and after some thought he said her name should be HOPE. He discussed with our other team members what the calf should be named and we all decided on Faith.

Children's African Dance Team performs for Darren.

Children’s African Dance Team performs.

The school had a celebration in honor of Darren for his gift. We were greeted at the school by the children’s African dance team and choir. They danced with us into the meeting hall and sat us in the center of the room. The performance was moving and beautiful – traditional Rwandan songs and dance. The principal of the school introduced Darren and brought him up on stage – Darren was overwhelmed by the outpouring of thanks he received. They even had a cake made that said “Cow Gift From Darren”.

Cutting the cake with the students.

Cutting the cake with the students.

Drummers and singers.

Drummers and singers.

I had the opportunity to be on stage with Darren and address the school. I expressed the honor it was to be visiting their school and how it brought Darren and I great joy to bring HOPE to their school.

Me, Darren, and the principal

Me, Darren, and the principal

Visiting Kageyo and Safari

We had an amazing experience visiting Kageyo. The people in Kageyo had fled to Tanzania during the genocide. They established themselves in Tanzania as cattle ranchers. Seven years ago the people of this village were forced to leave Tanzania in a 24-hour period. They could only take what they could carry. They entered an area that was part of a game park – no food, no shelter, and many were being eaten by the animals. Africa New Life and the government entered and found thousands of starving people and began to give relief. Today, the school ranks 5th in the country, and they have a church, homes, and the children are being fed physically and spiritually. We really enjoyed visiting the area.

My dear friend Diane sponsors two boys in this area and we had the opportunity to visit each of their homes.The families had never seen white people before. They were so warm and welcoming. They greatly appreciated their children going to school and the food that they received. Visiting them was incredibly heartwarming.

Vianny with a big smile on his face.

Vianny with a big smile on his face.

Samuel giving me a big hug.

Samuel giving me a big hug.

Darren, the "Goat Whisperer" with a newborn.

Darren, the “Goat Whisperer” with a newborn.

We went from Kageyo into the game park on the coast of Tanzania. We stayed at a fabulous tented lodge right on the water. We listened to hippos through the night and did a game drive the next day. A dusty and fabulous day!

Looking onto Tanzania.

Looking onto Tanzania.

Sunrise at the tented lodge.

Sunrise at the tented lodge.

Rwanda is Wow!

The past couple days I…

Went to the Dream Center to show the Dream Boys, who are street kids hoping to get sponsored so they go to school, how to build K’Nex.  I brought 60 K’Nex building kits from the US to share with the Dream Boys.  The kids there LOVED it!  It made them smile and made me smile.  At the end of our visit all the boys had fully assembled helicopters and space ships.

Helicopters, Space Shuttles, and Smiles with the street boys.

Helicopters, Space Shuttles, and Smiles with the street boys.

Today we went to a genocide memorial at a church where over 10,000 people were killed.  I stayed outside with part of my team and my mom went inside.  After the genocide memorial we went to Bugesara where my bro’ Dieudone goes to school.  First, we took a tour then we helped prepare the food and serve lunch.  In the afternoon I went to recess and my mom found Dieudone and his twin sister Yvette.  I got to tutor two girls and one boy in English; they are in grade 5 (or P5).  Later we went to Dieudone’s house and I walked a goat all the way to his house.  We met his grandma and grandpa, who he lives with, and his Mom who came from very far away just to meet us.  We gave Dieudone a backpack with lots fun stuff for him.  Their house was better than I expected, which was good.  We visited another home and did a hope visit (a kid who wants to go to school and needs a sponsor).  I climbed a banana tree to get a banana, I pet a cow, saw a hog, and a mommy goat about to have some “kids”.  Then we returned to the fort (guest house).  Rwanda is totally cool, enjoy the pics below!

-Darren

Preparing lunch - rice and beans mixed with complete nutrition powder

Preparing lunch – rice and beans mixed with complete nutrition powder

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Serving lunch with a smile!

Delivering a goat...totally epic!

Delivering a goat…totally epic!

At Dieudone's house

At Dieudone’s house

First Days in Rwanda

Dieudone asleep on my shoulder!

Dieudone asleep on my shoulder!

We have had an amazing experience in just the first two days! Our sponsor son, Dieudone, came all the way from his village to join us at church and for lunch on Sunday. This was the first time he had been to the city, Kigali; the first time eating at a restaurant; even his first time riding in a vehicle… he was stunned.  As I had thought, I was overwhelmed meeting him for the first time.  I kept my arm around him during the church service and after a little while he leaned into me and fell sound asleep.We went to Mille Collins “Hotel Rwanda” hotel for lunch, which is in stark contrast to the poverty all around it. We had lunch on the veranda overlooking the gorgeous pool and lush landscape.

Darren and his bro'

Darren and his bro’

After a delicious lunch we played in the grass with the kids. Dieudone was fascinated by the live band!

Visiting the top school in Rwanda on Monday was where we got to help serve lunch to the kids and visit classrooms. The kids sang songs for us and practiced their English. Darren joined a soccer game the boys were playing during recess – it was an intense game!

Darren serving lunch in Kayonza

Darren serving lunch in Kayonza

Soccer!

Soccer!