The last time I wrote we were in Akagera National Park. We were without WiFi for the last 3 days and power was sketchy too, so I have a lot of ground to cover in this post.
The safari was wonderful. We saw an elephant (an old, lone male name Mutware who is notorious for his bad behavior) a leopard, several giraffe, hippos, zebra, wart hogs, impala, waterbucks, water buffalo, baboons and monkeys. According to our guide, Bosco, Pumba (as in Pumba and Timon from The Lion King) is Swahili for idiot. A wart hog being chased by a predator will stop after about 30 meters because it forgets that it is being chased. I love that and sadly, I can identify with the wart hog (Uh, why did I come into this room?)
We also learned some sad facts from Bosco. The genocide of 1994 didn’t just affect the humans of Rwanda; it also had a large impact on the wildlife. Before the genocide, Akagera National Park was over 2000 sq km; after the genocide, 1,120 sq km. The government gave the ½ of the park land to refugees returning to Rwanda. Unfortunately, the lions of Akagera fed on the cattle of the refugees. The cattle owners would then poison the carcass of the cattle, which resulted in all of the lions dying. Earlier this week 7 lions were reintroduced to the park.
We also got the chance to work with the dream boys on 2 more occasions. On Thursday, we brought a book to read and a geography activity (well planned Eileen!). Austin read a book about Anansi the spider. Jonas instructed Austin to read it “like an African”; confusing instructions for a westerner. He explained that he meant read very slowly and methodically. Austin did as he was instructed, pausing after each paragraph for Jonas to interpret into Kinyarwandan. The book was much more lively in Kinyarwandan.
On Friday we stayed outside and played games and had relay races. Every time we work with these boys it feels like we have just enjoyed a huge privilege. Truly, they are wonderful boys.
On both Thursday and Friday we had 2 Hope visits. A Hope visit is a visit to a child’s home to deliver food and to get to know the child and family in hopes that the child will soon find a sponsor. The 2 boys we visited on Thursday had been sponsored earlier in the week but we visited anyway so that we could deliver much needed food to the families. One of the boys that we visited, Olivier, is a wonderful, helpful, hardworking and happy child. To meet him you would never guess that his home life is as heartbreaking as it is. He lives several miles from the Dream Center, which he walks to. He and his baby sister live with their grandmother in a home that is loaned to them. There are also 2 homeless young men living in the house with them. The grandmother is sick to the point where she cannot stand up and she lays on the floor with a thin blanket protecting her from the hard concrete floor. The house, meanwhile, is riddled with bullet holes on the inside. If you are on Facebook and have seen Suzy’s post of us at the Dream Center, Olivier is standing next to me in a green shirt. He is a lovely boy. I don’t know how his smile is so easy and his demeanor so kind. I worry about what will happen to him and his sister if his grandmother dies soon.
It is challenging to sum up our time in Africa in a few sentences. We spanned the spectrum of emotions during our visit and I hope that we are better people today than when we departed for Rwanda 15 days ago. I feel like I keep repeating myself but the people that we met in Rwanda are some of the most joyous, gracious and kind people that I have ever met. I am very impressed with the work that Africa New Life is doing in Rwanda. The schools that they have set up give the kids an education, a meal, a community of help and hope for the future. I learned that in the midst of violence, there can be kindness and compassion. I learned that while, as a whole, Rwanda is moving forward, there are still pockets of people that are struggling to go in that direction. On a much lighter note, I also learned that bikes can be used to transport a door, a stack of chairs or construction materials. And, if you balance things on your head, your hands are free.
There is a quote (its origin is up for debate) that says, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire”. The difference in the lives of the children being sponsored in Rwanda is huge. So, please, if you are reading this blog (and you can stomach this preachy last bit) sponsor a child here the U.S. or in another country. Helping out a child in need is saving the world.
Thank you for reading our blog posts.