Thursday, 23 February 2017

Can We Create Hope?

This is the question that Serge just asked me. 

No we can't BUT I believe we can do everything in our power to create an environment of hope around a person. We can structure, model, encourage, talk, and be Jesus in every way possible BUT it is still the persons choice if they choose hope. 

I just found out this morning that one of my women at J.Lynn's / Komeza did not choose hope yesterday.  

Big long story and I'm sure that I don't know it all but after hours of talking to her on Saturday along with two of my managers, sending one of my girls to check on her written prescription at 4 different pharmacies to see if what was being prescribed was in fact for what she says was ailing her ... she made the choice NOT to show up at the shop yesterday morning at 7:30 for transport money to go to a proper doctor and get throughly checked for whatever is causing her latest ailments. 

She is a single mom of two children. 
She is HIV positive. 
She struggles to stay healthy. 

I made the choice on Saturday that we were not going to pay the $37 USD for this fake prescription but to spend that money at a real doctor and clinic and know for sure what is causing her latest sickness.

I may never know that reason why she didn't show up - but I have my suspicions. They involve being influenced by those around her and being used by a clinic which is preying on the poor. 

We have always told our women that if they go to the local clinic and they feel like they are not treated well, they are to come and tell us about it and we advocate for them. This often involves paying from our pocket the fees to see a private doctor and buy the proper medicine. BUT then we know that their chances to get better are much higher AND they will continue to be a good mom, a good wife and show up to work. 

She told us that she had been to the local clinic twice with no results ... then she borrowed money to go to this private clinic which writes prescriptions which can only be filled at their pharmacy and nowhere else in the country.  

Tomorrow I will be at the shop and we'll see where she is at health wise and I will continue to wrestle with how to continue to create an environment that enables her to choose hope and life. God help us find a way. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Flying Comets

So yesterday I wrote about my changing expectations regarding food stuffs here in Rwanda. 
On the other end, we also have flying comets hit us ... and we NEVER know when!

What are the flying comets you might ask? 
They are those food items that appear for the shortest possible time on a store shelf and have never been seen again.  Some of the comets we have been hit with... 

Canada Dry Gingerale
A + W RootBeer
JetPuff Marshmallows
Smoked Gouda
Oreos DoubleStuff
Cherry Coke
HP Sauce
Yes, of course we can all live without the above examples BUT they do bring a settledness and a bit of joy. A little bit of sense that all is right in the world and will be okay - if only for a day or two. 

I think that God does the flying comet thing to remind me that it's the little things. 
I wonder what the next one will be and when?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Changing Expectations...

So yesterday I posted on my FB feed that it was a 'Crisis... no popcorn to be found!' 

I had gone to five different shops which 'normally' carry popcorn - to find none. 

A friend responded asking if this was a first world problem. 
I responded that it wasn't cause when was the last time that he had gone looking for popcorn. 
His response was not that I couldn't find any but that I expected to find it. 

Got me thinking. 

Yes my level of expectation here in Rwanda has changed dramatically over the years. 
Those of us that have lived here a long time - let's say more than 5 years (I've been here 13 years...) do have to exercise patience when someone 'newer' complains about something not being available. 

When I first came long term in Rwanda in 2004, I remember the day very vividly when my intern and I found ONE loan Mars bar sitting on a store shelf. We bought it, cut it in half and savoured it. I have often wondered since how old it was... and I'm not sure it would have mattered. (I don't even like Mars bars!) Today I can buy good chocolate - not cheap but it's here... anytime I want.

The availability of goods here has drastically changed. We have Nakumatt ( a Kenyan supermarket that stocks many things), Simba (I think a Lebanese supermarket that also stocks many items) and then a few local shops that carry many products as well.. along with two wholesale importers which you can buy from. 

So... availability has changed and I have started to live with greater expectations that something 'should be available' all the time and on a certain shelf in a certain shop. 

However... life still does ebb and flow here ... and with that brings frustration or maybe it's just annoying?

Like yesterday... five different shops - no popcorn. 
Is it really that hard to keep popcorn in stock?  

Or like a number of weeks ago when there was no butter in the city and all muzungus (foreigners) were asking through every media outlet they could, where the butter was. It showed up about three weeks later. 

Or the time when local cheese isn't too be found. We've been cheeseless for months on end different times ... holidays? Cows stopped giving milk? Politics? Anybody's guess...

Or the time then we couldn't find black pepper for about 6 months. 

My constant search item these days - liquid red food colouring! I've been looking for almost a year.

I will readily admit that I've gone from zero expectation to expectation over the last 13 years.... but I know there will always be something. 

But today I bought popcorn! It's a win!!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

So Mr. Trump...

... I invite you to come and visit the Kiziba Refugee Camp in Kibuye, Rwanda. 

You see, in this one camp alone there are about 20,000 Congolese Refugees. They are there because there has been unrest in Eastern Congo since the end of the genocide in 1994. The UN Peacekeepers that are there make up about 25% of the forces deployed in the UN worldwide along with a huge portion of the budget. UN Peacekeepers  ... can't keep peace they haven't brought AND with all the mining interests there and the UN involvement on the side - no peace will be brought. 

Hence... over 60% of the refugees in the Kiziba Camp are under the age of 25 and have no recollection of their 'homeland'. This is one camp in Rwanda. There are four others that hold Congolese as well and two which have Burundian Refugees. 

I just learned today that some the refugees that were close to resettlement to America are now being told they need to wait indefinitely. Indefinitely for what? They have already been waiting through a more than two year vetting process. 
They are Congolese. 
They are not on the list.
I KNOW you're significantly cutting back on the number of refugees entering America. 
But when you are a huge part as to why there is no peace in the region ... I'm begging you to at least offset the interests with the interests of the innocent.  

What really fuelled my fire, was reading this notice from World Relief USA. 
About makes my blood boil... 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

My Leader Girl...

Here sits my girl .... writing out ways that her school could better live out their motto... 
'Not to be served, but to serve.'

She has already won head girl of her class - Primary 5 Faith ... and she's been selected to run for Head Primary Girl. 
Her speech is tomorrow. 

Through her heart runs lots of passion, justice and a desire to make this world a better place. I often wonder where her road will lead. I then pray and ask God to give Serge and I much guidance as we parent her. 

Win or lose tomorrow ... May this process continue to spur her on to meeting the needs of those around her - and bringing others alongside to do the same. 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Abigail and Refugees

My heart has been greatly saddened and moved many times over in the last week as the lives of refugees has become front and central in the news and around our dinner table discussions. 

Last Wednesday, I was reading on my FB feed and came across the following from Abigail, an American 19 year old.

Refugees are PEOPLE. I think that is something incredibly important to remember right now. If you have an issue with Donald Trump's executive order to indefinitely block Syrian refugees as well as temporary halt all other refugees, please call your representatives. I know I will be calling mine. 

Abigail is a former short-term team member to Rwanda and I know that the experience here in Rwanda impacted her greatly and has helped shape who she continues to become. 
I was blessed by her passion - by her determination, to do what she can do to make this world a better place. I wrote her and told her so and asked for her to give me a little rundown as to what got me to where she is now ... and where she's headed. 
Abigail with refugee children in IL

So I started to get involved with the refugee community when I entered high school. Our church had a program where refugees could be tutored in English while their kids were watched. I, with my youth group, took over the task of watching the kids. This involved helping with homework, snacks and games. I did this all throughout high school....

My perspective on refugees really changed through after our trip to Rwanda. It gave me a real view of what refugees daily life consists of. I was horrified that some people could live their entire life without knowing what goes on in a refugee camp, how small their living conditions are and food rations.

I knew from then on that I wanted to get involved with refugees in my future career. 

So currently I am at the University of Dayton studying political science with a minor in international relations. Last semester I worked as a fellow for the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

I also just accepted a scholarship for a 9 week program in Malawi this summer to do research with a Malawi student. i will be researching the impact of direct support of government institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.) in the Chilumba catchment area. So pretty much looking at the service delivery of government and compare that to private and NGO delivery in a number of areas (health, education, agriculture support, etc.) I leave mid May and am so excited to go back to Africa! Currently I have my eyes set on working for the State Department or the UN, but I have a few more years to figure that out so who knows. 

As you can see, just interacting with refugees has really shaped my life.

And that right there, is why we host short - term teams!
We always pray that their time spent with us with change how they think, how they view the world, how they interact with people and what they do with their life.  

Looking forward to seeing where Abigail's journey continues!

Abigail in Kiziba Refugee Camp

Saturday, 28 January 2017

I love my Washing Machine

I do enjoy FaceBook most of the time. What is great for me is that I get to keep up with friends from around the world and keep a bit up to date as to what is happening in their lives. 
It also give me some memories which I also enjoy being reminded of. 

Today, 6 years ago, I got my first washing machine. 
Prince would have been 15, Isabella 4 and Beni 1 year. 

I remember well, our workers watching the machine (front load), in amazement as the clothes cycled through. Also remember them saying..'Why haven't you had one of these before!' 

What they were thinking about was all HOURS spent each week washing our clothes - and diapers. And when their was no water, they had to haul 20 litre jerry cans of water from the closest place they could find and then wash the clothes. 

I did a load of laundry the other morning and I remember saying a quick prayer of thanks to God for the machine and how well it has served us all these years. Sure I always have to check if we have enough water in the tank to do laundry and there are days and sometimes weeks that it's not possible BUT let me tell you... when the tank is a good 3/4 full - the laundry is getting done... as long as there is electricity :-) 

I've got laundry piles waiting ... and I'm hoping for tomorrow!