Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Today's Interruption

So along time ago, when I was still working in the office of International Teams Canada, I had a conversation with a teammate about life interruptions. We can set our day, plan it out... and then along come the 'interruptions'.

My daily 'interruptions' are people...most of the time. Sometimes it's just life in a developing country (always underestimating how much time something takes) ... but mostly people. People whom God has created - people who cross my path.

Today is no different.

Today was going to be the last blitz of getting all things sorted for the new shop. My day started with an all shop team meeting... a cake customer... then dear Grace showed up.
Grace is one of our women at J.Lynn's / Komeza. She is married and has one child and is usually full of shy smiles and works hard. 
The last 2.5 months have been a struggle for her - only working half the time. Today she finally came to the shop...

... barely able to stand up, shaking like a leaf, headache, stomach pain... it makes me so sad to see how bad she looks.

She told a familiar tale of using her health card to go to the local clinic. They check for the standard malaria but it's negative. They give her ibruprophen and amoxacillan. She does not get better so goes back - nothing they can do for her. So she and her husband decide to go to a private clinic. It's a 'natural' clinic. From the paperwork with all its formalities and stamps it looks legit... but then she hauls 4 bottles and some powder stuff out of her bag.... they told her she has diabetes, kidney failure, low blood pressure...

The 'medicine'...
I'm sitting at a clinic with her - Waiting for lab results.
Its my interruption for the day.

I have no idea how long I will get here but I'm determined to get to the bottom of this. She is wife, mom and our employee and deserves whatever we can sort for her. None of this... thats just the way it is...

Yes there is SO much stuff and SO many things to do.... but I've learned from that conversation so long ago... God knows it all and He will sort it all too! (Oh to have faith today... again!)

(Shout out to the Kigali Seven Day Adventist clinic and Dr. Tommy and all their staff! Again... going above and beyond!)

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Food Cuts for Refugees AGAIN!!

On Sunday at church I asked Benjamin how his trip to the refugee camp was during the week. 
It was good but did I hear the latest? 
No... what was it? 

Food rations will be cut up to 40% starting with May. 

WHAT??!! 

Now each refugee person receives the following per month.
12.3 kg maize (kernels / not ground)
3.6 kg dry beans
0.9 L cooking oil
600 g soap
150 g salt

Now this will be cut by 40%. 

There are three refugee camps in Rwanda which receive money each month instead of food... 6200 rwf ($7.43 USD) per person. 
They will now receive 2800 rwf ($3.35 USD) per person. 

That is 
3kg of sugar OR  
9 kg of potatoes OR 
5kg of dried beans OR 
5.5 kg of carrots OR 
2 kg of flour 

for the ENTIRE month! 

When I went online to see what I could find.... 
I found the following joint press release by the UN (United Nations) and the WFP (World Food Program) from February 20, 2017... 

I can't imagine a person surviving on less than they already are. 
My mind whirls at the repercussions of that - more malnutrition, crime, prostitution, etc.

Then I think of the refugee students who ITRwanda has sponsored - who have completed high school or are about to... and the few have complete university and have a job. 
They have broken the cycle and are able to support their families through these increasingly desperate times. 
I can't even imagine what the situations will be in camps dealing with Syrian and South Sudanese Refugees ... 

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, are very concerned that critical shortages in food assistance are affecting some 2 million refugees in 10 countries across Africa.
The shortages could worsen in coming months without new resources to meet food needs.
The number of refugees in Africa nearly doubled from 2.6 million in 2011 to nearly 5 million in 2016. While donor funding for refugee assistance increased during this period, it did not keep pace with rapidly rising needs. As a result, the humanitarian response is significantly underfunded. This has forced cuts in food assistance for some groups of refugees.
The two agency heads warn that food shortages will have dire consequences on the health and protection of such vulnerable people, unless more support is urgently made available.
“We can’t imagine how difficult life is for thousands of refugee families with no food, and often denied the possibility to work or provide for themselves in other ways. Refugees are extraordinarily resilient, but cuts in food assistance – sometimes as high as 50 percent – are having a devastating impact on the health and nutrition of thousands of families,” said UNHCR’s Grandi. “The right to food is a basic human right. We are working with WFP to ensure that no refugee goes to sleep hungry, but support has to come quickly.”
Click to read the remainder of the release... 

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Quietest Day of the Year

Today is April 7th 
I woke up this morning to complete quietness. 

No people are walking and talking their way to work before dawn. 
Kids are not out playing an early morning football game. 
The last community drunk isn't wandering home and singing a song. 
Even the multitude of birds were not chattering away. 
The neighbourhood house help was not banging pots and pans as they were being washed 
No cars are moving 
No construction noises - dump trucks, no cement mixers, no teams of workers calling out to each other 
Even our dog Lucy rests. 

It's 9:47 am and a lone bird tweets. 

Today Rwanda remembers. 
Today marks 23 years. 
Today we reflect on the past, mourn with those who mourn and embrace the hope we have in the future. 

Never Again 

And yet ... around the world it is happening. Even today. 
That adds to the sadness of Rwanda. 

The genocide that happened here, was it not enough? 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

I Gonna Be a History Maker...

So a while back I downloaded a bunch of music and some of it ended up being some memories.
As I was working today, the song History Marker came through the shuffle. 
I got thinking about my life here in Rwanda ...

I'm gonna be a history maker in this land
I'm gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind

Well I don't know if I will be a history maker in Rwanda.. but somehow I sure hope so. 
I thought back over all the people who I have spent time with here - refugees, women, orphans... the most vulnerable. I pray that my time with them, in whatever capacity has encouraged them to move forward in their lives spiritually, socially and economically. 
I do know that I will speak truth to all - no matter what comes. 

Well it's true today that when people stand
With the fire of God, and the truth in hand
We'll see miracles, we'll see angels sing
We'll see broken hearts making history
Yes it's true and I believe it

Yes I do believe it. 
Sometimes people DO need someone to stand for them and with them. 
To encourage them to take a step forward in the right direction. 
And as we pray... the unbelievable can happen in peoples lives. 
We have seen and will continue to see people - orphans, widows. refugees - go beyond anything that people thought they would - until someone would stand for/with them believing in the power of God to transform a life. 

I guess I am part of making history as a line of people runs through my head... 

(PS If you're born in the 90's or later check out this classic by Martin Smith and Delirious?...)

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

March 22: World Water Day

Quote from the UN Water Day website

'Water is the essential building block of life. But it is more than just essential to quench thirst or protect health; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.
Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

2017 Theme: Why Wastewater?'

Read the rest of the article on UN Water Day to gain a quick insight into the water situation in the world.

I am once again challenged about how I use water... and I live in a country where at any given time I need to haul jerry cans of it because we're out. Praying that I will be a better steward from this day forward.


This is Adele. She is one of our Komeza Women who works full-time at J.Lynn's.
Most every day she leaves the shop carrying a 3L bottle of filtered water on her head.
One could say she's stealing water... and that would be true.
But you know what? I don't care.
I know to stay as healthy as she can, she needs that water.
Adele is one of our women who is HIV. She is healthy and strong most of the time and her blood counts are good. When she is not strong, I know that she is not eating well enough or drinking enough.

Hence, I don't care of Adele 'steals' our clean water. She needs it.

She is also carrying home a bag of empty plastic water bottles after a busy day at the shop.
She will resell them for a small profit.
Recycling!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Proud RwandaMomma Moment...

This term of school, I've been picking up Democracy as he's headed out to school and I'm on my way to J.Lynn's after dropping the kids at school in the morning. 

(Democracy is a former street kid in Kigali, we've been journeying life alongside him for over 10 years. He is currently in his 2nd year of auto mechanics. We also got him an 'apprenticeship' - working for free for experience - alongside a Canadian guy here who started a garage.)

This morning I picked him up on the way and he was having serious conversation on his phone. I immediately understood that he was explaining in detail, to a customer, what repairs needed to happen to their vehicle. 

He was on his way to school to write an exam BUT he sorted a customer first about their vehicle. 
He told me that other guys would fix it at the shop while he was writing the exam. 

My proud moment... he knew what was wrong, knew how to sort the customer and the customer trusted his knowledge and experience...
AND he was headed into some mechanical exam (yeah, I know... I really don't know...)

He is already a good mechanic ... and keeps getting better as the days go by. (He's the first one Serge calls now...)

May he become famous in Kigali as the honest and knowledgeable go to mechanic guy. 
That's my prayer!
I have no doubt Democracy will continue to make me proud. 

Yes He knows more than checking the oil... !!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Flowers for Mom

Found the following on my phone. 
Taken by Beni
'Because you love flowers mom!'
Love my boy

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow flowers

He was SO proud he got the ant!

Just a nice purple one, Mom... 

Monday, 6 March 2017

This is My Life..

Here sits Miss Isabella... homemade oatmeal mask and Judy Blume. 
She says it makes her face smoother than the avocado one... 
She's TEN!!

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
Cheerios 
Oreos DoubleStuff
Ritz
Cherry Coke
Chex
HP Sauce
Nestea
Plums
Nectarines
 
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!!