Back from Rwanda

I recently returned from Rwanda again, and I wanted to share a little about my experiences this year, and the bright future ahead. So I am excited and a little ashamed at the same time to say I have finally accumulated a year in Rwanda.  It only took me 6 different trips but it is one year none-the-less now. Piecing those 2 month segments together in my mind is nothing short of ridiculous. Though, as much as I should reflect some more, it will have to wait. There are too many things going on right now and I want to tell you all about them.

So for all those folks who helped in any way with Run the 1, let me warn you now. If you were excited to hear about building, you are going to have to be patient. I think I have a pretty good excuse though. So the thirty boys at Ubaka U Rwanda live in a mother-father style household with the founders Evode and Becky. The two are married, and they also have a daughter named Keza. Anyways, Evode, Becky, and Keza got the opportunity from a friend of theirs to visit the UK for two months. Becky hadn’t been home to her native UK for two years and much of her family hadn’t met her baby-girl Keza. So it worked out that as I arrived in Rwanda, they left shortly after for the UK. When they came back, it was my time to leave Rwanda.

This situation left me with some very bittersweet feelings. I was excited for the opportunity to take on a different and more intense role with the boys, but I was bummed to watch the founders go because basically I got only a few days with them for 2014. I consider Evode to be one of my best friends now, so that was sad. Another issue this created was our planning for building had to be stalled for two months. So I have to be honest, we have not begun building yet, sadly. However, allow me to update you with where everything is in regards to building our future home.

So the first day in Rwanda, Evode brought me to our land which I had not seen yet. It’s fantastic. In “The Land of a Thousand Hills,” our piece of land is relatively flat and big enough to contain a good sized home, room for the kids to play, and room for us to farm a little too if possible. School is just around the corner, and electricity and running water shouldn’t too much of an issue. The view is like any other view in Rwanda… beautiful. I also got to visit a small plot of land we were able to purchase from our efforts in 2012. The piece of land is located in the village for the purpose of farming and/or income generating projects in the future. We chose the village because it is cheaper there and the government has fewer restrictions too.

Meanwhile, plans were in the works with our designer. He had his first drawings done and budgets but they were not what we wanted so I talked to him in Rwanda, and Evode talked to him from the UK. I left Rwanda, while he was making his next attempts. If all goes well, he should finish them soon, and assuming it is how we want it, we will send it to the government to get approved. And assuming that works out, a group of volunteers will arrive in July of this year to begin building. So these are exciting times in deed. I was bummed to not be able to begin building personally while I was there, but we shall see for the future.

I had my hands busy enough as it was at the current home. For those of you who don’t personally know me, I am one to shy away from certain forms of responsibility. I am not proud of that but it is true. I used to feel like the “fun” uncle at Ubaka U Rwanda. I was really good at being “one of the boys.” I won the boys’ respect by surpassing typical visitors’ habits. Learning much of the language, cooking for the kids, living with them, taking part in their chores, tutoring, mentoring, and the biggest thing possibly to win them over was coming back…for them. They had come to learn that I came back to Rwanda every year for them and them only. But one thing I was never strong at was the discipline part. I knew what was wrong and what wasn’t wrong but like a coward, I would inform Evode most often and let him deal with it. I say this with laughter now because all of that has changed. I knew I had to step it up this trip and be serious about everything with regards to the development of these kids. That meant I had to discipline and I had to punish kids when it was necessary.

In the past, I would run around to many different projects in Rwanda. Much of my time was spent at home this year. Besides disciplining, I also had to step up in regards to sending some kids off to boarding school, teaching life lessons, keeping them on task, looking after their health, and all of those many important things. I also had the pleasure and challenge to plan an outing with the boys that brought us to the south province of Rwanda to visit some museums to teach the boys all about their beautiful country.

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I will not tell you that I passed all of these challenges with flying colors. I certainly did not. I made a handful of mistakes that will be laughed at for years and years to come. That is something I am no stranger too though, and the best news is that all of those mistakes are able to be laughed at and not remembered with more negative reactions. Every trip I say many of the same things. I say that it gets heavier every time. I say that it gets even more challenging, but on a whole other level. Well this one was no different. But I also always say that it was the best trip thus far and I am more energized than ever. And I am happy to say it all again this time. I had a lot of fear during the two months about how the boys perceived me in this new role, and what Evode would think about the job I did. I continued the best way I knew how, and I am happy and relieved to say that my relationships with the kids has gotten stronger than ever, and Evode and I did too in a way. Even with the small time Evode and me had together, I think we got to learn a lot about each other and how we can help the kids even more in the future.

As for the future, I look forward to Run the 1 again in 2014. The truth is that we are a very small charity, and we do not raise enough money every year to make this dream of ours come a reality in one year’s time. We think it will take 4 years to build our entire home completely, given that we still have to insure our running costs for today to continue to take care of our kids. My plans always change, but at this moment, the way I see things, I see myself going back to Rwanda in 2015 with however much money we raise with Run the 1, and working until I can’t anymore. Evode and Becky will be home, I will not be needed at the home all day every day, and I will put my time away from the kids into their future home.

So please feel free to contact me anytime you wish for more on my passion for Rwanda and the kids at Ubaka U Rwanda. If anyone is looking for a way to sponsor one of the kids at the center, don’t hesitate to ask. Run the 1 will be back in 2014. I don’t know what is in store yet, but I know it will consist of people sacrificing themselves for the futures of street children in Rwanda. Every day real change is happening. Thank you for sticking with me in this journey. I can’t wait to see how far we can go.

I will leave you with a story and some pictures. Enjoy!


Silas and I on the farming land

This is Silas and me when we visited our farming land in the village. I wanted to introduce Silas because I say I was in charge of the boys on this trip but I feel like it was really Silas. Silas and I were a team. In the recent years Silas has taken quite the leadership role with the boys. They know him to be serious about his love for them. They see that when he says something, he does it. For me, he has always been one of the sweetest and most patient at the home. Over the years, he has gotten very good at managing the home in regards to logistics with food, school, discipline, and other such things. He helps out Evode quite a lot, and he sure as heck, had my back too. I remember one night after an especially long meeting with all of the boys, everyone was tired. We had been talking about some complicated issues in regards to cooking duties and chores for the boys. To not get too detailed, the end result was that all of the boys had to begin to pull more weight because we lost a big chunk of kids to boarding school. So the meeting had a lot of arguing and disagreements. None- the-less Silas stayed patient and firm and made the best solutions he could that were fair. Though, not everyone was happy, when they all got up to go, many of them without prompting went to Silas and hugged him true. It was a very simple thing but I will remember that one day when Silas is a staff member for Ubaka U Rwanda. It is our wish to build him up to a position with Ubaka one day. I also had many talks with him where he shared his dreams for the same thing. The kids do not trust just anyone, but they sure do trust Silas. I do too. He liked to tell me I was like a second dad to the kids, but I never accepted that. I always threw the compliment back at him because it is him who is like the 2nd dad for the kids.