Dear Donors and New Friends,
We have filled you all in with what happened in GIFTS Rwanda in the beginning and early years so far, but what about the last 5 years? Let me try and give you a concise summary of what we have been up to and where we are going! What has been most exciting about the last 5 years, is seeing how our hardworking staff in Rwanda, Brigitte Mukanyandwi and Paterne Habinshuti, and the people in the Rugarika village that they work with, continue to come up with some marvelous ideas of their own that we are thrilled to help them with. I should also mention that both have families, and both are full time teachers who do a marvelous job with their students. Brigitte’s husband Jerome helps with the construction of the duplexes, and runs a small chicken business at their house, as well.
Did you know that in Rwanda, a person can get medical insurance for only $2 a year? This gives people access to the clinics and a hospital when a baby is born, if they catch malaria they can be seen and get medicine, shots, and much more. Such a deal! 600 people have insurance so far, and there are plans to cover more people in the near future.
Getting clean water nearby can be very hard for families, some of them even keeping children home to fetch water every day. Brigitte and Paterne are looking into the best way to help with this issue. If anyone has any great ideas or would like to donate to such a project, let us know!
GIFTS helped fund a few small houses early on for families living in very run down dwellings, but soon our community volunteers and construction workers who worked on these told us: “If you built a duplex instead, two families could be housed, and it would be cheaper.” It turns out that this too was a good deal, so much so that we could also provide some furniture and food for the families when their duplex was completed. We are up to 10 duplexes now! Perhaps you’d like to be part of funding another one?
The women of Rugarika are totally on the move, always looking for ways to help their families and friends. We had one group of 13 women who trained in doing intricate beadwork purses. GIFTS sponsored the fees for the materials and training, the women each finished several purses, sold them, and were able to buy more materials and continue to use the money to further their children’s schooling. This group continues to flourish, and is sustainable, which is thrilling!
A strange request came in one day that a group wanted to start up a soap making group. The start up fee was quite low, and we said, “Yes, of course.” Well, who would have guessed that the year after this group began, we would see an almost total shutdown of the Rwandan economy due to Covid 19, and that cleaning well was suddenly very important. The Rugarika soap making group is doing very well, and were able to help many people, thanks to many of you who donated, and the hard work of the people with the little-big-start-up-idea for a brand new business. Great things sometimes come from small beginnings, and this business continues to provide job opportunities for new entry workers, sometimes even for our students.
About 3 years ago the idea to start up a chicken business was mentioned. So was the cost: $6166. Because of the price, we have not been able to get this off the ground. Brigitte and her husband Jerome have a small chicken business, and are ready to help train, and will donate the first 100 baby chickens when this comes to pass. The building seems to be the most expensive part of this, along with special lights, cages, etc. Maybe there's a large extended family out there that would be up to tackling this project?
More and more students are being helped, and this year something exciting was decided. Brigitte and Paterne, asked if the 33 students from 32 families, could each have a goat, 3 rabbits and a hutch, and 9 chickens. Students also get staple foods such as rice, beans, oil, batteries (for light to study), and their school fees, supplies, and uniforms paid. As the animals begin to reproduce, these animals will be shared with others who do not have them. Rwandans are good about caring for their neighbors, for sure! And of course, we said “Yes!” again. Below is news from two of our sponsored students, Patrick and Thabita.
A brand new camera has just been sent to Brigitte and Paterne, and we look forward to seeing even more lovely pictures very soon, and who knows, maybe one of our students, or Brigitte and Paterne’s children will become a great photographer of their beautiful country and it’s landscapes, and the incredible people who have such great courage and love.
There are so many good things going on and things on hold until we raise more funds. Hopefully many of you will rise to the challenge and get as excited as I am for the wonderful families, children, and students in Rugarika, Rwanda.
Sincerely and with great joy and hope,
Sharon (Shari) Shelton
Director of GIFTS Rwanda
· Left to Tell, and Led by Faith, both by Immaculee Ilibagiza, who spent the 3 months during the genocide in a forgotten bathroom of a pastor’s house. All in her family were killed except a brother away in another country to study. She too has immense faith.
· Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Roméo Dallaire, force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda. The story of General Romeo Dallaire's frustrated efforts to stop the madness of the Rwandan Genocide, despite the complete indifference of his superiors.
· The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision. This is about his journey as a successful businessman, finding Christ, and how later on in life, God called him to leave all of that and work for W. Vision. He is now a prophet, calling all of us to live out our lives as Christ impels us to.
· Our God of the Trees by Eric Irivuzumugabe, who faced horrors during the genocide and ended up hiding in some trees for at least 15 days of it. He also finds God, forgiveness, and peace, and raised his two younger brothers.
· A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It, by Stephen Kinzer. Kinzer delves deeply into the life of Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, who has worked much good in this troubled nation, though he is not perfect. President Kagame is revered and talked highly about by most Rwandans. A powerful and in-depth read.
· Kisses From Katie, by Katie Davis. A marvelous true story of a senior in high school who goes to volunteer in Uganda for 3 months. She falls in love with the people, returns the next year, and ends up building quite a mission that is still going strong and expanding. Her faith is very humble and real, as are her journalings of being a young mom with many children. (How fortunate we were to go and see her work)!