How GIFTS Began
In August of 2014, Sharon and Karina traveled to Rwanda with several goals in mind. First, was to meet a young student, Souzane Bizumutima, who we have sponsored for two years through the Duha Peace Family organization, which a friend formed as she lived and worked with an organization called REAP, (Rwanda Education Assistance Program). We were thrilled to meet Souzane and to get to know her better. She is beautiful, a very hard worker, and is thriving in her high school, focusing on construction. We even got to meet her beautiful mother, father, brother, and sisters, and felt very blessed.
A second goal we had was to teach an English class for the Peace Family students, spend some time at a local orphanage, and hang out with the students, and others that we met. This too was a glorious and wonderful part of our time there. Paterne translating children’s stories that we focused on, was sometimes hilarious, as he got into the stories with his whole heart and soul. How thankful we were that he and Brigitte were there to help us teach and advise us. A fabulous book of our time with the students and Fr. Ubald was published with and for the students and their sponsors.
Before leaving for Rwanda, we spent a good half of a year reading books about the country. Many of them were about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the one million people killed during the 3 months of slaughter, and the toll it has taken on the people that remain. In conversations, the genocide was often the marking point, “Before the genocide,” “After the genocide,” “She has many problems because of the genocide,” and so on. Even the high school students we taught experienced trauma, though the genocide had happened before they were born, or just young babies. Parents dying of AIDS, due to rapes, mothers with nightmares that might never heal, and other family members dead or who have relocated in another country.
Immaculee Ilibagiza, who was one of two in her family that survived the genocide, wrote the books: Left to Tell, and Led by Faith. Left to Tell chronicled her three months with seven others in a bathroom, hidden by a pastor, while they listened to mad mobs screaming their names and shouting for them to come out of hiding. Only her brother, away for studies, survived. Led by Faith tells of Immaculee’s journey to America to begin a new life. It was not an easy road. After reading her stories, another of our goals was to try and see her in Rwanda, for each summer she does retreats there. As we looked into her online, a Father Ubald kept showing up at her peace rallies, and when they did big meetings on reconciliation. She was not going to be in Rwanda when we were, so almost by accident, we asked if we could go and meet Father Ubald and see his ministry instead. It was a 10 hour trip on very bumpy roads, but we did meet him, Father Janvier, one of his priests, and Father Ubald’s nephew, who was the only other one of his family to survive the genocide.
Father Ubald’s passion after the genocide has been having the victims and perpetrators (murderers) reconcile with each other. (See blog for more info) For example, one man led a mob that killed all but two people in Father Ubald’s family. He has forgiven him, and has helped pay for the schooling of two of this man’s children. He will continue to pay for the oldest daughter to go to medical school now, and says that she is like a daughter to him. His people take a six month course, and if they are ready, they have a ceremony to speak publicly about the bad things that were done, and to ask forgiveness, and for forgiveness to be granted. In the end, both sides pray for each other, and pledge to live in community together, helping one another.
Later, as we returned home, we were contacted by Father Janvier, a priest who works in the same area as Father Ubald, who told us of the many needs of his very poor parish members in Yove, Rwanda. We were delighted to be asked to be part of transforming a village. We told him to dream big, and give us a big list. So far we’ve helped with a few of those needs by sending money for a motorcycle for him to use to do his rounds on his 10,000 parish members, in June of 2015.
To be sustainable, we asked them to: Please be sure and get female animals, so that they can reproduce. Then, we'd like to have each person who gets an animal pass on an animal to another parish member as it reproduces and grows, at least one time. And then, those others who receive an animal would do the same as their animal reproduces, until many people have animals. This is a good sustainable practice, as well as a good way to show love to a neighbor.
The child sponsorships, are for three months only. As we get pictures of the children, we will get sponsors for them for the long term, and if any are still missing uniforms still at that time, those sponsors can help with that cost, we hope.
We also asked them to please send photos of the children, the house as it is built and finished, the garden as it grows, and is being planted, and the animals with the people who will get them. Then we can start to raise more money to help out even more.
We have started small, but have great hope and faith that others will join us in this endeavor soon!
Read even more about Shari and Karina's trip to Rwanda and Uganda in their blog here!