What an extraordinary day it has been! Today, we had the incredible privilege of visiting the homes of our wonderful Rwandan team members, Brigitte and Paterne, along with a heartwarming reunion with Souzane Bizumutima, whom GIFTS Rwanda's founder, Shari Shelton, sponsored as a student a whole decade ago. It was a day filled with warmth, gratitude, and delightful surprises.
Our first stop was Souzane's home, where we were welcomed with open arms. Souzane, now a loving mother of two adorable girls aged 2 and 4, touched our hearts with her story. We came bearing gifts, as well as a book Karina and Shari had made from their last trip to visit her 8 years ago, which her family graciously received. Her children loved pointing her out in the video which you can see below. To our amazement, they presented us with an astonishing array of EIGHT different plates of fruits. You can see them here, along with Souzane's daughters playing and coloring with the items we brought. I must say, the tree tomatoes, a local delicacy, were my personal favorite, and I nearly devoured the entire plate! Their hospitality and joy, despite having so little by American standards, served as a poignant reminder that happiness is not found in material possessions but in the boundless love, gratitude, and compassion that reside in our hearts. Africa, with its wonderful people, has certainly taught us a valuable lesson.
Our journey to Souzane's home took us through three hours of breathtaking Rwandan landscapes. I could honestly drive through Rwanda all day and never tire of its beauty and charm. It truly is a place like no other, a treasure trove of natural wonders and warm-hearted hard-working people.
Next, we embarked on a two-hour journey to Brigitte's home. Her husband, Jerome, has been instrumental in helping get ready to start a chicken farm in Rugarika. He currently has one at his home that he will emulate after the construction is complete. Meeting him in person was a joyous experience. Jerome is a gem of a person, and it was heartwarming to witness the love between him and Brigitte. Their sons were equally delightful, embracing the gifts and toys we brought them. We even had the chance to visit the chicken farm on their property and make the acquaintance of their cow!
Our final stop took us an hour away to Paterne's home. Gisele, Paterne's wife, greeted us warmly at the door, along with their charming son, Aldo, and two of his friends who were staying with them. We shared the joy of giving toys to the children and relished in the delicious dinner of potatoes and rabbit. Surprisingly, the rabbit tasted just like buffalo wings - it was really good!
Our journey back home, which took an hour and a half, allowed us to traverse three of the five Rwandan provinces. We even caught a glimpse of the US Embassy and where Kagame works (you are forbidden to take pictures and there are cameras and military surrounding it so no photos of that to share with you)!. It feels like we've explored so much of Rwanda today. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Paterne and Brigitte for spending over 9 hours driving us around and opening their homes to us. We are incredibly blessed!
In closing, today was a reminder of the immense beauty and kindness that exists in Rwanda and its people. It's a place that has left an indelible mark on our hearts, and we can't help but reflect on the valuable lessons we've learned about life, happiness, and the importance of love and compassion. Thank you, Rwanda, for this unforgettable day!