Hope Shines Inc.

Hope Shines Inc.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Volunteer Immersion Cultural Day

Hi from Rwanda!  My name is Jenny, and this is my first year volunteering with Hope Shines.  Today had us volunteers cap off our busy week with a cultural experience!  We left Kigali at 8 am, arrived at the Azizi Life office in Muhanga at 9:15 am, and were sitting in a villager's hut by 10 am (Side note: Azizi Life is a women's cooperative that sells jewelry, baskets, carvings, etc.)

We were greeted by seven women, aged 27-66, with a couple of mother-daughter pairs in the group.  After quick introductions, our host women dressed us in traditional head wraps and skirts.  Then they put us to work!  We skinned cassava for our lunch, then put it on to cook with beans while we continued the daily work.  They showed us how they use banana leafs as lids - one of many ways that the banana tree shows up in their daily lives.  Next up was a farming demonstration - we walked down the hillside to where the villagers plant their beans, cassava, and coffee, and practicing tilling.  The women explained when they harvested and planted each crop, and inquired about our practices at home - although since none of us had farmed before, we couldn't answer their questions!  


Before returning to the hut, we cut grass to take to their two resident cows. The cutting technique was difficult for us visitors to get down, as we used a scythe and none of us had touched one before today.  To get the seven bundles of grass back up the hill, we made head cushions from banana leaves to place the grass on.  We all tried to carry a bundle on our heads without using our hands, but weren't very successful!  


Our next order of business was to fetch water; we were each given a jug to fill, although they gave us ones that are usually reserved for small children to use. (Clearly, after seeing our attempts at other tasks, the women thought that was all we could handle.). Our morning efforts were rewarded, though, with a delicious - and huge - lunch of beans, cassava, and avocados.  The avocados were big and perfectly ripened - definitely the best that I have ever eaten!  We talked about what their meals usually consisted of, and found out that they eat only one or two meals each day. These meals are usually quite large and filling so that they can fuel themselves for the labor they do.  Quite a contrast to my habit at home of three meals a day plus snacks! 

Since we'd worked the fields, fed the cows, and fetched water, we kept with their schedule of weaving in the afternoon. The women taught us how they get the fibers from the sisal plant leaves by stripping the outer greenery.  As their crafts feature a variety of colors, they also pulled out dye and showed us that process.  Next we got to choose a couple of colored fibers, and with the ladies' help, made bracelets that we wore home.  Finally, the women performed a short song for us and sent us on our way!


Throughout our activities, questions were asked between both groups about cooking, farming, marriage customs, and other lifestyle topics.  I hope they learned something from us, as the day was an eye-opening and humbling experience - these women work hard every day to sustain their daily way of life.  Seeing their efforts made me appreciate the privileges that we enjoy in the USA!  The women are incredibly resourceful, using whatever is on hand to get done what is needed, without being wasteful.  I will certainly evaluate my personal practices when I get home.  

As the week wraps up, today is a great reflection of everything we saw as a group.  Rwandans have been nothing but welcoming, offering whatever they can to help ... They appreciate what they have and use it the best way that they can ... And they are smiling and looking to the future.  I am grateful for the opportunity to be here, be immersed in the country!  

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Health Check Day... Final Day Before Cultural Activity

Hello all, my name is Chris Ciccarelli, leader of the Tiger Angels.

Today was the official last day of camp as we had the campers come back for medical day. 

Unfortunately Stephanie was unable to come as she is the Hope Shines medical director but we were able to get a lot of the necessary information she will need when she comes back in 2017. We checked every child's height, weight, foot size, vision, as well as diet and even screened for scoliosis. 


With close to 40 kids you can imagine it was slightly chaotic but we separated the volunteers and facilitators into sections to make the process as efficient as possible. I helped screen the children for scoliosis because I have had a history of doing the assessment on my physical therapy rotation in Haiti and even taught Jenny another volunteer how to screen the girls for scoliosis.


It was a fairly quick process in general and the kids enjoyed it because they got a few more goodies like toothpaste, floss, underwear and some even got shoes.  


Afterwards we came back to Iris where we have been staying and ate lunch before heading to the market to buy souvenirs. We went to visit a wonderful woman named Josephine who has a shop there and is a good friend of Hope Shines. The group bought a ton of bags, shirts, skirts, and shorts to take back as keepsakes.


Lastly, I just wanted to say Thank you everyone for your support of Hope Shines, it really is a great opportunity for these kids. If you think you're interested, I highly recommend coming out to Rwanda.


Chris Ciccarelli
Shenandoah University
Physical Therapy Student

Friday, August 5, 2016

Day 5 Camp... Last Day, Graduation and PARTY


This year's camp's slogan "Come Let's Grow" has had significant meaning, and as the week has progressed, it has become more meaningful to all of us.  Within one week's time the kids have grown, as well as the rest of us.  


Today, that literal significance was reflected in the kids taking their seeds that were planted in a cup on the first day and transferring them to the garden we have in the back yard.  It will be fun and interesting for the kids to see how those seeds grow.  A tree was also painted on the wall in the centre, and each child, volunteer and translator put a green hand print on the tree for "leaves."  The afternoon was taken up with the Hope Shine's traditional dance-off competition between the groups, as well as a "graduation" of signed camper certificates, best camper in each group awards, and goodie bags and the cake and Fanta party with music and dancing at the end of the day.  That was a blast, and the mamas who made our daily lunches even joined in the festivities.  


The day ended with Expo, my favorite day, which is a big event of vendors, music, and lots of people, including a number of our "old" campers we bumped in to and were thrilled to see all grown up!


This week and experience really has been one of healthy challenge and growth, for both us and the kids.  We've gotten to know and bond with them well very quickly.  It's been challenging and emotional for them and us, but so rewarding and meaningful, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  As the week progressed, the kids' morning welcome got closer and closer to the road we arrived on in the van, to the point where they were running up to the van smiling and shouting to greet us as we rounded the corner... The hugs and the love showered upon us in pure gratitude and joy made us all realize that yes, this was worth it, and yes, this is why we went into this, and for some of us to see that impact and happiness, why we return year after year.  


Michael Stromme 
Board Member
4th Year Volunteer


Thursday, August 4, 2016

"Inspiration, Rugby, and Butterflies"

Thursday August 4th, 2016

"Inspiration, Rugby, and Butterflies"


This is Dan, Executive Director of Hope Shines. I can honestly tell you I was excited to write this blog today. Not only to let everyone know what is going on here in Rwanda, but because today was somewhat emotional for me and more eye opening.

I learned to improve as a manager and certainly learned that as much progress has come to Rwanda, some things don't always work out the way you want or plan. Patience and relying on new ways to communicate were top of my list this morning. Everyone has a role here....the guard, the facility manager, the cooks, the country manager, the volunteers, the translators/facilitators...we all work together to accomplish the mission. We are the backbone of this operation on the ground. I am getting better I think at working with new people and helping us become more efficient. I am learning to rely on my team more than ever and trust those I put in charge. Today's controlled chaos is a shining example of this.


The day started with volunteer and facilitator share about our path to University and in our careers. We all told our story, which were all different and so important to the kids. It gives them a chance to see what success can look like when we all go through different challenges in our very different upbringings and lives. I saw the interest from them and even saw a couple almost thinking intensely about their future when challenged by us to take charge of their life and don't let their poor backgrounds dictate what they are capable of. I saw that and I was moved by that. 


Our special guest, Vincent, a team member from the Silverbacks Rwanda National Rugby team, told his story too, which included his tough journey to get to University and on to the team to represent his country. He taught the game of rugby and we even played later, but what was most interesting was that he took the day off, unpaid, to join us and the kids just to leave his mark on the development of these vulnerable youth. He loved his time with us and we loved him. He told me he'll be back tomorrow just to hang out! Wow, we must be doing something right!


Oh the carnage! The kids were true rugby fans by the end of the day and were taken through drills by Vincent, which wasn't necessarily about the game itself, rather it was about learning to listen, communicate, work as a team, take direction. The game is only the platform. Smiles around and certainly some aggressive pile ups were had!


We ate another great lunch at 12:30, which included carrots, potatoes, pasta, and fish! What a well balanced meal cooked by women that are mamas of some of the children we serve. We love to put money back into the families. Your donations go towards this and it makes a huge difference.


We finished the day off with a science lesson on the steps to becoming a butterfly. Volunteers read butterfly books and then the children learned the steps and made a fun craft. they were so proud to take it home to their homes.

I'll be posting about some of the kids I've grown to know better since my time here because I want to connect the donors and supporters to them specifically. I've always said, I don't want to be the one getting credit for leading this organization but rather I want to be part of what brings up these kids that have no chance and empower them to achieve their highest potential. After all, to me that is what it's all about...giving your best and trying to achieve the most! 

A brother and sister I now know are just incredible. They are fraternal twins in a family of 5. Their names are Germaine and Germie. They live in a run down mud house that is 12'x12' with 3 other members of the "family". Their mama washed clothes for money and that's all she can do with her primary school education. She makes $20 USD a month and she cares for 3 other kids that aren't even hers. What a sacrifice! These two are enrolled with us and we pay for health insurance and school fees so they can be educated and healthy. They have been top performers at camp all week and are eager to learn. The challenges these kids face is unbelievable. Their house is literally almost falling down the hill and the mama is re-building it herself! Wow. 


So the ending to this blog is about recharging the batteries. My batteries and hopefully those who are reading about our little nonprofit. This is real life here and I personally need your help to allow us to make an impact in these lives. I'm seeing the work is good. We have a great strategy. We are foundationally strong with programs we can measure and evaluate. Help me and help us please. Make a connection, invite us to a networking event, donate to our campaigns and on the website, come to our events. You might find yourself here with us one day, with a beating heart that beats for these children!

ijoro ryiza (Good night)

Dan Gladden
Executive Director

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Day 3 Camp - Bakery, Germs and TEETH

Muraho! I'm Jessica, the Fundraising Coordinator for Hope Shines and first year volunteer! I'm from Tulsa, Oklahoma, live in Denver, Colorado, and this is my first time visiting Africa!

Although I can't speak for the rest of Africa, Rwanda is amazing! I am blown away by the positive vibes here, and even more blown away by the strength and unity of the community. Also, this place is gorgeous! "Land of a thousand hills" means there are great views from literally everywhere you stand! Pictures do not do this place justice.

Day three of camp was a success! 

We started our morning with a nutrition lesson from The Women's Bakery, an education-centric social enterprise serving Rwanda and Tanzania. The lesson ended with getting to sample yummy bread from the bakery!


We then ate a well-balanced lunch, which was prepared and served by the "Camp Mamas." Each day, mothers of the children spend their morning preparing our lunches in the backyard of the Learning Centre. Every day the food is different and every day the food is DELICIOUS!


After lunch, we learned the next steps to the dance for the dance competition and, of course, practiced practiced practiced all of our moves!

In the afternoon, we had a health and hygiene lesson, which consisted of learning about how to properly wash our hands and care for our mouths. 

To teach the children the importance of washing our hands properly, we used a product called Glo Germ. One kid from each group applied the product to their hands, and then washed their hands the way they regularly do. We then used a blacklight to show them all the yuckiness that was left behind as a result of how they did not properly wash their hands. We then reviewed the correct way to wash hands: water, soap, wash thoroughly for no less than 20 seconds, rinse, dry. The kids loved the Glo Germ demonstration!


To demonstrate how to properly care for our mouths, each kid got to use a similar product to the Glo Germ, whereas they chewed a red tablet and all the yuckiness in their mouths turned bright red. Before doing so, we reviewed the correct way to brush our teeth: softly, in horizontal circles, at an angle. We also discussed the importance of brushing our tongues and gums. 


Yet another successful camp day in the books!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Day 2 Hope Shines Summer Camp

Greetings from the Tiger Monkey volunteer leader of Hope Shines’ Summer Camp! I’m also a first year volunteer at camp and Hope Shines’ Board member. Here’s my take on Day 2!

Our 35 campers are spending much of the day in small groups – the Sharks, Rabbits, Tiger Angels, Gorillas, Lions, and Tiger Monkeys!


The day started off with a bang, of happy campers anxious to start the day singing the ABC’s with Hannah #2’s amazing ukulele.  As part of our “Let’s Grow” camp theme, each of the groups then got to plant a bean seed in a plastic cup, so they can watch it grow into a fully fledged plant. We talked about how the water and sunlight are its food, and it will put down roots in its home which is its soil.  


Today was also SOCCER DAY!! There is a great athletic field just up the street from the Hope Shines Learning Center where we had a couple of hours on the pitch to warm up, do some passing drills (while spelling English words… pass 1 – “B”!, pass 2 – “A”, pass 3 – “L”, pass 4 – “L”), and then get into a full-on rowdy game of soccer! Watch our blog in the coming months for news on our up and coming star athletes!



After lunch we learned about first aid for cuts and burns, and ended our busy day with a little dancing  - getting ready for the dance competition on Friday…. Who will win?? The Tiger Monkeys of course!! :-)


These days are a little crazy, and the kids’ excitement grows each day. Yesterday’s quiet & shy munchkins launched a full-on 9am hug-attack at the gate this morning. What a difference a day makes! I can’t imagine how tomorrow will be … I know which 8 yr old Tiger Monkey I’ll be chasing around; but, who is going to surprise us with their courage, compassion, humor, wisdom, or dance moves? I can’t wait to see!

With love from Kigali,


Monday, August 1, 2016

"Hannah #2" Come Let's Grow!


I'm Hannah Carlson, also known as "Hannah #2" in our Hope Shines group. This is my first year working with the program and traveling to Africa, and I'm the youngest volunteer at 18. I'm a Music Therapy major at Shenandoah University, and I love working with children and bringing music into their lives. 

Today we were on the road by 7:30 to get prepared for our campers. I was extremely nervous to meet all the kids, especially because the language barrier makes it difficult to learn names and make bonds- but as they arrived we put on music and danced with them, and I could already tell that we would have a good time this week. 

We passed out Hope Shines T-shirts and water bottles and split all the kids into six groups; my group of kids decided they wanted to be called the Lions.


I had the responsibility of teaching a quick music lesson today, and despite my nerves I think it went well and the kids enjoyed it! First we made shakers out of two plastic cups, duct tape, and beads which the kids created rhythms with and took home. I also taught them a game/ chant called Choo Choo Ka to help them learn their vocab word "tempo." 

Throughout the day I used my ukulele to help fill any extra time- we played lots of games incorporating music such as freeze dance, and the campers loved taking turns playing the uke whenever possible. We taught the kids the beginning of our "Let it Go" dance and told them about the life cycle of plants, encouraging them to practice English. 


After an exhausting day at camp and lots of dancing to Frozen, we celebrated by going to a local market and eating dinner at a Rwandan version of Chipotle. 


The first day of camp left me drained, but I can't wait to go back tomorrow

Leaving the centre Day 1