Hope Shines Inc.

Hope Shines Inc.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Outside Kigali

For many years Hope Shines has traveled to Rwanda, a world away from where we call home, and we mentor and educate Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in the urban capital city of Rwanda, Kigali.  We have made a lasting impression on these children as we have watched them grow into energetic, intelligent, prospering adolescents and young adults.

Since becoming registered nationally in Rwanda on 15 July 2015 our U.S. based 501c3 no longer is limited to work only through other organizations to implement our child Education and Health programs but we can now intervene in these areas with more beneficiaries throughout this beautiful country in both urban and rural geographies.  Nationally registered status also allows us to partner with like-minded NGOs in country whose mission and values align with ours to impact a larger number of children.

Friends of IPEA School of Rwanda is a local Rwanda NGO that has a school in the Base Sector, just 1 hour by car north of Kigali City, the capital of Rwanda.  They provide education for 60 children under the age of 7 in a sector that is surrounded by 3 areas that does not have a Nursery School (or Pre-K and Kindergarten as we know it in the U.S.).  The children are divided into 2 classrooms, those that are ages 4 and under and then the 5 and 6 year olds.  They have 2 teachers and the children are taught all in English.  Every day the children are dropped off around 7A, they eat a breakfast that is provided by their own family and then they progress through the lessons until around noon learning everything from personal hygiene to their ABCs.  Since the program does not currently have funding for food, the children are picked up around lunch to go home for the day.  Most of these kids would not be afforded the opportunity to go to school if not for the Friends on IPEA School of Rwanda.

The second bridge to get to the school. This was recently built by the government, previously the children would have to go the long way around to get to the school!
We pulled up after crossing 2 bridges, down a narrow dirt road barely wide enough to fit a car and children came running out of a building.  Towards the left we see that workers are busy making bricks that will one day become the foundation of a Vocational Center for the community.  As we enter the center we see children sitting quietly at their desks only to be greeted with (once we enter through the classroom doors) singing and smiles, “Welcome welcome we are happy for beautiful YOOOOUUU?” and then a version of their “ABCs” followed by “Head, shoulders, knees and toes!” A lasting impression to all on the visit that day.

Always curious as to what the "Muzungus" are up to! The younger classroom of children.
A familiar site for sure as we remember back to 2009 when Dan and I first traveled to Rwanda and saw those smiling faces of the children at the Learning Center and then again in 2010 when Hope Shines welcomed the children at an orphanage called Peace Village and SINAPISI into Hope Shines summer camps.  The children of Rwanda have so much promise and “Hope” in their eyes…

Leaving the busy hustle of Kigali reminds us of ALL the children in Rwanda that are in need of education.  Education in the form of personal hygiene and health as so many are dirty and dusty.  Education in English as the country moves more and more away from French.  Education to stay in school and have a plan for the future whether it is in a vocational training program, at University, or a technical program; planning for the future is essential.

Hope Shines is in a period of growth and with growth comes need, a need for additional funding.  We would LOVE to include and welcome these Nursery School children into our Hope Shines Summer Program, as we know they are successful in helping change children for a brighter future.  However, we will be taking on additional beneficiaries in the coming months and have the challenge of funding school fees, uniforms, school supplies and health insurance for our new additions to Hope Shines.  This growth is both exciting and somewhat unknown as to exactly what the future brings since there is always a financial piece to growth and there in lies the uncertainty.

So as I sit here in Rwanda as the Summer Camp Director, Medical Consultant and Volunteer Coordinator for the Hope Shines 2015 Summer Program. I would like to ask you to support something that I have been a apart of since 2009 and more importantly I ask YOU to join me in thanking our Executive Director and In-Country Manager for ALL of their self-less and often “free” work in turning Hope Shines into a nationally registered organization.  It was always in my vision of how great Hope Shines can be and now it is actually becoming a reality and our footing is stronger now to help us achieve our mission!

If you are interested in making a donation, please visit our website to donate today! Every donation counts no matter how big or small, one-time or recurring. Be a part of a small group of people making a BIG impact! www.hopeshines.org

The countryside and the area surrounding the school in Base Sector.

Thursday, July 23, 2015



I arrived on Saturday to tired legs, tired eyes, tired everything. 34 hours in a plane/airport really is an endurance test. In a milder form it reminded me of running an ultra-marathon....a foot race that is over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. It certainly was not as tough but just the monotony of flying, sitting, eating, using the bathroom, eating again, sleeping, reading, listening to music, falling asleep, then did I mention sitting?...I was glad to be in Rwanda!

I've spent the last two days focused on trying to continue to build a good organization into a great one. Meetings are already taking place with potential partners and event existing ones. Today I drove south to Bugasera district, which is pretty close to the country of Burundi. I went with one of our US based NGO partners called Africa Development Promise (ADP). You see we partnered with this outstanding NGO on a collaboration grant that allowed us to utilize our expertise and try to improve the lives of our beneficiary groups here in Rwanda. They work with women's farming co-ops and we work with children and the project is a discovery one in that we find out what the training needs are of our kids caregivers and we let ADP set up business services training for them. Then ADP finds out what the needs are of their women's children and then Hope Shines works to incorporate them into our child development programs. Win-Win. So today I rode down with their country manager and our country manager to check out their farms and see the women! Great day...country side, sunshine...really made me enjoy the less chaotic side of Rwanda. We ended up after our visit, stopping in a youth development center on the way back to learn about their work. They work with over 400 Orphans & Vulnerable Children (OVC) in that one location! It was nice to learn about their programs that help so many and they certainly expressed some interest in our efforts and the potential of partnering in the future. It was a good last second stop that could pay off down the road and help us grow! I was excited to say the least.

Getting back to Kigali was nice around lunch time but a busy second half of the day awaited us. Now that we are nationally registered we need to open a business banking account so we can better pay for operations and activities here on the ground. Interviewing banks is almost as bad as watching the news. You kinda want to know and you think you want to know but then once you get your answers you are depressed and emotionally drained. Fees for this fees for that, open two accounts because one needs to be in US dollars and the other Rwandan Francs, and so on....BUT I have to say it will be worth it down the road....but for today it was painful.

Finishing the night with an old friend and past Hope Shines volunteer Professor Amy Sarch PHD from Shenandoah University was nice. We met in 2011 when she came as a volunteer and now she is back with her daughter to explore Uganda, work with other youth centers there, and then just explore and relax in beautiful Kigali, Rwanda! Our dinner was just short of $10 USD and seats overlooked the many valleys below with twinkling lights! A 5 star view and the pizza will be a nice sleep aid!

Kindness was the title and it refers to my outstanding memory of today. Vincent, the country manager of ADP texted me many hours after dropping me off at my Church Hostel to tell me how thankful he was that Hope Shines joined him today on the trip to their project! He didn't have to but he did. I don't do this enough...making an effort to express the good and satisfactory parts of human interaction and he did it so naturally. A reminder that kindness is alive and today I appreciate that!