Hope Shines Inc.

Hope Shines Inc.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Homeward Bound for Hope Shines Volunteers

Kalee here! A first year Hope Shines volunteer. Today was our last official day of Hope Shines 2015 camp, which concluded with finishing up health checkups for the remainder of the kids.

When they arrived each child received a notecard that asked basic questions such as name, age, dietary inquiries, and malaria history within the last year. Following these questions the kids traveled to different stations which were run by volunteers. A height, weight, and shoe size would be measured for each child followed by an eye exam. The results were written on the notecard and presented to either Dr Stephanie or Dr Scott. This allowed the visits to run more quickly and provided the doctors with some background information regarding each child's health. This year was the first that Hope Shines had two doctors performing health check ups which really helped the day run efficiently.

Dr. Scott teaching about fluoride and teeth
After their meeting with the doctors everyone received underwear, socks, laundry soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Dan and Stephanie lead a lesson on proper teeth brushing and oral hygiene which the kids really seemed to enjoy. We learned that most children, and a good number of adults in Rwanda haven't ever been to the dentist. Dental care in expensive in Rwanda and usually not an option for many families because of this.

Brian getting his fluoride treatment
After fluoride treatments and further supply handouts it was time to say our final goodbyes to the children we spent the week growing and learning with. Coming in as a new volunteer I had no idea how close I would become with these kids in such a short time. From the first day of camp to the last they welcomed me with nothing but open arms and friendly smiles- this is a kindness I will never forget.

This year as a Hope Shines organization we only held one summer camp instead of the usual two. This was a result of changing policies in the government of Rwanda, which began closing all orphanages and placing the children with new families. As an organization who had worked with these same children for seven years, our hearts felt heavy knowing the "families" and connections that existed in these orphanages would soon be lost.

We traveld to Sinapisi and Peace Village, the location of our former camp which housed about 100 children in years before but now consisted of only 15. The children were excited to see many of the volunteers that they had grown to know and love, but were disappointed there was no camp this year. We dropped off some medical supplies and clothes that were left over from camp and said our final goodbyes. The mama that looked over the children informed us that the last 15 would be placed in homes by the end of the week.

As a small organization we work hard to reach out to others in Rwanda and make connections in country as well as out of country. This trip we met many interesting people that will hopefully help us to touch more lives here in Rwanda in the future.

As a first year volunteer I was blown away by the beauty of this country and its people. The amount of love and respect I received from each and every person I met in was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I am thankful for the connections I made with the volunteers and the children this summer, and hope to be back next year for another life changing experience! Thank you Rwanda, I will never forget you.

Fanta and cake celebration at the end of camp!

Me and Olivia in our "positions" at the back of the van!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fluoride, Health and the Memorial...

Our work today consisted of a wellness clinic for some of the students from out camp last week.  We also wished bon voyage to one of our teammates.  I started my day off with an impactful visit to the genocide memorial here in Kigali.  We finished our day with anther great meal and time to share stories among the current Hope Shines team as well as with local volunteers from previous teams.

The wellness clinic was a fun success.  The kids and young adults were given basic check-ups, provided with new underwear and socks, given health and hygiene information and provided with fluoride treatment for their teeth.  We identified some health issues that we hope to be able to address in the future if the resources are made available.

Applying the fluoride treatments after a crash course for our volunteers
Overall, the general health status of the kids appeared to  better than I had expected.  That is not to say that they don’t face significant health challenges.  In spite of widespread efforts to promote malaria prevention strategies, approximately one third of the children I saw today reported a history of being treated for malaria in the past year.  Although severe malnutrition doesn’t seem to be prevalent in our group of young people, many of the children reported not having access of meat as a protein source at home in the past month.  They basically subside on rice, beans and root crops. They certainly seemed to appreciate the bountiful plates of rice, beans, potatoes and goat we had provided them at lunch during the preceding week.  Make no mistake about it, these beautiful kids struggle every day to fulfill their basic nutrition and healthcare needs.

The toothbrushing lesson was actually a HUGE success and FUN!
As we wind down our time here, I think we are all starting to reflect on the great people we have met, new friends we have made and the gifts the Rwandans have given us.  Most of us will be heading home in the next few days.  Olivia flew home earlier this evening and most of us will leave on the 12th.  I am planning on a trek to see and experience the mountain gorillas up close and personal on the 11th.  Hannah and Sarah with be staying in Rwanda a little longer.  It will be with sad hearts that we leave the local volunteers and staff as well as all the young people we have worked with over the past week.

I started my day off this morning with a visit to the genocide memorial here in Kigali.  Since my arrival flight was delayed by a day and a half last week, I missed the opportunity to visit the site with the entire Hope Shines group before we started working at the camp last week.

I arrived at the memorial early today and found that I was one of only five people at the site.  It is not only a memorial but the burial site for some 250,000 of the 1 million people who where killed here in 1994.  I had expected to be moved by my visit.  I have started to feel a connection with Rwanda and with her people.  We have been made to feel welcome, safe, respected and appreciated.  Strangers smile and eagerly shake our hands when the pass us, our friends and colleagues here have shown limitless patience and openness and people--young and old alike--wave and smile when we fly down the road in a little white van.

I was indeed moved this morning in the silence of that nearly empty space.  Unfortunately the clarity I had hoped to obtain regarding the recent past of this most unique and wonderful country did not come.  I am afraid that I am left with only more questions, sadness and even anger about what happened twenty years ago.  I think I will need to focus my attention on the present which is good and the future which I hope will be shining.

Scott Kaiser
1st Year Volunteer
(Physician who helped with Health Checks)

Saturday, August 8, 2015

College T-Shirt Day and RUGBY!

Hello world!

This is Sarah. It is my first year volunteering with Hope Shines. I have been voluntarily interning as the fundraising coordinator since December 2014. I am so happy and grateful to be here!

Today was the fourth day of camp. Each day is more and more fun because the kids are getting more comfortable and coming out of their shells! Joking around and having a great time. And learning lots of course!!

Overall, it was a great day in every aspect! It was college T-shirt day at camp. I spoke a little bit about the University of South Florida. I am sure that all this talk about universities from the volunteers and the translators will stick in the kids minds and hopefully inspire them to go to a university once they graduate high school!

What was really cool is that Benji, the captain of the Rwandan National Rugby team came to camp this morning! First, he spoke to the kids about where he came from and how he got where he is today. Nama translated for us which was very helpful! Everything Benji said was fantastic, but what really stuck out to me was when he recommended that the kids do not think of challenges as a challenge or a hardship. He told them to think of it as something that you overcame, an obstacle you have conquered, and now you can move on to bigger and better things. After that, we went outside to play some rugby!! It was awesome because many of us, volunteers and campers, had never played before. Benji taught us how to throw the ball properly, and then we played a fun game.  Fabiola is in Michael and I's group, the Super Starfish, and she was the last girl left in the game! She made it very far and I was proud of her!

Our Rugby "Game" where Benji tossed the ball and if you dropped it you were out. We had ONE camp winner at the end.
Today we also learned about HIV. The Super Starfish worked on the topic of transmission. He assignment was to create a newspaper article on your subject. It took the kids a little bit to get into, but they totally got it at the end. Jean d'amour wrote the article on the paper because he has very nice hand writing : ). During this lesson, towards the end of the day, Claudia went up to the chalk board and started drawing. She drew a complete diagram of the heart! Full out diagram! Next, she drew a complete diagram of the female urinary system. Talk about smart! She is only eleven years old!! She told Steph she wants to be a Doctor! Good to hear.

Working hard on their newspaper article

Example of a drawing used as graphics for the HIV Newspaper activity.
I love playing futbol / soccer with the kids because you don't have to speak the same language in order to have fun and make friends! It's interesting how you establish relationships with some kids right away, and with others it takes more time. Lilliane, one of the older girls, asked me to take a picture with her today (on her own phone) so I was pretty honored and hyped about that! 

That's ME! I was the LAST Mizungu in the game!
Camp is so fun I don't want it to end!!! I can tell you right now that I will not want to leave camp tomorrow, and I will not want to leave Rwanda when the time comes! The people are beautiful and so nice, the kids are fantastic, the food is fantastic at camp (super yummy rice, beans, potatoes, and goat!). Life is good. I will be bummed to go back home, but let's not think about that right now. 

Tonight all of the volunteers were lucky enough to see Carl Wilkens speak at the Discover Rwanda hostel. A 40 minute film was shown about his experience here, which was unbelievably awesome, but I have already seen it, so what I really enjoyed was the Q & A. Just so interesting to learn and hear about. Funny how things work, didn't know he was going to be in Rwanda until we were here. Perfect timing! I took his email down and I am planning on sending him one soon to ask if he could recommend anyone to speak at our annual fundraiser in September! We will see, I hope so!! 

Amazing day, amazing night, amazing experience. Happy to be alive! Wondering why I have not been here before, but hopefully I will be back sooner rather than later. 

Goodnight friends,
A very sleepy Sarah 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Career Development and Hope Shines

Dan Gladden
Executive Director
Hope Shines

It was a tiring start to the day for me. Took a nice a little run this morning with one of our volunteers after about 6 hours of sleep which seems to be the norm since I’ve been here along with missing meals because of the daily grind. This has been a special trip for me mostly because we have footing for a new year and optimism seems to be more prevalent now than any time in the past for me personally with Hope Shines. I think maybe knowing that we have a structure and a clear plan with programs that are supported and admired by the Rwandese people. This is something I don’t get much since I work in a bubble being the only staff located in the US. This career I chose is always a reminder of how we as humans can do a better job of recognizing the good we do and not be so quick to just point out mistakes. Mistakes are gonna happen but keeping a positive approach will always be a better way to get this type of work done.

Ibra reading about HIV/AIDS in a cartoon

Today my country manager and I led a module on career development for 18 S4 and older kids. “S” is for Secondary senior level students that are at least 16 years old and are close to beginning the road ahead, which for them is graduation and a future at University or just straight into the work force of the Rwandan economy. Whichever path they choose, Hope Shines is here to get them prepared. We focused on two areas today; Listening and Time Management.  Both subjects were highly supported by our friends and partners at Kepler University, one of the top University programs in the country.  We’ve established a great connection with them in helping us develop curriculum for our camps and after school program as well as they have offered to give us interns that can help us down the road continue our great work on the ground with programs and projects.

We shared about 6 hours with these future leader students and wow what a day it was, much participation and interest by all the kids. I found myself actually teaching the class without a translator present because they knew English so well! Amazing how they have grown. I left the day with a sense of pride for what we have done. Sometimes I feel I am not doing enough but when I hear later that the kids even made comments about how grateful they are for us doing this, it really refuels my tank. You see this work is not about money. If you are in it for money then you gotta find something else because this doesn’t pay. BUT, if you want to see that result happen right in front of you by a kid that may or may not be able to tell you but you just get that feeling that it worked, then you are ready to continue in this type of global humanitarian development…I hope I am.

Words about Malaria for the English Dialogue Session (what the younger kids did during the Career Development)

Making the craft Mosquito at the end of the activity

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Azizi Life and Hope Shines

Kyle Bernhardy – 1st Year Volunteer

Second day of Hope Shines Camp 2015.

I am Kyle, a first year volunteer with Hope Shines.  The time since I told Dan & Stephanie I wanted to volunteer six months ago have just flown by and I can’t believe that the second day of camp is behind us.

This morning the volunteers & interpreters returned to the camp center excited to reconnect with the campers and continue learning, laughing & playing.  We kicked off the morning inside the classroom divided into our four groups (Super Starfish, The Wolves, Bright Minds, & Shining Star Angels) and went over vocabulary related to making, buying & selling crafts.  The campers then paired up and wrote down a conversation that would happen in a market.  At the end, the campers with the best conversations went in front of the camp and reenacted the conversation, which ranged from creative, to funny - with shopkeepers fighting over a sale.

Training for the dance competition swung into high gear as we reviewed the steps learned yesterday and then added the final 2 eight counts. Then the teams got down to business and practiced the entire dance while adding their individual flair.

While waiting for lunch to finish cooking, the volunteers & interpreters used their improv skills & quick thinking to keep the campers engaged. This was a great opportunity for everyone to connect and relate whether it was just talking or playing games.

Michael, Simeon, Jean D’Arc, & Kalee shared their creativity & a little bit about themselves while lunch was served. Michael extended his streak of making everyone laugh with a hilarious rap, Jean D’arc moved the camp with a beautiful poem, Simeon stunned everyone while he broke out in song & Kalee warmed our hearts with stories from her home in Colorado.

Following lunch we called back to our lesson from the morning with a visit with artisans from Azizi Life.  Azizi life is a collective of independent, rural artisan groups from around Rwanda who make a wide range of crafts including baskets, jewelry, & bags. 

Making Jewelry with Azizi Life

 The campers were split into 10 groups and each group worked with an individual artist. The campers were shown the raw materials used in the crafts and how they are broken down into the actual components that make the craft.  Then they sat down with the artisans and were shown step by step how to create bracelets from sisal and balls from palm leaves.  The campers were pros at making the crafts, I had a very hard time and I think I made the artisan I was grouped with very sad at my lack of craftsmanship.  It was exciting to watch everyone get involved and take pride in the item they were creating.  We completed the day by asking the campers to turn in their craft to the volunteers for a lesson we will complete in a few days.

Making the Banana Leaf Soccer Balls

Labels Azizi Life made especially for Hope Shines and the kids!

 I am looking forward to what the rest of the week brings & hope you continue the journey with us as camp progresses! 

Monday, August 3, 2015

First Day at Camp!!!

Hannah Rae - 3rd Year Volunteer

First day of Hope Shines Camp 2015 and what a day it was!

I'm Hannah, this is my third year volunteering with Hope Shines and second year as International Fundraising Coordinator (I fundraise at home in Scotland).  I am soooooo excited to be back in Rwanda, my second home, and with a great team of Hope Shines volunteers and translators.

Today we travelled to the centre in the morning raring to go and excited to see the kids.  This first meeting with the kids after a whole year is really special, especially for returning volunteers to see how much they've grown.  Once all the BIG HUGS were complete we handed out the Hope Shines t-shirts and water bottles to each child and officially opened Hope Shines Camp 2015!

We started with some ice breaker games. This was a great opportunity for the new volunteers and translators to get to know the kids.  This year especially it was important as we have 20 new children from the local school joining us for the whole week.  The kids got to know their fellow campers and new friends and got pumped up even more when we injected a little competition into the mix.

The next step was to split the kids into four teams, each with two volunteers and one translator. Once the teams were formed they were challenged to learn each others "Camp Names" (e.g. Huggable Hannah, Super Stephanie, Delightful Dan etc.) and a team name and cheer (that's always the hardest part).  Each team performed their cheers in front each other, so got to scout out their competition for the first time.

Our first English lesson was based on a first aid theme.  As a whole camp we brainstormed words in English to do with first aid and after used the words to construct sentences to explain how we do first aid.  The children responded well to learning new words and asked many questions.

The Hope Shines Mama's cooked a fantastic lunch for the whole camp, but today's lunch was extra special as we had a new type of beans that were actually part of the next camp lesson.  As the kids unknowingly ate the special beans, four volunteers officially introduced themselves.  Curly Kyle, Sunshine Sarah, Notorious Nama and myself entertained and informed the kids through our very creative "rapping" and poetry skills.

After lunch the secret of the special beans was revealed as we had a nutrition lesson by our guests Harvest Plus.  The kids learned about the importance of the right kind and amount of food.  They learned that the beans they had for lunch were filled with special vitamins and proteins.

Our last official lesson of the day was an interactive first aid lesson, introduced in fabulous fashion  by Magic Mike's hilarious skit.  The kids learned how to treat burns and bleeds.  They practiced bandaging a bleed using first aid supplies, but also practiced bandaging using household materials that can be used to replicate bandages, for example; sanitary towels, scarves, t-shirts, a very important lesson for many who do not have access to first aid supplies.

Skit prior to First Aid Lesson

Kids practicing First Aid on each other!
To finish off a fantastic first day at camp we had our first dance session.  Every year the Hope Shines kids learn a dance and perform it at the end of camp in a fierce dance competition.  This year's dance is to a popular song with the kids 'Up Town Funk'.  Each team practiced their moves and started to incorporate in their own unique styles!

It was a day packed full of fun and varied activities that challenged and excited both the kids and the Hope Shines team! We can't wait for tomorrow!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Volunteer and Translator Orientation Day

Board member and 3rd year volunteer

This is always such a different experience year to year.  What the new volunteers, translators, and even what campers we're working with changes the dynamic with what every person brings to it.  The curriculum changes yearly, as well, and this year especially is a very full one, mainly because we're working with older kids this year who enjoy the full day and its fun challenges.
Stephanie's done an amazing job of organizing such a great week ahead, and we also learn year to year what works well and what can be improved upon, which includes input and feedback from the volunteers' experiences.

But with all of this taken into account, I can honestly say that I'm thrilled we have such an amazing group of volunteers and translators this year.  Hope Shines hosted our welcome buffet dinner this past evening, and I was actually surprised to see everyone actually hanging out and talking with each other for such a long period after dinner was over.  Usually people part ways soon afterward, but I think the fact we all stayed on for so long is a very good sign... We were all engaged in each other and anxious to get to know one another.  I feel a great energy and chemistry with this group, and that's a beautiful thing.

Presidential Palace visit, no cameras were allowed inside the palace compound.
The day itself prior to dinner was full and went fast.  After the orientation and briefing on the week ahead, we visited the Presidential Palace Museum, which was a first for me.  It was a guided tour through ex-president Habyarimana's sprawling mansion inside and the grounds outside, as well as the remains of his plane which was shot down, crashing in his back yard grounds in April of '94, starting the war and genocide.  The entire tour was incredible, and a piece of important history which really wasn't all that long ago if you think about it.

From there, we went to the Genocide Memorial, which I'd visited a couple times before.  They've not only expanded the gift shop, but now before you enter the memorial, you watch a 10-minute video clip of snippets of interviews with some genocide survivors.  This was very heartbreaking and moving, and really sets the tone for what the visitor is about to see entering the interactive memorial itself, along with the mass graves of hundreds of thousands of victims.  It's a very heavy and sobering experience, but so important to know what happened here.

So much has happened in one day that it feels like it's been three, but in a very good way.  That said, I know the week will fly by and it will feel like it's only been three days by the end of it.  We're all very excited, and I'm thrilled to be working with such an amazing group.  I feel proud, blessed and fortunate to be here with everyone working with Hope Shines, and the impact it has on the kids we support, as well as all the joy it brings them.  

Hope Shines Camp 2015 TEAM!