Hope Shines Inc.

Hope Shines Inc.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hannah Rae's Blog Orientation Day


Hannah Rae here, I'm from Edinburgh, Scotland. I am the Camp Director for Hope Shines this year. This is my fourth year volunteering with Hope Shines and first year as Director (thanks to Dan, Steph and baby Mack for giving me this opportunity!). Back in 2013 I was volunteering and traveling in Rwanda. I found Hope Shines through a Rwandan friend and boy am I glad that I did! Rwanda is an incredible country and coming back every year is so special to me, each year it feels more and more like home. Being a part of the Hope Shines family is a huge part of my Rwandan adventures and I am immensely grateful for the time we all share together!

Now that the soppy part is over, let's get down to business! Today was Orientation Day. This is always the day before camp starts, where all volunteers and translators come together for the first time to get to know each other and familiarise themselves with the camp curriculum.

We started the day by learning a bit about each other, through some interesting conversations and interpretive dancing! We also played a favourite game of mine I like to call THUNDER (which I am working on making a permanent feature of camp this year!).

Jenny and Bienta doing some interpretive dance!
We went through the camp curriculum. Everyone is now fully prepared and up to speed on the lessons we will be teaching each day throughout camp! I am really excited to see how the new volunteers and translators work together. 

After a delicious Rwandan lunch, we jumped in our trusty van and headed to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum. Every year Hope Shines volunteers visit the memorial in order pay their respects and learn more about the recent history of Rwanda. It is extremely important for all volunteers to have an understanding and awareness of the 1994 Genocide and how this has shaped Rwanda today.

Afterwards, the team jumped back in the van and we headed to our brand new Hope Shines Centre. This is an incredibly exciting year for Hope Shines as for the first time we now have our own centre. We can make this place home and have already started to do so by painting the walls and hanging posters, pictures and maps up on the walls of the main classroom. Seeing that classroom full of excited and eager children for the first time tomorrow will definitely be a moment to remember!

Michael and Bienta hanging the Hope Shines banner at the center!

At the centre, we also met with some of the Hope Shines children and their parents. The parents of the children are very much involved in Hope Shines, some of the mamas will even be cooking the camp lunches throughout the week.

The Mamas and some of the children who will take part in camp this week.
Once wrapped up, it was time for the Welcome dinner. This is an opportunity for all volunteers and translators to share a meal together and get excited for a full and most likely hectic week ahead. I personally can't wait. Being Camp Director is a huge privilege for me and will of course be a big challenge, but one I am most definitely up for!

Look forward to a week full of Hope Shines blogs from all our volunteers. Come on this journey with us where ever you are in the world and thank you for your support!


The center finished and decorated READY for camp tomorrow.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

"Turi Umwe" (We Are One)

30 July 2016
Kigali, Rwanda
Sector Nyamirambo

"Turi Umwe"

We are one. The saying in Rwanda rings true and close to my heart today more so than ever before. Over the last few days, we've welcomed our new group of volunteers for our annual leadership and immersion program and with great excitement we introduced them to a great tradition and custom of the Rwandan culture today. With tired eyes and jet lagged brains, we took our hired van over to the sector Nyamirambo and met with the village leader, Bonani to get the schedule of the events for the morning. Today was Umuganda day in Rwanda!

Current day Umuganda takes place on the last Saturday of each month, from 8:00am to 11:00am when communities come together to do a number of public acts. Click here: http://bit.ly/2aDd3Vr to learn more about Umuganda. We arrived by 7:45am and waited as the village folks arrived to the center to get instruction on the day's activities. We were tired but still ready to get into this custom. The word Umuganda can be translated as ‘coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome’. In traditional Rwandan culture, members of the community would call upon their family, friends and neighbors to help them complete a difficult task. Umuganda activities can be anything from cleaning streets, cutting grass and trimming bushes along roads, or repairing public facilities or building houses for vulnerable persons. 

Great turn out from the villagers in Nyamirambo

Our Hope Shines team were greeted by friendly villagers and immediately felt the awkwardness of everyone staring and showing interest in these new foreigners in their village....what were we doing here was written all over their faces. We immediately were given shovels, hoes, machetes, and a large area of grass, trash, and shrubs that we needed to cut down for Umuganda day. Everyone participated and it was a great feeling to help out the community where Hope Shines operates and make new friends and frankly be treated as they would treat their own family. I can't say enough about this country and the people in it. I've never been treated so whole-heartedly and loved before in any place in the world I've visited. 

Even New Yorkers (and Board Members) like Joanne can get those hands dirty!

Country Manager Phillip always smiling

No man is safe around Director Dan. Having too much fun!
The hard work ended after 2 hours and we all had a big sweat and plenty of dirt and blisters on our bodies! The last hour was led by Bonani as he spoke to the villagers about local priorities, the importance of security and healthy living, and by welcoming us once more. The village now knows Hope Shines, and in a positive 'light'. They know we work with THEir vulnerable children who have so little, opportunities or otherwise. It's a struggle here in Rwanda for many but we are certainly trying to do our part. Yes, we have challenges to keep the programs running, but I am reminded each time I'm walking here on flour dirt that we will make it work and we will improve lives of children in mnay ways. This day was great not only for our new volunteers but for the reason that we all came together as one....Turi Umwe, we are one!

Perfect togetherness of two strangers from very different worlds

Village Leader Bonani stressing the importance of acquiring health insurance

Warm Regards,

Dan Gladden
Executive Director