Children of Muhanga celebrating at a YWCA function

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Open House

Hello Everyone!

So since my current adventure is coming to an end, I am having an open house for all those who are interested, influenced or just curious about my summer in Rwanda, Africa.  There will be a sharing of culture, dialogue, pictures, ideas, and experiences.  I will be selling handicrafts made by YWCA beneficiaries and raising money for my future plans in Africa.  I would be so grateful if everyone could find some time in their busy summer schedules to enjoy some Rwandan food, music, and crafts so as to foster further understanding and compassion for Africa.  I will speak a bit about my experience probably around 7:00, so plan accordingly if you are interested.  Please, bring family and friends and just stop by this coming Tuesday, August 14th from 6-8pm!  You can expect to hear stories and see some of the tangible things that I worked on this summer.  There will be plenty of opportunities for you to get involved too!  Look forward to seeing you there!

Where:
18034 Tamarack Dr.
Minnetonka, MN
55345

When:
Tuesday August 14th
6-8 pm

Bring:
An appetite, a smile, and good ideas







Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reentry.

So I am, in fact, not sitting in my warm bed relishing the sunshine of a Minnesota morning.  No.  I am eating a continental breakfast in the Marriott of Omaha, Nebraska, mid family road trip to Colorado.  These last 2 days have been absolutely crazy so I apologize for my lack of communication about my safe arrival and reentry.

I am beginning to dread the question, "So how was Africa?"  If you have an appropriate adjective on the top of your head, let me know please.  Good, unreal, phenomenal, hard, unbelievable, life-changing, interesting… these all fall short or in-comprehensive.  "Extraordinary" is the best I've got so far.   Reentry is weird.  As expected, I cried for a good portion of my 30 travel hours, including sitting in the Brussels bathroom looking at the in-stall TV screen.  There was a physical ache in my body leaving, like the you get after a breakup.  Like a cramping, in a now empty space just below my sternum.

I am relieved to be home.  I am no longer entirely responsible for my daily plan, my safety, my dinner.  I get to take my guard down a bit and not worry about locking my gate at night.  I get to go to the bathroom and expect not just water, but hot water.  When I walk outside, I see people fully clothed, healthy, driving to their respective days worrying about their little problems.  I can communicate with anyone I want, use conditioner, and drink faucet water.  I get an emotional vacation from all of the things I have seen for the past 2 months- I get to ignore, if just for moments, the starving, the helpless, and the voiceless.  Sadly, this is a guilty relief.

It also feels like a weird, dreamlike, non-realistic state.  The past 2 days feel like a daze: going to starbucks, target, yoga.  It seems like a bubble, like I'm looking through a snow globe into a life that is not fully real, that I am living from a distance.  Maybe my heart will be in Rwanda for a while.

Many people said I would be angry.  I am not.  I am so happy to finally see my family.  I get to go horseback riding, camping, and rafting with my favorite people in the world for the next 7 days for my cousin's wedding.  Hello Ryans!  I also was told that I would be met with extreme and shocking apathy.  I haven't.  Everyone has been overly excited to hear about Rwanda, the good and the bad.  They have not just wanted to hear, but to get involved and to understand.  This has made me feel so blessed and reassured me that I have surrounded myself with the right people.  This has made my transition 100% easier.  It makes me feel that though I may not be on the same page as everyone, so many people have a "heart for Africa", as Pudentienne says.  Thank you.

I will continue working with and for the YWCA Rwanda long past my departure.  I have brought back a set of samples of handicrafts and am going to attempt to sell them to help the artists and fundraise for the YWCA.  I have yet to complete a video that will channel money directly to Orphans and Vulnerable Children who have yet to be helped.  I will continue to foster the relationship and develop the program for digital literacy with Intel.  I am sponsoring Frieda Grace and Sara through Monique who will buy them food and get them medical care.  I have countless papers and presentations to organize for my ND return.  I am having an open house (invites to come) to share about my experience and fundraise. I will keep reading Rwandan news, mobilizing my own community, staying in touch with my Rwandan family, and work to return there.

Most importantly, Rwanda will continue to work in me.  It will affect my old relationships and continue to define new ones.  It has captured my academic studies and has shaped my lifestyle: what I eat, what I wear, how I greet people.  I will regard people differently and keep asking the hard questions.  It has shaped my faith and my view of people.  It has showed me not just what I am capable of, but what others are capable of.  It has given me courage and given me fire.  Rwanda is a start for me into other, deeper, and bigger things.  That is the only way I can rationalize it.

Thank you for all the prayers and positive energy.  I had more than one instance that showed me I wasn't going through this alone.  This will probably be my last post for awhile, except for my cordial invitation to my open house this next Tuesday, August 14th from 6-8.  My best wishes to you all, from the bottom of my heart.

Love,
Tate

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Post from my Twenty-Year Old Self!


So my birthday was absolutely phenomenal. On Friday evening Caroline and I headed down to Kigali for our last weekend. This bus trip was an experience let me tell you. First of all, we were supposed to go on the 6:00 bus. Well, Laessa had washed our shoes by happenstance so we had to wait for them to dry. Finally, we headed to the station to meet the 7:00 bus. When we got there, it was clear something had happened as people were gathered and talking without a bus in sight. We found out that, indeed, the 6:00 bus had crashed and people were injured and being rushed to the hospital. Literally, the bus that we were supposed to be on, crashed. We saw the accident on our way into Kigali- ran over the edge of the road, into a tree, and it was lying on its side. Sometimes is shocks me how many people I must have watching over me. Ernestine about had a heart attack when we told her.

Also, on our bus ride, I just about got my second Rwandan boyfriend. We were sitting next to this guy who decided to tell me his life story. It was actually really an interesting one: his parents died in the Genocide, he couldn't read until he was 12 years old, started school and never looked back. Now he is a law student determined to help other kids in his same situation. Sounds like a great guy. Until he started playing with my hair. We were just chatting, being friendly. His hand slowly moved over to my leg, and he started talking about the problems with the Civil Law- shockingly his biggest complaint was that he couldn't marry someone who was under 21. "Because you are so beautiful, but since I am 25, we can't get married." Shucks... let me add that he was maybe 5'2. Then he casually started playing with my hair... Finally he asked me if I wanted to go dancing- I responded that I don't dance or drink ever because it is against my religion and I am very very very Catholic. Then he shut up. Caroline was super helpful- she sat there laughing hysterically as I kept moving and subtly pushing him away.

Friday night, we hung out with Ernestine and her kids and their cousins. We also talked with Bruce a bit about what to expect when he goes to his boarding school orientation in a few weeks. On Saturday, I slept in a bit and then had a delicious breakfast. We went to a sister's house to shower, as there was no running water, and then met Ernestine and Pudentienne at the Kigali Mall- called Mr. Price. Guess what? I got to have a latte and a scope of ice cream too which are literally my 2 favorite things. Great way to start my birthday. Then we went shopping for a dress to wear! This was such a struggle. We went into all of these stores to look for dresses. Each dress was filled with glitter, ruffles, patterns, lace- nothing that I would really be caught dead in. Caroline bought a dress from a guy on the street for 4 dollars, and I still had no luck. Also, let me add that none of these dresses are new- they are all used. So everyone who thought they were donating their clothes to poor African children, think again. Finally, after about 6 hours, I found a simple black dress that I felt good in! Also 2 dress sizes smaller than normal :) I also found a pair of black pumps. I figured that I got to wear heels on my 20th birthday. I felt so girly!

We went home and got changed. Caroline and I then headed over to Assoumpta's house to meet all of the family. Literally everyone in their family came to have dinner for my birthday, plus Pudentienne and her husband. We went to a lovely Indian restaurant that was set on this balcony and candle lit. Just beautiful. There must have been 25 people there. I am so lucky. The food was phenomenal. We had curried chicken, beef, rice and naan. Apparently there is a large population of Indians in Rwanda, and the food was great. Then, as we were finishing up, the lights all went off and singing started. I turned bright red, not that anyone could see. Out walked a procession of birthday cake and gifts. Like are you kidding me? Each family had brought me a present and gave me a bouquet of red roses from my family at home. I got a dress, a purse, fabric for a dress, and earrings. Everyone had thought about something. They asked me to say something, and I couldn't, and still can't, put into words what my family in Rwanda means to me. Not only do I feel like the most lucky girl in the whole world, but they remind me so much of my large, loud, crazy, absolutely phenomenal family at home. I have been shown such welcome and care that I do not know how I can ever repay them. If any of you are reading this, know that you are always welcome at my home anytime and I consider you family. Thank you so much for everything.



After dinner, Caroline and I headed out with Steve, Blaise and Davy with Eugene as our driver/ chaperon. The night was fairly hysterical, but we had fun for all of the twists and turns. The boys were good sports, and Caroline and I have learned to embrace just about any situation. Regardless of the 30 year old prostitutes grinding next to us, we still had fun dancing and laughing. We went home and stayed up talking.

Sunday, we relaxed all day and I got to sit out on the porch and read for several hours. Yesterday and for the rest of this week, we are crazy busy finalizing things. We are developing a program that we will collaborate with Intel, we have many gifts and presentations and good byes to say, we have to make sure we can keep in touch with some of our friends and beneficiaries, etc. I still can't really think about leaving.

If you have yet to donate, you still have a little time! We will keep the donations open for another 5 days, but will then close the window until we can get a permanent structure in place. We have collected almost $2,000 already! This can help so many beneficiaries. It will help to go towards the expansion of the Street Theater program, to trainings for the Batwa community and Giving Hope in business and IT skills, to start up capital for poor rural farmers for processing purposes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your involvement. I am so proud to be supported by all of you back at home. Click on the link below to go to the YWCA donation page.

http://www.ywcaofrwanda.org/we-need-your-help/

Thanks,
Tate

Friday, July 20, 2012

Not my usual birthday gift...

So tomorrow is my 20th birthday.  Throughout this process, I have been so overwhelmed with the support I have gotten from my community at home. My friends and family have been remarkable, not only allowing me to do this, but fully encouraging me and wanting to be involved. So many more people, whom I am not that close with, have reached out to me and helped me to stay positive when things got frustrating. I have gotten countless messages that started out, "I know you don't know me very well, but I follow your blog and love what you are doing!" If you are one of these people- THANK YOU! It makes me feel like I am a part of something greater than just this personal experience. This is not normal; I know other students who didn't have the same level of support from their community at home, and I could not feel more lucky and inspired. Sometimes, it is difficult to justify the excess that we live in on a daily basis in America- the cars, the clothes, entertainment, lake houses, coffee... As opposed to the passive attitude that I somewhat expected, I have been overwhelmingly surprised with how much everyone has wanted to get involved and help in the small ways they can. I have learned about the incredible power of human beings not just from my family here, but from my family at home as well. Thank you.

The most important thing I will take away from this experience is not to give away all of my clothes, stop buying my daily latte, or resist getting a pedicure from time to time. I will remember that everyday there are literally millions of people who live in unbelievable poverty, ignorance, abuse, and hopelessness. It is the reminder that each time I get to buy a pair of jeans, someone, somewhere goes without. My experience has made this common knowledge personal. We know the statistics- "think of the starving kids in Africa". I've seen their eyes, held them, played with them, reprimanded them. They aren't a statistic or an overarching problem- they are real individual people with stories, personalities, hopes and dreams just as real as mine and yours.

For my birthday, I couldn't ask for a more humbling gift than your support of the program that has changed my life and will continue to change many. Please click on the link below to help support us and explore the website that Caroline and I have been busy developing. Keep in mind that a livable income for a family of 6 in Rwanda is less that $4,000 USD. A little goes such a long way, and I can't adequately express my gratitude for your support. We will keep the donations open until we return home, one week from tomorrow.

http://www.ywcaofrwanda.org/we-need-your-help/



Let me also add that I am terrified to turn 20. I know that everyone over 20 is rolling their eyes- but thats like adult status.  I remember when I was younger thinking that if you were 20, you were practically old.  I had decided yesterday that all I wanted was to have a cute dress, shaved legs, and dinner with my adoptive family here.  Being that the first one is a 'no-can-do', I moved on to the shaved legs part.  I haven't really talked about showering here, but let me tell you it is an experience.  So after I worked out, I hopped in for what I hoped would be a warm, relaxing shower.  Well, no water.  So Caroline and I boiled some tank water for me, and then I set off to take a bucket shower.  Finally, after like 30 minutes of a struggle splashing water on my body, I had shaved legs, and newly scolded skin.  Also, please note that you have to be incredibly comfortable with your body to attempt to get all parts of you wet.  There are some seriously compromising angles involved- sorry for the detail.  

This evening we will head down to Kigali to hopefully get some clothes :) and then go have dinner with my adoptive family.  I think we will go out either tonight or tomorrow with our new friends as well.  I can not believe that this is my last weekend here.  It FLEW by.  I will post probably 2 more times- once before I leave and once I return home.  

Thanks so much for going on this little journey with me.  

Urakoze Chan!
Tate

SAFARI!!

This past week has been so busy and full of work, I have not even thought about blogging. This past week has been the first "long" week of our time here. Maybe that shows us we are getting ready to head home to our families. I have to say, even thinking about leaving makes me want to cry.

So other than detailing our work, I will start where I left off. If you are reading Caroline's blog, there will be some repeat. The last weekend my mom was here we visited Gyseni, which is a tourist area on the border of the Congo and absolutely beautiful. We stayed at a great hotel, Musanto House Lodge, and had a spectacular view. The first night, we walked to a restaurant on the pier of Lake Kivu. The food was great and I had tilapia, a special of that area. Some of the best fish I have ever had. That night, we decided to walk home. Now, for those of you who know anything about African politics, you may know that Congo is the most dangerous and corrupt country on the continent. Every part of me said that 3 white women walking home alone at like 10 at night along the Congolese border was a bad, if not absolutely terribly, idea. Thankfully, we got back without issue. Little did we know how bad of an idea that actually was. The Monday we returned, we found out that about 10 Km from Gyseni on Thursday (the evening we walked back) there was rebel fighting, complete with rockets and the killing of UN soldiers. So that makes me feel really pretty cool and really pretty lucky. As Archimede said the next morning, we weren't alone, we just couldn't see people in the bushes. It was beautiful though- this picture does not capture it.



Anyways, on Friday we went to visit several OVC who are yet to be apart of the program. This was completely heartbreaking and lifechanging. We had seen some pretty remarkable stuff up to this point, but on Friday we saw some of the most desperate situations. That night, we went down to the hotel restaurant to have some dinner and guess who we found? Notre Dame Students! So crazy!! 2 girls, with whom we had mutual friends, were on a summer study abroad program studying peace and conflict. As Pudentienne said, "the world is truly a village". I mean, imagine the chances. We also got to see the hot springs of Lake Kivu, where people come and bathe and even cook things too!


On Saturday, we headed back to Kigali and had dinner with Pudentienne. Afterwards, we headed to Ernestine's for our overnight and got ready to wake up at 4 am for our SAFARI! Yes, they are as cool as you imagine. Caroline, my mom, Steve, Bruce, and one of Ernestine's nieces piled into a car and drove to Akagera park, where we picked up our guide and started our 6 hour journey through the African wilderness. We were told that we would see hippos, zebras, giraffes, baboons, antelope, wild hogs, but probably not an elephant or a lion. Our first siting was a family of about 50 baboons.



After that, we had a lag in animal sitings. As we were just beginning to get bored, we turned a corner and literally almost ran into this beaut.



After quickly reversing, we tried to approach it the right way, it started walking towards us and our car stalls. Talk about an adrenaline rush. We got to spend about 3 minutes with our friend, until he went off running. As we continued our path, we saw the destruction left in the elephant's wake. It literally looked like a tornado- trees were down, brush was separated like the Red Sea. After that, we headed to Hippo Beach, full of hippos, birds, monkeys, and crocodiles. I wanted to see a croc, but I didn't. It was very much like an oasis in the middle of the desert brush.



Then we headed to a valley, where we saw zebras, antelope, and giraffes all grazing together. I actually felt like I was in the opening scenes of Lion King. The giraffes were stunning and adorable. They look so majestic, and you can see them from almost a mile away. I think they were my favorite.





Anyways, my mom left the next day. We were almost alone in the office from Tuesday to Thursday, and we got a lot done. Especially because we were blasting NSYNC. Last Friday, we had a lazy evening and I made this cream of mushroom hotdish thing that I have been dying to make. I highly recommend it. Take white onions and sauté large diced pieces in butter. Add fresh mushrooms sliced, but still chunky. The mushrooms here are SOO good! Then, add cream- we used milk cause it was more trusty and healthy. Let it simmer for awhile so it thickens a bit. Then I put italian bread in olive oil and garlic to toast it and poached an egg. Assemble: Bread, mushroom sauce, egg. Honestly I thought it was so good. I got the mushroom sauce recipe from Ernestine who puts it over sticky rice- which is also awesome. Glass of red wine. Perfect!

Saturday was equally relaxing. It was beautiful our so we went on our rooftop and laid out and read for hours with coffee. Then I went on a run. I haven't really talked about exercising here. First of all, people don't run outside, except in Kigali. Most people do something physical for their jobs anyways. Apparently there are gyms around but I haven't seen any. Secondly, it can get really hot. It is Africa, and you can't wear shorts and a tanktop. Add the altitude and the staring and laughing, its a struggle. Anyways, I still like running here, clears my head, regardless of people running along side me making fun of me. You should have seen the looks I got when I decided to run hills. Sprint up, walk down, repeat. People actually thought I was crazy. We headed into Kigali later in the afternoon. We met up with Ernestine's nephews, who go to school in the US and are our age. Steve, Blaize, and Davy took us out, which was a blast. We stayed out later than I have, honestly, in years- other than for schoolwork. The next morning, we were exhausted. We slept our day away at Pudentienne's and then headed back to Muhanga in the evening.

This week has been full of hectic work that we are trying to finish before we leave. We created a website, finalized 3 brochures, created a school profile, (complete with a budget analysis and business plan), made a catalogue for the handicrafts (and a pricing system), finalized a partnership with Intel (yay!), and made a fundraising booklet for Giving Hope. Still to come- videos for Giving Hope and Ibakwe School.

Also, I decided to financially adopt Frieda Grace, who I spoke about in my last blog. Sara (her amazing mother), Monique, and I have been trying to get her medical treatment. We needed to buy health insurance and then go to the health center to get a referral to the hospital. When Sara tried to get health insurance, we kept being sent to the back of the line because she was Batwa and was trying to get insurance for just one person, who had no official document, as opposed to a family, until Monique went and got the job done. That woman is literally a superhero who knows everyone- a perfect social worker. Yesterday, we spent the morning at the hospital as she had an initial examination and blood tests. She has some type of disease, but nothing showed up as out of the ordinary with her blood work. She got to sit on my lap the whole day and during all the tests. I love her. Early next week, we will head to a specialist in Kigali and determine a prognosis.

Sorry it has been awhile, but I just want to say thank you for all of the support I have been continually getting from my whole community at home.  I am so appreciative of the support and hope that my experience here is having effects on people at home that I can't see. I feel really really lucky to be connected with people who don't just let me do this, but are interested and want to help. That's not normal, and I am so grateful and inspired by everyone that has been apart of this with me. 



Thanks,
Tate


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grace


So this past week has been another roller coaster.  I cannot believe that I only have 16 days left..... Thats one of the best and worst things of my whole life.  I really miss my family and I hated seeing my mom leave, but I don't know how I am going to leave my family here.  I have been adopted here and have gained mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends.  I am so lucky.  I am so constantly surrounded by love that it is overwhelming.  I have also found that relationships are different here.  People care for each other so purely and genuinely, without entitlement or complications.  I can imagine that a generation that has lost so much just wants to grab hold of their loved ones and not take a single moment for granted.  One of the things I have learned here is that loss is a part of life, no one can escape it.  My 20 years has left me so lucky, thank God, in that area.  I have indeed lost people I love, but rarely in total tragedy.  I actually don't think I have met someone here who has not experienced immense, heartbreaking loss.  It makes you realize that each day, as cliche as it sounds, is a gift and we cannot escape our ultimate end.  I hope to take this simplified perspective of life back into my own relationships: you live, you love, and you die.  and so do others.  People here give me unconditional love, without asking for anything in return, without a sense of retribution.  I hope I can learn to love the people in my life that way- just being grateful for their presence in my life and nothing more.  

I experienced such love notably last week. I, nor Caroline, have been able to write about this yet.  We have spoken a bit about the Batwa community we have grown attached too.  This group of people lives in the worst conditions you can imagine.  Most are HIV+/AIDs, most don't have homes and those that do have entirely inadequate shelters and are continually marginalized and isolated by mainstream society.  They are potters by trade, but their indigenous lands have been taken and settled by the development initiatives.  We asked how much they make, and for a family, they are lucky if they can make $2 a day.  $2 x 5 days a week/ 8 (average Rwandan family size): $1.25 per person per week.... thats less than $0.20 per day. How do you live on that?  We are continually trying to brainstorm ways as to help them economically.  YWCA is currently doing Street Theater to address the discrimination against the Batwa, but they need some immediate help.  I am thinking some type of fair trade community that creates a microfinance and savings system for education for their children.  We will see.  


Anyways, I had promised them that I would bring my mom back to meet them when she was here.  So Tuesday afternoon, I hopped into the bed of the pickup and we drove through the African roads to this community.  One of the women that I have grown to know and love hopped in the back with me.  She gave me a big hug and told me that she couldn't believe that I remembered to come back.  She said, "People always forget us.  But you, you remembered, you are so good.  I am so happy.  It gives me some value."  How do you react to that?  Everyone deserves to be remembered.  This was no gift I gave, this was a human completion of a promise.  That's all.  It made me so sad that I could make someone so happy by just remembering them, that they have been conditioned as a group of forgotten people.  Thats worst than the poverty.

When we got to our destination household, we were met with an older woman and several other community members.  We introduced my mom and watched as she worked on her pottery.  Right away, I noticed a small child to her right who seemed to be unresponsive to the new visitors.  It is pretty rare that we are not met with, at the very least, stares by kids.  She was continually rocking, and it became apparent after a short period of time that she had some disability.  We asked what was wrong I were told one of the most touching stories.  One day, going to the market to sell pottery, one Batwa woman noticed a child on the street.  She was abandoned and couldn't move.  Without thinking, the woman took her in her arms and back to her home. The older woman offered to take her in as she no longer had any children.  This child is loved unconditionally by the Batwa community and they feed her, bathe her, and hold her as one of their own while their own children don't even have enough to eat.   $0.20 a day... and they didn't even think twice.   At the risky of sounding "preachy", I have never been more sure that God exists.  Such pure goodness and love in such a broken world.  


They named her Frieda Grace.  Grace is her given Christian name.  In a Catholic sense, grace means "God's gift of himself."  That is also my sister's middle name.  And when I looked at her, I couldn't help but  see my sister.  It made me realize that we are all the same and we are all intricately connected.  We have a duty to treat others as humans, each with dignity and each with a name and story, even the helpless.  


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Mom's Guest Post!

This is Tates mom and I have never blogged before so this may be more special for me than you. I arrived last Wednesday in Kigali and today is the following Thursday already!! How did that happen? First time in Africa. If you have been reading both Carolines and Tates blogs then you know the details of this last week so I won't replicate that. If you have not read either or both of their blogs, I highly encourage you to do so. They have poured out their hearts in writing and this blog will serve as their journal for a lifetime. Same days it is hard to write for them and some days they can hardly wait. Grab a glass or wine or a cup of tea and enjoy their journey through this blog!

I arrived at the airport, without my bags I might add, to a sea of African women smiling at me with two white girls in the midst. I had not met Caroline before and I was struck with the similarity between the two "muzungus", tall, blonde, beautiful and smiling as well.

After handshakes, cheek kissing, hugs and tears, we were off to begin my exposure to Carolines and Tates life here in Rwanda. My three, yes three, checked bags finally joined me on Saturday. For the record, my personal clothing could have fit in the small one. The others were jammed packed with things the girls had asked for as well as some materials and gifts for the nursery children. Just as an aside, the United Agent saw the 3 heavy bags and after hearing where I was going and what I was bringing over, she waived all the baggage fees. We are surrounded around the world with good and kind people.

We spent my first night together with an amazing family, Ernestine and Eugene and their 4 kids along with at least 10 other people who were related somehow. I now know that they all come from Eugenes side of the family with his three sisters a brother and their spouses, all of whom I have now met and now love. Kind, gracious, curious, loving people. They all talk at the same time and they all have fallen in love with Tate and Caroline. They are their families in our absence and they have done well. If any of them are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

The days have gone by fast. We have seen and lived with the very wealthy and seen and lived with the very poorest of poor. We have spent time with women with HIV/AIDS whom are beginning to emerge from their cloistered and segregated lives due to their involvement with the YWCA, and with women who run companies, high positions in government, heads of schools and families and are extremely talented, articulate and impressive to say the least. We have spent time with children of the upper class, whom go to private schools here in Rwanda in preparation for boarding schools and universities in America; and children whom don't have enough money for their basic health needs, no less schooling. (Tate has fallen in love with one of those children, Grace Freida, who was abandoned in Muhanga and found and taken home by a Batwa family who does not have enough money to feed their own children. This child cannot walk nor speak so she is working with the Y to get her medical attention as a start).

I have seen gorgeous landscapes and views that are unmatched in the US; and I have seen the devastation of a generation from the genocide through the work at the genocide museum.

We were all able to watch in person and read about President Paul Kigame, elected with 97% of the peoples votes at the last election, clearly a dictator but from what can be seen and read, a benevolent dictator at his core. The country clearly was in need of strength and clarity, and the success is obvious and tangible.

It is now Saturday and the internet is back. We are now up in the Northwest part of Rwanda on a "field trip" where we have visited 3 "vulnerable" families where the eldest child, 17, 16 and 13 respectively, is raising their family. Unbelievable, heart wrenching. Above all, reaffirming ones ability to survive in the worst of circumstances.

We have seen the border of the Congo, the Primus brewery, the hot springs and the volcanoes. We are hopeful to do a safari tomorrow and I leave on Monday.

I am so appreciate of this time with both girls and their Rwanda families. Most 20 year olds, (mine is not quite there yet but will be soon) are not focused on issues like this during their summer break. Caroline and Tate have been living this world and are able to do it for three more weeks.

They are truly an inspiration for me as well. Thanks for reading…

Claudia (Tates mom)