Thursday, May 24, 2012

JC Nshimiyimana

Okay, sorry, one more post....

If you want to know more about my friend JC and how to get money to him, i have more information!

The check you write will be going to my friend Marie Denton's family (I worked with her in Rwanda) in Portland to hold for him until he can get there. You can write the check out to Nshimiyimana Jean Claude, and in the memo, you can write 'for PCC' or 'college'.

This is JC's story he wrote to his supporters,

My name is Nshimiyimana Jean Clauden (JC). I was born and raised in Rwanda. I was born at the Gahini hospital, in the Eastern province of Rwanda. It was in 1991 when I was born, and I looked to be the last born in my family. I am from a family of nine children: six girls and three boys. Of those ones who are still alive, there are two boys and two girls plus our mom. There are also five grand children; both girls are married. 

In 1959, war happened in Rwanda due to discrimination and tribalism and that was when my grandparents ran away to look for refuge. They found themselves in our neigbouring country, Uganda, and they lived there a long time in the refugee camps. I was told life was very hard there. Both my parents were born in the refugee camps and raised there, and that’s why just two of us -- me and my sister -- we were the ones who were born in Rwanda and the rest were born in Uganda in the refugee camps.

Then later on, my father joined the FPR (Rwandan Patriotic Front), the army that fought for liberation in Rwanda, then led by our current president, Paul Kagame. It was then that he came up with the idea of taking his family back to their home land and their property. But it wasn’t very easy. It was in 1989 when my family crossed the border and they landed safely. As they were starting to restore and put together everything which was been destroyed, just three years after my birth, that’s when a devil spoiled the whole country with tragic moments of killing people (the genocide of 1994). 

My family was among the people who were supposed to be killed and my father tried all the ways he could to hide us and to protect us, but sadly while we were running, we got separated. My father went with my older bother, and the rest went with my mother and continued the journey of surviving. It was not easy to get something to eat and by then it was the rainy season. Even those who would escape from the enemy would be killed by the life in the bush and forests and mountains, or tropical disease like malaria, or die of hunger. 
By the grace of God, my mother continued to take care of those of us who went with her and we spent almost a month running in the bush. Later on, the FPR found us and they took us to a safe place to meet others in the refugee camps. When we got there, we came to know that my father was killed, along with my brother and other relatives. After the war had ended, about three months, no one could believe that the killing was over. Most of the people were traumatized. Many children were orphans and many women's husbands were killed during the genocide. Most of the properties were destroyed. In other words, the hope for life was dead and it was very hard to start a fresh life. But my mother, she survived, and she took us to our land and we started to build up our home again and putting everything together.

Three years after the genocide was over, that’s when my mom wanted me and my sister to go back to school. This wasn’t easy because money was required for school and we did not have any. My mother had no job that could provide some money, so some of us had drop out from school and wait until God opens for them. After some time -- we had almost forgotten about school -- my sister had a small job in the town and she heard about the organization that was Africa New Life Ministries. They were helping orphans and those who couldn’t afford to go back to school. My sister took me there and asked for help. They accepted me and they took my picture and information then later on, in a year's time, they called my sister telling her that now I have got a sponsor, that I can go back to school. Then I started my education.

I finished my primary level at New Life Junior Academy and I got the first grade in the nation exams. I was then admitted to a good school in the capital city, Kigali, called Kigali International Academy. In my second year of high school, God continued to help me and I was selected to join Hindurwa band. I was so excited; it was like a dream to me to go to U.S.A. and in 2008, my dream came true. I spent six months there doing helping Africa New Life Ministries raise sponsors through our music and testimonies. Many lives of Rwandan kids were transformed.

And I would finish by saying that my life will never be the same because God has showed Himself to me. I am now a blessed young man and I am very different from whom I was before. Through God I am who I am, now and forever.

And I want give thanks to my wonderful family in America, Matt and Kristen Schlottmann for everything, for being there for me. I love you all so much and I always will.
And special thanks to Pastor Charles Mugisha, the director of ANLM and the enrire ANLM staff.

With God everything is possible! 

God bless.  Amen...

This is the letter JC is writing to his supporters:

Dear Friends,

I am so honored to have this opportunity to write you this letter asking for your support in pursuing in my dreams as I work towards my goals of attending university in the US for 2012.

I would like you to stand with me to change my world so that I can also help others to change their world too. My life has been a series of significant events as God has brought me this far.

I graduated high school last year 2011; I want to major in Economics and finance at PCC.

Out of class, in my life I do play piano and sing at the church that is my main field. I have been playing piano since my primary six up to this date. It has been almost seven years. My church is New Life Bible Church.

I have heard of this dream it has been nearly four years. This come into my heart on my first trip I had which I traveled in the US in different states raising funds and looking for sponsorship for Africa New Life Ministries, I was with a singing group of young men called HINDURWA we spent almost six months on this trip in brief we had a successful trip this was in 2008.

Since then I started praying for my dream to come true, in the process of researching all the information regarding scholarships for international students, I have done two standardized tests that is TOELF and SAT and the scores have been sent to me.

More so, I have had a chance to apply at Portland Community College (PCC). I have a good contact with the school admission officers. I have been helped to defray my application fees; I have sent my application with transcripts and all the necessary documents. Thereafter I received a message from the admission office saying that my applications has been approved and accepted that I have to send the final document which is a financial document (Bank statement) with a support letter from a parent or sponsor if I have one.

Meanwhile, I did this project as an act of faith which I had up on my future. In this journey I have got a family in Portland which offered me a place to live in, food and transport if I make it to PCC. This family is called DENTON’S FAMILY, they stay in Portland.

I was supposed to give out the financial documents in April 15. But unfortunately at that time I didn’t have them yet. Though I formed the school before the dates, and I also asked someone to call the school on my behalf to let them know the cause of my delaying. The school said that it’s fine that my application will go on file and pending and be valid for 3 years and when I have secured a sponsor I will instantly contact them.

I am kindly requesting of your support to further my education in one of American colleges. My life is at crossroad now; Africa New life Ministries cannot pay for me to come to the US to attend the school. They don’t have this program. It is my heart’s desire to receive a college degree in the US. And after my studies are done I will return to Rwanda and help people in different phase of life.

I can only achieve this goal through your financial support. I have to raise $6000 for two terms; each term will cost me $3000. After two terms are done I will be working and be able to cover my expenses for the rest of the years of my studies.

If 20 of my friends, if each one of them donates $300 or $25 monthly my dreams would come true. I have been delighted to have your name marked among the 20 people. I have been praying up on this and I was convinced in my heart for this 20 people. And I have kept praying for each one of them that God may work through their lives in a special way. 

I would like to start in the fall of this year 2012 my first year.

I look forward to your awesome generosity and love that you have for me.

May God bless you so richly!



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thanks Rwanda, For The Adventure

Well, my semester abroad in Rwanda has come to an end. One of my friends recently told me that i should write one last blog to have some sense of closure, so here it is. 
Rwanda is one amazing country; with a special story of conflict, hatred, reconciliation, healing, peace.. the list could go on about the things i have learned. My brother in law, Brian, asked me in a note to explain to him the personality of Rwanda as a country "places have such strange personalities" he wrote. 

So, for Brian, this is my interpretation of the 'personality' of Rwanda that i have experienced over the last four months:

The character of Rwanda is a beautiful and quiet old woman with an overly hospitable spirit and kind eyes. She is shy, yet colored brightly with rich tradition and literally with vivid fabric clothes. As you peel back the layers, you find a history full of deep suffering and pain; however, paired with a beautiful heart and a bright future. 

I could talk forever about the things i have learned, experienced, loved, and even hated about Rwanda. But for now, i will just share with you some of my favorite memories:
  • Sitting on top of land cruisers, overlooking Lake Kivu, driving through mountains and savannas, watching graceful, amazing animals in their natural habitat and the vastness of God's beautiful creation on the continent of Africa
  • Azizi Life adventures, sitting packed on the ground of a one-room, mud and thatched roofed house weaving, singing, snuggling, and loving with Rwandan women and their families
  • The long rides over and around mountains, 'the land of a thousand hills' - discovering Rwanda's unique beauty - who really lives in those completely secluded, one-room houses on the side of the cliff anyway? 
  • Sitting and laughing in the back with our house staff eating popcorn and speaking kinyarwanda (or trying)
  • Everything about my street boys; sitting in the bed of the trucks with them on house visits and hearing them scream my name when they saw me after my internship ended; chasing, tickling, and cheering with them at the VT boys soccer game; and hugging them at church
  • "Big Man Aerobics" and the aftermath: Our found kittens Tybo, and Matoke Rolls in honor of getting fat and working out
  • Easter at the GoED House 
  • Dish Duty with Ali and the house staff, dancing and singing 
  • Watching Lost marathons, playing Fish Bowl, laughing, eating, loving, and just hanging out with the family 

Thanks Rwanda, for the adventures; the love i've experienced, the family i have acquired, the reassurance of my passions, the things i have learned, the people i have met, the heros i now have, and the things i won't forget. 


If anyone is interested or has a kind heart, one of my good Rwandan friends, JC, was accepted at Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon. However, he does not have the funds to attend, so he is raising support! JC volunteered with me at Africa New Life Ministries. He is one of the kindest, hardworking people i know. He asked me if i know anyone who would be willing to send the least bit of money to support him. This is what he said:

"Kimmie guess what? I'm raising up $6000 for two terms at PCC. I have written a letter and my story I am about to send it to my friend wherever they are. Please I need you to talk to your friends and find out if they can afford to support. And if there is any support you can send me a message I can give you the address in the US where you can send your funds. Thank you so much! 

For now to $6000 which I have to raise, I have got $1200 so far. I beleive I will reach my goal with your prayer and support financially! "

If you are able, you can send a check to the address below; this is the family who is collecting funds for JC until he can get to Portland. If you want to receive a letter from JC or want to know more, just contact me at my email, 

2140 Nolan Lane, West Linn, OR 97068

Thanks for keeping up with my blog if you have! Some of you may know, i am planning on studying abroad again (!) next spring with GoED Mekong, in Thailand. This next program is similar to Rwanda's, yet in a very different context. I am anticipating what i will learn and what God has in store for me again. If you want to follow my Thailand blog, you can follow this blog by email, and i will post the link next winter before i leave. 

Amahoro! Ndagukunda, Rwanda. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Poem

Yesterday my friend Mikaela went to teach English at a street boys program called Rwandan Orphans Project - very similar to the program i taught at over practicum. While reading their blog and website, she came across this poem written by one of their graduated boys, rescued from the streets and given an education. It was originally written in Kinyarwanda and translated into English by the boy. This poem authors the experience of a street child - the children i taught and came to love so deeply through my internship. Each one of my boys can identify with the words expressed here, just to give you a taste of the sufferings each one goes through.  

I am a child, same as the others
By: Lucky Faustin
I am a child, same as the others
I am a child like other children
I was born as they were born
I was never protected as they were
I suffered from difficulty and stress
I never wanted this, the love that was lacking
I am a child, same as the others
Your love is needed
Poverty is not a sickness
No one is born rich with wealth
You have to work hard
Fight against ignorance
Help those who are alone to be adopted
Pay their school fees for them
Help them when they are sick
Try to treat them well
The solution of poverty is to work hard
To work together willingly with others
Unify together
What you don’t know, you should ask
You cannot be sorry for your life
It may cause you to wander alone
You may spend nights in the bar, smelling like beer
When you return home you hit and torture your wife
That is not a family
When you see children in the road
Take one in and find someone to take another one in
The solution to their life comes from you
Uproot the wonderful completely
Education is greater than birth
If a child can learn he can become a leader
He may have a future without problems
He can be a soldier or he can be a policeman, protecting the country
He can build houses
He can help others in the streets
ROP is an exemplary place
We have the best behavior, culture and education
We have the teachers of our future
We will never criticize our leaders
Our guardians
Our parents
They always have us first
They are committed to us
Our parents live in America
They have always given much help in our lives
They really love us very much
We appreciate Sean and Jenny so much
We always live together with them
We joke and spend time together with them
They always give us what we need all the time
May God bless them
The children suffer from hunger
They take a decision to go to the streets
Where they become street children
This is caused by a lack of peace and harmony in their home
Each day, every day
They may spend nights under a bridge
They greet others on the streets
“How is it, man?” They say
“Be strong!” They say
Wearing rags for clothing
A girl sleeps wherever she can find
Sometimes where man take advantage
She can become pregnant
By luck she may live through it
She lives together with her baby on streets
A boy on the streets consumes drugs, alcohol and poison
They beg
Their voices change
The child becomes mature
He becomes a dangerous man
Because he lacks an education
And culture from his parents
When you pass by him, having a bag
He tears it from your shoulder
If you say something
He beats you
You may ask what happened to him
He tells you to go away
Saying the only one who cares about him is himself
He is not well
He suffers
Because nobody came to help him
Maybe someday he is in danger
Or he has nothing to eat
And he dies
Because nobody came to help him
You listen to me.
That is the street child’s life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Interesting Cultural Differences

A passion of mine is learning about people who live so different than the way I live. Culture is fascinating to me. This is a list I’ve made, just scratching the surface, of cultural differences I have encountered here in Rwanda:

*Men who are friends hold hands all the time – and yes they are just friends. Although I feel like I’m pretty adaptable and sensitive to cultural difference, this one is still hard for me to get use to because of the huge connotation of this practice in the states.

*The last name of a person isn’t actually a patriarchal family name, it is a name parents give the child based on the circumstances of the birth (Mukeshimana – meaning a promise from God). 
*Relating to this, many Rwandese names end with “imana” (meaning God) due to the prominence of Religion/Christianity here. 94% of Rwandans identify themselves with the Christian faith. Once Rwandans get baptized, they obtain a western, Christian name. (Mukeshimana Emmanuel).

*Pastors in Rwanda achieve a very high social status (and are paid very well), while in America (depending on the church and the area of America of course), pastors might not be paid so well and are not necessarily known as having a high-end job.

*Instead of nodding the head to indicate saying “yes”, Rwandans do a slight eyebrow raise and sometimes murmur “eh”. The eyebrow raise is so slight many Americans wouldn’t know that the Rwandan answered their question at all.

*Because people walk or ride motos everywhere in Rwanda, cars beep all the time to let people know they are there. Unlike the states, beeping is not considered rude; it is to make sure the hundreds of people walking next to the car don’t get run over.

*Rwandans (especially women) don’t run. Mostly they think it’s hilarious when they see us running. Something I still can’t figure out is that when they see you running, they will quite often run with you or after you. At first I thought they were making fun of me. However, as it happens more and more, I noticed they don’t really smile; they sometimes don’t even look at you; they literally just run with you. Is it because they feel they need to? Is it because they do actually want to make fun you? I still can’t figure this one out.

*When referring to the American way of life, our religion and culture professor, Pastor Antoine, says it perfectly; “Are you people human beings or human doings? In Africa we want you to come here to “be” not to “do”. We want to sit and talk and ask you about your life”

*In America, we get straight to the point when talking about something, or asking something. Rwandans (or Africans generally speaking), talk in circles. They will tell you a story, or talk around the subject before getting to the point. They beat around the bush. This is apart of the high context culture here. It is easy for Americans to get frustrated because in our culture we talk straightforward; we get straight to the point.

*As apart of African culture, if you are on the same level economically as someone else, you are loyal to one another. People in Rwanda feel that if they steal from a white person or a rich person, it is not sinful and it is not an issue. They are not on the rich person’s level, they have no loyalty to them, and they have money anyway, so what’s the big deal? The same goes for exploiting the poor.

*Men in Rwanda do not show public affection, because public affection is a sign of weakness. Men do not hold their wife’s hand or show affection to their children because Rwandan culture is very reserved in terms of affection, and they have very little terms of endearment. However in American culture, we are (very generally speaking) pretty outwardly affectionate. However, Americans still have the highest divorce rate in the world.

*Very contrary to America, Rwandese men conceptualize a beautiful woman as a very plump woman. They like their hips. And believe me, Rwandan women have hips.

*Because of the “elastic” concept of time, any event will go for 4 or 5 hours, it always starts about 2 hours late, and will go for as long as people stay. People will come when they want, they will stay for how long they want, and they will leave when they want. This can come as a shock to an American whose attention span is not use to lasting that long.

*Rwandan education is about the teacher telling you something (whether you understand it or not), and the student spitting back the information. The schools don’t stress thinking critically or thinking for yourself which is prominent in the American education system.

*In traditional African cultures, you do not marry your husband; you marry your husband and his whole family. When you go visit your husband’s family, his brother and his father and his cousins all call you “our wife”. This is apart of the communal life in Africa.
*Similarly in Rwanda, when two people get engaged, they have “community meetings” to plan their wedding. This is because a marriage is a community thing. It is not only between two people, it is between two people, their families and their communities.

Like i said, this list is simply 'scratching the surface'. I am learning new things about Rwandese culture every day, and most importantly why it is different. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

He Is Risen!

Happy Easter from the Go-ED House! 
A collection of our favorite African-made Easter attire. 

One of our favorite splurges at the Go-ED house is getting African fabric- made clothes at the nearest Market, Kimironko. The market is filled with fabrics and seamstresses, but we will always head to our favorite seamstress and friend, Josephine. She speaks awesome English and loves her Muzungu friends. 

This Easter was filled with amazing home-cooked food, egg tosses, an insane easter egg hunt, spoon races  a garage viewing of "The Passion of The Christ", egg coloring, family games, nose piercings, and a lot of redecorating in order to fit all of our family and friends. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Uganda and Rafting on The Nile

This past weekend was a 3AM wakeup to sing and make eggs in a basket for Arley's birthday face before our excursion to our brother country of Uganda. By 5AM we were on a big, crowded, hot and sweaty, 12 hour bus ride over the equator to Kampala, Uganda. Rural Uganda proved to be pretty similar to Rwanda. Similar landscape, house structures, and animals. However, very different people. If you read my last post, you would have learned that the Rwandan personality is a generally enclosed, and introverted. Contrastingly, Ugandans are generally loud, outgoing, and absolutely not afraid to say what they're feeling. We would hear a lot of "HEY i want to marry a muzungu!", "HAlloo i love youu", "Shakira!", and "My Size!" Not that we don't hear this in Rwanda, but they are a little louder about their feelings in Uganda.

Kampala was big, hot, dusty, polluted, crowded, trashed, and more developed than Kigali. Almost every night we were there we went to get ice cream at a small Italian ice cream shop called "Choi Choi". We were too excited about getting ice cream. Our guest house (the African equivalent to a hotel) had wheat bread for breakfast! Another thing we get a little too excited about over here in Africa. (You would be surprised at the foods like cereal that cost over 20 dollars in Rwanda). They also have absolutely no concept of skim milk. Everything is full cream, unpasteurized milk straight from the cow's utter. This one had some getting use to.

On Friday we walked all over Kampala - through the biggest market in Uganda, to the Friday market that makes our markets look like Walmart (I wanted to buy everything), to the biggest Mosc in Uganda (there is major Muslim influence in Uganda), and to the very well known Mekerere University. That night we went to an amazing Mexican restaurant and an outdoor traditional Ugandan dance show. This show included Ugandan drummers, singers, and dancers who love to shake their booties. Each dance and dance move in Ugandan (and generally everywhere in Africa) symbolizes a part of Ugandan culture and society (for example, their hand movements mainly symbolize the horns of a cow).

The next morning at 6:30AM we all pilled into into the white water rafting bus to trek out to the Nile River. They provided us with tea and coffee, Rolexes (an omelette rolled up in chapati - aka my new favorite), fresh fruit, helmets and life vests. Nicoya, Ali, Mikaela, Arley, Ryan, Rae and I jumped into our raft with our Ugandan guide Dave D. who saved my life about four times. Let's just say i now understand what drowning feels like. However this feeling was quickly recovered by the rush of excitement we felt every time we flipped. And yes, we flipped every time. While the goal in American white water rafting is to stay on the raft, the goal in African white water rafting is to flip the raft.

It's all a blur when it happens. First it seems like you're going to make it; then you see the wave rushing back in your direction and you know its over. The boat flips and all you feel is the power of the waves and the rapids swallowing you and forcing you to lose all sense of direction as you tumble as if you're in a washing machine. You try to pull yourself into a ball so it is easy to float to the top but you don't float to the top because the waves keep pulling you back under. You feel like your lungs won't be able to hold any longer and you feel like you will inhale half the nile river with the breath you need to take. After a time that feels way too long, the rapid is over and you can finally relax. However, because of the impact of the waves, you still feel like you're drowning and gasping for air.

As your trying to figure out what just happened, the kayakers come around and rescue the drowning people. As you hold onto their kayaks like you're swimming with dolphins, they bring you around to nearby rafts. Everyone is discombobulated. People are climbing and being pulled into random rafts. When the impact is over, everyone is traded back to their respective rafts. And then it is peaceful again. Whenever the rapids are over, the guides allow us to take our helmets off and swim around. The water is the perfect temperature; warm but refreshing.

Because class six rapids = death/suicide, we were obligated to raft over to land and walk around this rapid. It is incredible watching so much force and power crashing against each other and rushing down the river. We walked along the side of the rapid as Davey D. brought our raft around. The end of the class 6 rapid was the class 5 rapid. This was it. As we approached the wave, the only thing i can say to explain how i was feeling is "this was it". There wasn't too much thinking going on at this moment. Probably because i was peeing my pants. It was like rafting into a tsunami. We flipped before i knew what happened and the same powerful force came over me. I thought i was going to drown for the third time. This rapid was 10 times more intense than what i have described above. This rapid was my definite favorite. The excitement of the rapid had me shaking and coughing up the Nile River for the next 15 minutes.

You'd think i would have gotten use to the rapids each time. But it seemed as though they kept getting more dangerous. The waves would come over me and i would keep getting stuck underneath the raft. Not a fun place to be when the waves just keep gushing into your face. When i finally get out, i am still being dragged underneath the raft. Dave. D. rescued me once again.

After the six hours of rafting was over, they provided a big dinner for us and our sunkissed, sore bodies. It was much needed before our 2 hour trek back to Kampala.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Recently what I’ve been learning here in Rwanda is that what you see on the outside is not always what you find out on the inside. I am learning this especially with these boys that I tutor. On the outside, they are just dirty little schoolboys. At first I didn’t really look past that. I knew they were supposedly on the street stealing or doing drugs, but when I saw them, they seemed too young and innocent to do any of that; I was just their teacher. However, learning more about the boys and seeing them on house visits, I have started seeing that each of these boys has a story that would break anyone’s heart. Some boys sleep on the ground in their one room house (I can’t even really call it a house), some have AIDS, some boys sell themselves to get drugs, some boys steel at the market to get food for their family. Clearly these boys aren’t just the young innocent boys you see in the classroom.

I see this a lot with Rwanda as a whole. Rwandans are people who don’t show their emotions. On the outside everyone seems fine; however, on the inside people might be hurting. This phenomenon enhanced quite a lot with the end of the genocide. The pain and the hurt people have felt because of this mass murder get bottled up inside of them. People don’t talk about the genocide now. Secretly they are hurting, but on the outside they seem fine. The month of April (the month the genocide took place) is the one time Rwandans show their emotions regarding the genocide. They gather at the national stadium to mourn and let out the pain that has been bottled up all year long. This is the one time in the year they feel they are able to show how they have been hurting.

Not only do I see this pattern with the street boys and the genocide, but I see this pattern in every day conversation.
A normal greeting in Rwanda goes like this:
 “Mwatamutse Neza”  (Is the morning fine?)
“Mwatamutse” (goodmorning)
“Amakuru?” (How are you?)
“Ni Meza” (I am fine)

These words are spoken word – for – word every time two people greet.

Every time you greet someone with “Amakuru”, the responder always says “Ni Meza”, no matter how he/she really is feeling – kind of reminds me of American culture too. Same with the greeting “Bite” (what’s up?) – the responder always responds with “Nbjieza” (I’m good). As I am writing this, I am hearing Rwandans speak these words.

The same idea coincides with the architectural structures of developing Rwanda (in Kigali only). On the outside, the buildings look beautiful and interesting. However, on the inside, the building might not be so efficient, space –wise. Instead of the square, every-inch-used buildings we see in New York City, Kigali has different shaped buildings that take up a considerable amount of space compared to their efficiency. The buildings might look “fine” on the outside, but their infrastructure might not be “fine”. I am learning these sorts of ideas all the time as I am living in Rwanda.