Monday, August 17, 2009
Susan has done amazing things in Rwanda. I am sure that it comes as no surprise that she moved beyond her original plan and has helped many others with their dreams. The Center of Hope is but one, and it was a moving experience to go to the school and meet Maria, the founder and director. This amazing woman created a school with no idea how it would be funded but knew she had to help the children of Rwanda, many who are orphaned. I was struck by how she understands the emotional component of helping these kids succeed. With the loss of so much family and so many friends in the genocide, they lack the confidence and positive outlook on life that usually exists in young folks their age. My big worry is about the school’s continued funding. Maria needs to align with partners in Rwanda that can support her mission, and also file for the charity status she needs, for US citizens to comfortably contribute to the school (we all want our charitable giving tax deduction).
On another note, we are now on our African travel adventure. Yesterday we left Kigali for the mountains to go on our Mountain Gorilla trek. On the way, we stopped at the farm and store of Gerard, who established a program to help the local villages learn to farm and then have a vehicle for selling their produce to him, which he sells at this store. This seems to be a meeting place for the community and we were fortunate enough to arrive just in time for a traditional Rwanda dance performance by a group of young Rwanda men and women. We were the only Muzungo (white folks) present among the crowd of 100+ people. A few minutes into the performance, one of the male dancers came over to us and tried to pull us in to dance. Susan and Luanne begged off but I love to dance so had another very special experience. All the little children were giggling – not sure if it was because they had never seen a Muzungo dance or if perhaps my dance resembled Elaine’s, from Seinfeld. We were happy to arrive at the guest house after a bit of a stressful drive on bad country roads. I have driven with Susan many times over the years, but I must tell you she has now developed her skills to a new level. She can now come within an inch of clipping another car, bike or pedestrian with confidence. She really fits right in with fellow Rwandan drivers.
Visiting the Gorillas - what an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. There are several Gorilla families residing in different areas of the Virunga range and the park strictly manages all human contact. With only a limited number of visitors allowed each day, we had to get our passes in March to be able to visit today. Once we hiked in, we got to spend one hour with the Gorillas. I think this now must be part of their daily routine and just like people, may or may not be in the mood for visitors. My Gorilla family was acting a bit illusive today, while the family Susan and Luanne met practically invited them into their living room. Viewing them near or far, is an awe inspiring experience. It makes me incredibly grateful to the guides, Gorilla trackers who follow the Gorilla families all day as their protectors, and the park rangers with the AK-47s, for preserving this natural gift.