Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Blessing for a Blessing (Part 1)

Mugisha: his name means "blessing"

I want a wheelchair for Christmas.

I want Mugisha to have access to an education.

I want Mugisha to look people in the eye.

I don't want Mugisha to spend one more day crawling in the dirt.

Do you?

So what's the cost for changing a life? 

Four hundred bucks.

Twenty dollars from twenty people.

And Mugisha gets a wheelchair for Christmas.

A blessing for a "blessing."

And if you're the generous kind, you already know that by blessing him, twenty dollars is nothing compared to the abundant blessings you'll get in return.

So who are my twenty? Actually, nineteen. I'm already in. 

Are you?

UPDATE: Mugisha--AND Ngabo--have wheelchairs! Read part 2!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Come with Me to the UCC

While visiting the beautiful country of Rwanda, you see people in need and wonder what you can do to make a real difference. The best I could come up with was handing out candy to kids. But Frederick Ndabaramiye and Zachary Dusingizimana, on the other hand, are two native Rwandans moving mountains in the Land of a Thousand Hills.

Although I had heard about the Ubumwe Community Center (UCC) for years, I was still blown away when I visited the center in person. We passed it by the first time, my husband noting, “Wow, that place is nice.” Backing up to enter the gates, we saw manicured landscaping, and more beautiful were the people who greeted us as we stepped out of the vehicle. They were all so eager to welcome the fish-out-of-water Americans to the community that had welcomed them. 

Nshuti, showing us head, eyes, ears, nose, mouth . . .
We met Nshuti who had lost both parents and was now cared for by his elderly grandmother. We were introduced to a five-year-old boy who, every day, crosses the border from the Democratic Republic of the Congo with his seven-year-old “big” sister; she drops him off at the center on her way to school. And we sat in the classroom with brilliant deaf children eager to converse—if only they could teach their inept American students how to speak their complex language.

Sewing class teacher, also "handicapped"

In Rwanda, a person with a physical or mental handicap typically is left to lead the life of a beggar. Fortunately, the UCC's co-founder, Frederick, doesn't believe in “disabilities.” Instead, the UCC embraces those who Frederick calls "people like me" and offers hands-on workshops that teach marketable skills, such as sewing, banana-leaf crafting, and knitting. During the trip, we later visited a small shop started by graduates of the UCC, where we bought an African tunic, dresses, and other souvenirs. Because of the UCC, these once-dismissed members of society are now business owners.

At the community center, deaf children attend class and have a teacher who takes them to “normal” schools in the afternoon. There’s a classroom for mentally challenged children, where a loving instructor guides them to learn vocabulary and math. There are outreach programs that make home visits to those who are homebound and sometimes neglected by family. Zachary explained that many times they just need soap or clothes or someone to talk to. Every member of the community center gets a daily lunch too. 

Most importantly, though, these once social outcasts have found a home at the Ubumwe Community Center, a place where they are surrounded by “people like me.”

Frederick with the new preschool, under construction

The newest project for the UCC is the construction of a preschool, where up to 100 “disabled” children and children of those already a part of UCC will receive free education and be integrated with “normal” children at an earlier age. Zachary feels that this will help both the challenged and mainstream students to accept one another more easily in the long run. 

If you have ever wanted to truly make a difference but didn't know where to start, start here or here.

I've seen it. 

It’s real. 

And you can be a part of it.

I have no doubt that they’ll find a way without our help. But do you really want them to?

Like the Ubumwe Community Center's Facebook page for updates on the center.