2016 MISSION TRIP
Shelter Them Visit to Rwanda – 2016
Last November, 13 Shelter Them supporters from Newfoundland, Ontario and Oklahoma traveled to Kigali to get a first hand look at the valuable work being done by the Shelter Them staff in Rwanda. It was a busy, at times tiring, visit for the group, but everyone returned home invigorated and uplifted by the remarkable work being done by our workers in Rwanda. Led by Jules Higiro, Country Director, and Bright Kagarama, Program Coordinator, staff on the ground are doing an extraordinary job on our behalf for needy children and families in Rwanda.
As on previous visits, our trip began with a visit to the Genocide Memorial, a heart-wrenching reminder of the violence and horror experienced by Rwandans in their past. But it also gave context to the work being done by Shelter Them. The effects of the genocide are still visible even after over 20 years, but enormous progress has been made, especially in the lives of the children and families we support.
Over the next two days, we traveled by bus from Kigali to a village in Bugasera District, an impoverished area about two hours from Kigali. When he visited Canada in 2015, Rwandan President Paul Kagame donated to Shelter Them a five-acre plot of land in the community, and our group came to show our support for the people there. Local community workers had selected the six neediest families in the village, and on our first visit we delivered food to those six families, as well as clothing that had been donated by supporters in Canada. On our second visit, we delivered a truckload of food to be shared among all members of the village. As well, we distributed 35 goats that had been purchased by Shelter Them. Goats are very valuable in Rwanda, for they offer people an opportunity to earn money through breeding or by selling meat. The celebration that day in the local community centre was one of the most joyous events of our trip.
Most of our time for the remainder of the trip was spent in Kigali. We visited the homes of children and families that Shelter Them supports. Contributions made by sponsors and supporters of Shelter Them provide shelter, food, clothing, education and health coverage for the children in our care. We visited all of the eight homes we provide in Kigali. They are very basic by North American standards, but we could see how happy the children were to have a home where they were safe and cared for. It was a joy to spend time with them. We cheered on the boys in a local soccer tournament, took all the children to a local amusement park, went shopping for shoes, and just hung out and played.
To see how they are thriving, and to know the circumstances they were in before Shelter Them changed their lives was an incredibly gratifying experience.
There were many tears shed at the airport when we had to fly back home, but we were all grateful to have had the opportunity that not everyone can have, to have seen first hand how, through our support for Shelter Them, we are changing lives. It was a remarkable experience.