P4 Blog 


Scott Oldebeken Gina Campagna Clayton Jordan Samantha Richman

The P4 Team - Scott, Gina, Clayton & Sam - 
will be blogging their experience online during their trip. 
Check back frequently for alternating blogs from the team members.

Bob HansenBlogs from Bob Hansen as he continues the trip.... 

Saturday, June 7, 2008
Bob

In about twelve hours, I take a plane that circles around Mt. Kilimanjaro before heading to the U.S. via Amsterdam and Detroit, so this will be my final blog entry.

The last day of a trip/adventure like this always causes one to think about what was experienced, what was learned and what will be remembered.  Beginning at 4 am this morning, this process started for me.  Somehow the scattered thoughts began to organize themselves around the theme of "what has become commonplace".  Here are a few of those thoughts about what was once different and maybe strange but is now relatively ordinary:

  1. Feeling very white.  No matter how much I become accustomed to being here, and no matter how much I forget about color, my "whiteness" is obvious.  Usually it takes the form of kids calling me "muzungu" (white person), or kids in the villages scared of seeing a person of my color for the first time, or by stares of adults who are genuinely curious about me and those with whom I am traveling.  I've accepted the fact that I'm an outsider and it has given me a deeper appreciation for how others must feel in our culture when they are different in some way.  Feeling white, and different, has become commonplace.
     
  2. Although the stories vary from village to village, the themes are almost always the same as we discuss health care - the distance to the closest clinic, the inability to pay for medicine or treatment, the acute vulnerability of women and children, and the relationship between poverty and quality of health.  We've added questions to our surveys and focus groups; questions like:  how many of you have given birth on your way to the health clinic? (often women give birth at home but when complications arise, they often walk, or in some cases bicycle (!) hours and even days to the nearest clinic); how many days did it take you to travel to get an x-ray for a broken bone?  are you able to pay the $2 health insurance fee per year for each family member? (in a non-cash economy, more than half of the villagers we interviewed were unable to pay this amount...this usually resulted in keeping sick and/or injured family members home, without any medicine or health care).  Hearing very sad stories about the lack of health care has become, unfortunately, commonplace.
     
  3. "Can you help _____ go to school this term?" has become a common question.  Your heart goes out to kids who can't afford to go to primary school and to those who want to attend secondary school.  Even the cost of uniforms, tablets and pencils is too much for many families to afford.  You want to help them all but the numbers of kids with these needs are overwhelming...and paralyzing.  
     
  4. On a lighter side, there are other things that have become commonplace:
    - waking up each morning to the "call to prayers" at the local mosques...beautiful but usually around 5 am.
    - waking up and wondering where I am...I've had 13 different beds in 13 different locations
    - waking up and praying for lukewarm water for a shower...sometimes just praying for running water
    - beans and rice
    - fantasies of ice cream....especially pecan cluster blizzards at DQ
    - using computer keyboards that have different letters/symbols or that feel like someone has stuck gum between the keys
    - washing my clothes by hand in a tub or sink and realizing that there's no way to get the orange-ish colored dirt stains off of them
    - praying that my Cardinals are still in contention.

That's all from here (Tanzania).  I thank all of you who have been so supportive of this project, especially the Projects for Peace initiative.  A special hello to Scott, Gina, Clayton and Samantha who were wonderful colleagues on a special mission, and to my Fight for the Children teammates - Brad, Kathryn and Denise - who have been such great travel companions.  And, of course, a big hug to my family and friends who have been with me in spirit throughout this adventure.

Having received more than I've given,     Bob


Monday, June 2, 2008
Bob

Arusha, Tanzania is usually the jumping off location for expeditions to Mt. Kilimanjaro but for us (Fight for the Children) it has been our intermittent "home" between trips to Maasailand as we visit with Maasai elders, doctors in remote health posts and government officials.  Our visits have included sitting in Maasai bomas while visiting a 90 year old elder, hiking in the savannah where we came across a herd of 10 giraffes, discussing health care needs with Maasai women who often walk 10-20 miles to be seen by a health care worker, visiting a cattle watering hole where herd after herd are shepherded by the young Maasai boys each day, discussing the challenges of serving the Maasai with a 15-year missionary doctor, and listening to the stories of young Maasai men who are straddling two cultures as they fight to retain their cultural traditions while seeking an education.

The primary health problems in this area are malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, eye problems, HIV and worms.  For some of these problems, the Maasai have herbal medicines that work well; however, for others (like HIV - "the new disease that has invaded our land"), western medicine is their only hope.

We have worked closely with the Maasai Women's Development Organization and they have graciously given us their landcruiser, driver and a young Maasai man named Luca to translate for us.  We are forever grateful to them and to Maggie Hiza, USAID professional in Tanzania (and mother of Westminster student, Mark Hiza) for their help.

Today, we take a break and go to Ngoragora, a crater in the Serengheti where we will camp and look for the "big 5" animals.  I'm looking forward to returning home this weekend, seeing my family and beginning the next phase of our work in East Africa.  Peace to all.


Saturday, May 31, 2008
Bob

Sorry about the delay in sending a blog update...we have been in some remote areas without computers...also electricity and water.  I'm now in Longido, Tanzania with the Fight for the Children team where we exploring possible projects in Maasailand. 

Mt. Kilimanjaro has been hiding behind clouds since our arrival three days ago but Mt. Mehru, the 5th tallest mountain in Africa, has showed itself a number of times.  We may climb Mt. Longido tomorrow, a very large non-volcanic mountain that the people say still has elephants living on its flat top.
 
The Maasai's challenges remind me of those faced by our Native Americans - how to hold tight to traditions, rituals, and family while being exposed to the modern (not necessarily more civilized) world.  We have spent time in their bomas (homesteads) and with groups of women to hear about their health care needs.  Earlier today, we met with a cooperative group of Maasai women who have formed a crafts cooperative in order to gain some economic freedom and enough money to feed and seek health care for their children.
 
At the conclusion of our "focus group", they danced and sang us a song...what beautiful sights and sounds that I'll remember a long time.  Yesterday we drove an hour into the bush to visit a very remote health center run by the same clinical officer for 24 years.  Along the way we encountered a herd of giraffes, antelope, and ostriches...but our hope of seeing elephants and zebras will have to wait for another day.
 
That's all for now.  This computer is being powered by a solar collector and there are others who would like to contact their families and friends back home.   Mahoro! (Peace in Kinyarwandan).   

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bob

It's been a day since Gina, Samantha, Clayton and Scott took off from Kibungo to meet their flight from Kigali back to Kansas City.  Westminster College should be very proud of these students - they were absolutely outstanding "goodwill ambassadors" for our campus, our community and for our country. 

They worked very hard - conducting health needs assessments in remote villages and working with community leaders.  They did this 24/7 and they should be tired, real tired, when they arrive home.  What I really appreciate about their contributions here is the way they did it...with real cultural sensitivity, a good sense of humor, and a passion for their work.  I couldn't have asked for a better team of co-workers on this project. 
 
Since they left, I've had a few experiences that I wish they could have shared with me.  Yesterday I was mobbed by 300 kids in a village that is praying for medical help for their kids.  The village leaders put out the word that we were coming to visit and they were waiting...boy were they waiting!  They treated us to songs and speeches by community leaders, then a tour of their clinic site...a foundation that was built by the town.  They broke and carried 500+ tons of rock to this site and established the foundation for this center which looked big enough to be a small hospital.
 
Today, the mayor of Ngoma District drove us to Gashonda, a remote sector with no health care services.  This site looks especially promising for a Fight for the Children "health post" and we are excited to begin working on this plan.  On the way back to Kibungo town, the mayor suddenly turned off the road on to what looked to be a small path.  The "road" led to a coffee processing plant way down in a valley.  We received a tour of the place and were shown the ingenious way that they process the beans.  The fact that the mayor took most of his day to drive us is a good indication of his level of support for our project.
 
Tomorrow we leave for the grand opening of the Center for Champions, a residential facility for 600 street kids.  Then, we'll fly to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania where we continue to work on a project in the Maasai area.
 

P4 Team
Group Reflection

Clayton, Gina, Scott & Sam

It has been a very busy and successful 15 days here in Rwanda, and we cannot even believe how quickly our time here has gone by.  We started out not really knowing one another all that well (including Bob), but quickly became best of friends, sharing everything with one another (including a bed [Gina and Sam], embarrassing moments, the solid club, medication [thanks to Dr. Jordan], and toilet paper).  We certainly established relationships that will last a lifetime.  Clayton has already made it clear that when we pass one another on campus, we are to greet one another in traditional Kinyarwanda form!

In our short time here, we have met with numerous government officials and ministers, as well as Rwandan citizens and business owners.  We solidified the Fulton/Callaway County – Kibungo sister-city partnership, acting as good-will ambassadors throughout the trip.   We also met extensively to discuss the future children and women’s clinic that will be built in Kibungo under Fight for the Children, and began all of the initial planning.   In addition to the business aspects of the trip, we got to spend an afternoon at Lake Muhazi, go on an African safari, watch surgical procedures, visit Rusumo Falls, the returnee (refugee) camp, the genocide memorial, and the orphanage.  We had traditional African clothes made from fabric we purchased at the Kibungo market, and also purchased many African crafts.

Upon returning to the states, we will further the sister-city partnership (with churches, schools, etc) telling the “Kibungo story” to Callaway County.  We will also begin the fundraising process that will involve the entire Fulton and Callaway County communities to raise funds and support for the children and women’s clinic.  We very much look forward to the exciting work that lies ahead!      

This has certainly been a life-changing experience that has affected us all in a very positive manner.  We have grown to love Rwanda, including its beautiful landscapes and extremely friendly people, and will miss it immensely.  We will all have Rwanda in our hearts forever, and have undoubtedly made future plans for an eventual return trip.


Clayton Jordan
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Clayton

We didn’t have breakfast until 8:00AM this morning, which allowed all of us to get a little bit of extra sleep.  This was very much appreciated since a lot of us will not get much sleep on the long journey home. 

The realization has finally set in that this is our last full day in Africa, and it is quite unanimous that will miss Rwanda and all of our new friends here tremendously.  However, we have gathered many e-mail addresses to stay in contact, and all have Rwanda somewhere in our future plans.

After breakfast here at the Anglican Diocese, the four of us students hopped into Nancy’s landcruiser with her and Valens (her translator) and headed for the Rwanda/Tanzanian border to the South.  It was about a one hour drive one way, but it was by the far the most picturesque and magnificent of all of our road trips.  To our left and right, the gorgeous Rwandan landscape accompanied us; very large rolling hills (small mountains really) one after another, we could see for miles around.  The landscape was greatly complemented by the beautiful blue sky with stunning cloud formations.  Finally we arrived at our destination:  Rusumo Falls!

We jumped out of the car and anxiously made our way to the bridge that essentially separates Rwanda from Tanzania.  As we got near, the intense roar of the water dominated.  The falls were absolutely breathtaking!  On one side of the bridge, a large river leading to the falls supplied the jagged, rocky drop that made up the falls themselves.  On the other side, an enormous river rapidly flowing made its way through a large canyon.  I can only imagine the inexhaustible volume of water that flows down the fall in a single second; the power was enormous!  The mist created by the powerful flow of water over the rocks was great enough to reach us way up high on the bridge.  At one point, the sun produced a striking rainbow in the vapor.  After admiring the falls and taking many pictures and videos, we walked into Tanzania, and then back to the car.

Upon returning to Kibungo, we had lunch with Valens at the Umbrella Café.  An afternoon rainstorm unleashed on us during our walk back to the Anglican Diocese from lunch.  Although we got a little wet, we thoroughly enjoyed and welcomed the storm’s beauty and sound.  It rained exceptionally hard, but was quick to end.  This afternoon we finalized our trip as a group: wrote thank you cards to everyone, began packing for home (trying to figure out how in the world we’re all getting our souvenirs back!), and downloaded all of our trip’s pictures that everyone took onto DVDs so that we can all bring everyone’s pictures home.

Tonight we all hopped on the back of motorcycle taxis (individually) and headed to Nancy’s for our final dinner in Rwanda.  Clementine, her cook, made us exceptionally good pizza and banana bread, so we certainly enjoyed a small taste of home.  Tonight we are packing, and both physically and mentally preparing ourselves for the very long journey home.  We will have an early breakfast Sunday morning, and will then head to Kigali (a two hour drive) immediately to be dropped off at the airport.  Even though we will be living in airports and airplanes for about 2.5 days straight (we are quite experienced at this point!), we gain 7 hours flying back, so we’re going to experience a little bit of time travel.  We leave Amsterdam at 8:00AM and arrive into Detroit at 10:40AM on the same day!   Although it seems like this is only a 2 hour and 40 minute flight, it is actually almost 9 hours.     

We are extremely sad to be leaving this beautiful, wonderful, and friendly country, but at the same time are very excited to bring all of our positive experiences back to the states to share with everyone and begin the second half of this project (all of the fundraising).  



Gina Campagna
Friday, May 23, 2008
Gina

Today we awoke with what seemed like a very strange realization; it would be our last full day of work here in Rwanda.  We’ve been working so hard the past two weeks that time has truly flown by.  We are all pretty blown away by the fast that tomorrow we will be packing our bags and will be on a plane flying home come Sunday afternoon.  Although I’m pretty sure boys wouldn’t appreciate my saying this…we’re starting to get a little emotional and sentimental about the thought of leaving.  We’ve loved it here!  Plans are already in the works for us to return sometime hopefully in the near future. 

The first thing we did today was get up extra early and have a big meeting after breakfast so that our group could collaborate with Dr. Berg and Kathryn Morgan.  We spent an hour discussing our group’s activities and progress of the past few weeks, and we also listened to some of Brad and Kathryn’s insights and thoughts of the project thus far.  We are so happy to have finally met them and have them here since we are quickly reaching the point where some major decisions are going to have to be made about the project and potential clinic.  They are definitely going to be the brains behind a lot of this… and it is so awesome to have such accomplished and dedicated individuals around to help make sense of all we’ve seen and learned since being here in Rwanda.  In all honesty, our heads we beginning to spin as we talked day after day about what we really needed to do in order to help this area the best we possibly can.  Brad and Kathryn have definitely “been there and done that” and so we have no doubt that things are going to be on the up-and-up from here!           

After our group meeting, Bob spent the morning with Brad and Kathryn since it was their first full day in Kibungo.  Most of their time was spent meeting and talking with local officers such as the Kibungo hospital director (similar to many of the things that our group has done over the last few weeks).  Brad and Kathryn, with Bob’s help, are quickly learning the “who” and “what” of Kibungo. 

The four of us students spent the morning at a village that is in a different sector (town) than Kibungo and we conducted one final health needs assessment there.  We toured about nine different homes, visiting with the families while asking them the same health-related questions we’ve been asking all along.  Many of the answers we got we got were right on track with those from previous surveys.  Consistency is a much appreciated thing with the type of work we’re trying to do!  Overall it was a great visit. 

After lunch at the Anglican Diocese, the two groups spent the afternoon together at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage.  After Gina and Sam’s visit there last week, they had wanted to take the boys with them on a second trip to play with the children. The boys came this time, along with everyone else!  The group spent an hour and a half at the orphanage and had an absolute blast!  The trip ended on a great note as the older children performed some songs and dances for our group!  They were amazing (as was Bob… who was standing on the sidelines imitating their every move!)  Like most of the people we’ve met here in Rwanda, the children welcomed us with open arms and big smiles, and it was very hard to say goodbye to them.  I think everyone in the group agreed that the trip to the orphanage was one of the best things we could have done in our last days here.  The children there truly know how to make anyone smile. 

Tonight, our group will enjoy a wonderful “farewell” dinner with the entire staff of the Anglican Diocese that we’ve been working so closely with.  They’re awesome people, and the food should be awesome also (by far…. Clayton and I are the group members who enjoy eating the most!)  It should be a wonderful evening.  It’ s hard to believe it, but our trip really is almost over.


Scott OldebekenThursday,  May 22, 2008
Scott

We left at 6:45am to go to Kigali for a meeting with the US Ambassador to Rwanda. We were all very exhausted on the way there. We met Dr. Brad Berg, Founder of Fight for the Children, and Katherine, Executive Director of FFTC at the US Embassy. They will be coming back to Kibungo with us for the remainder of our stay in Rwanda.

Visiting the Embassy was a vivid reminder of life in America. The property is a huge compound of white slab buildings and nicely paved driveways (not at all native to Rwanda), with a long and thorough security check point involving two metal detectors and a passport ID check.  The grounds are covered in sharply trimmed hedges and beautiful plants, both native and foreign to Rwanda. Once in the main building, we were greeted by a US Marine, in full uniform and were directed to a large meeting room to wait for the Ambassador, which gave us a little time to plan strategic questions since this was the first spare moment we had with Dr. Berg and Katherine.

The Ambassador was a tall man in his later middle age with a confident tone and strong intellect on a barrage of topics, most important to us; coordinating US government, Rwandan government, and NGO efforts. We also focused on abiding with the Rwandan Ministry of Health’s national goals for health clinics, which we had some firsthand knowledge of from our previous meeting with the Secretary General of the Ministry of Health a few days earlier.  Overall, the Ambassador offered a very straight forward and knowledgeable view on all things related to national Rwandan health care.  Once again, this is a great example of the wonderful and valuable contacts that Nancy (Fulton native and Rwandan missionary), Dr. Hansen, and Rev. Ernest (Director of Development at the Kibungo-Anglican Diocese) have worked hard to obtain for Fight for the Children and the Callaway/ Kibungo sister city partnership.
 

Samantha Richman
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Sam

Breakfast was at the same time as usual and the day started out with another trip to the hospital.  Gina, Clayton, and Scott watched surgeries while Bob and I shadowed the pediatric ward.  

The pediatric ward was very overwhelming.  Patients were separated into three rooms.  The first room was full of patients with unknown conditions, the second with patients being treated with familiar illnesses, and the third was the smallest, specializing in malnutrition.  There was one child in the malnutrition room who was not only suffering from this condition, but also HIV.  The doctors sent away test results that would confirm or deny the presence of AIDS.  If the results came back positive, the doctors estimated that the malnourished boy would have 3 months to live.  Ninety percent of the beds in the pediatric ward were full of mothers sitting with their children, with looks on their faces only a mother could understand.It has been a very busy and successful 15 days here in Rwanda, and we cannot even believe how quickly our time here has gone by.  We started out not really knowing one another all that well (including Bob), but quickly became best of friends, sharing everything with one another (including a bed [Gina and Sam], embarrassing moments, the solid club, medication [thanks to Dr. Jordan], and toilet paper).  We certainly established relationships that will last a lifetime.  Clayton has already made it clear that when we pass one another on campus, we are to greet one another in traditional Kinyarwanda form!In our short time here, we have met with numerous government officials and ministers, as well as Rwandan citizens and business owners.  We solidified the Fulton/Callaway County – Kibungo sister-city partnership, acting as good-will ambassadors throughout the trip.   We also met extensively to discuss the future children and women’s clinic that will be built in Kibungo under Fight for the Children, and began all of the initial planning.   In addition to the business aspects of the trip, we got to spend an afternoon at Lake Muhazi, go on an African safari, watch surgical procedures, visit Rusumo Falls, the returnee (refugee) camp, the genocide memorial, and the orphanage.  We had traditional African clothes made from fabric we purchased at the Kibungo market, and also purchased many African crafts.Upon returning to the states, we will further the sister-city partnership (with churches, schools, etc) telling the “Kibungo story” to Callaway County.  We will also begin the fundraising process that will involve the entire Fulton and Callaway County communities to raise funds and support for the children and women’s clinic.  We very much look forward to the exciting work that lies ahead!       This has certainly been a life-changing experience that has affected us all in a very positive manner.  We have grown to love Rwanda, including its beautiful landscapes and extremely friendly people, and will miss it immensely.  We will all have Rwanda in our hearts forever, and have undoubtedly made future plans for an eventual return trip. We didn’t have breakfast until 8:00AM this morning, which allowed all of us to get a little bit of extra sleep.  This was very much appreciated since a lot of us will not get much sleep on the long journey home.  The realization has finally set in that this is our last full day in Africa, and it is quite unanimous that will miss Rwanda and all of our new friends here tremendously.  However, we have gathered many e-mail addresses to stay in contact, and all have Rwanda somewhere in our future plans.After breakfast here at the Anglican Diocese, the four of us students hopped into Nancy’s landcruiser with her and Valens (her translator) and headed for the Rwanda/Tanzanian border to the South.  It was about a one hour drive one way, but it was by the far the most picturesque and magnificent of all of our road trips.  To our left and right, the gorgeous Rwandan landscape accompanied us; very large rolling hills (small mountains really) one after another, we could see for miles around.  The landscape was greatly complemented by the beautiful blue sky with stunning cloud formations.  Finally we arrived at our destination:  Rusumo Falls!We jumped out of the car and anxiously made our way to the bridge that essentially separates Rwanda from Tanzania.  As we got near, the intense roar of the water dominated.  The falls were absolutely breathtaking!  On one side of the bridge, a large river leading to the falls supplied the jagged, rocky drop that made up the falls themselves.  On the other side, an enormous river rapidly flowing made its way through a large canyon.  I can only imagine the inexhaustible volume of water that flows down the fall in a single second; the power was enormous!  The mist created by the powerful flow of water over the rocks was great enough to reach us way up high on the bridge.  At one point, the sun produced a striking rainbow in the vapor.  After admiring the falls and taking many pictures and videos, we walked into Tanzania, and then back to the car.Upon returning to Kibungo, we had lunch with Valens at the Umbrella Café.  An afternoon rainstorm unleashed on us during our walk back to the Anglican Diocese from lunch.  Although we got a little wet, we thoroughly enjoyed and welcomed the storm’s beauty and sound.  It rained exceptionally hard, but was quick to end.  This afternoon we finalized our trip as a group: wrote thank you cards to everyone, began packing for home (trying to figure out how in the world we’re all getting our souvenirs back!), and downloaded all of our trip’s pictures that everyone took onto DVDs so that we can all bring everyone’s pictures home.Tonight we all hopped on the back of motorcycle taxis (individually) and headed to Nancy’s for our final dinner in Rwanda.  Clementine, her cook, made us exceptionally good pizza and banana bread, so we certainly enjoyed a small taste of home.  Tonight we are packing, and both physically and mentally preparing ourselves for the very long journey home.  We will have an early breakfast Sunday morning, and will then head to Kigali (a two hour drive) immediately to be dropped off at the airport.  Even though we will be living in airports and airplanes for about 2.5 days straight (we are quite experienced at this point!), we gain 7 hours flying back, so we’re going to experience a little bit of time travel.  We leave Amsterdam at 8:00AM and arrive into Detroit at 10:40AM on the same day!   Although it seems like this is only a 2 hour and 40 minute flight, it is actually almost 9 hours.      We are extremely sad to be leaving this beautiful, wonderful, and friendly country, but at the same time are very excited to bring all of our positive experiences back to the states to share with everyone and begin the second half of this project (all of the fundraising).   Today we awoke with what seemed like a very strange realization; it would be our last full day of work here in Rwanda.  We’ve been working so hard the past two weeks that time has truly flown by.  We are all pretty blown away by the fast that tomorrow we will be packing our bags and will be on a plane flying home come Sunday afternoon.  Although I’m pretty sure boys wouldn’t appreciate my saying this…we’re starting to get a little emotional and sentimental about the thought of leaving.  We’ve loved it here!  Plans are already in the works for us to return sometime hopefully in the near future.  The first thing we did today was get up extra early and have a big meeting after breakfast so that our group could collaborate with Dr. Berg and Kathryn Morgan.  We spent an hour discussing our group’s activities and progress of the past few weeks, and we also listened to some of Brad and Kathryn’s insights and thoughts of the project thus far.  We are so happy to have finally met them and have them here since we are quickly reaching the point where some major decisions are going to have to be made about the project and potential clinic.  They are definitely going to be the brains behind a lot of this… and it is so awesome to have such accomplished and dedicated individuals around to help make sense of all we’ve seen and learned since being here in Rwanda.  In all honesty, our heads we beginning to spin as we talked day after day about what we really needed to do in order to help this area the best we possibly can.  Brad and Kathryn have definitely “been there and done that” and so we have no doubt that things are going to be on the up-and-up from here!            After our group meeting, Bob spent the morning with Brad and Kathryn since it was their first full day in Kibungo.  Most of their time was spent meeting and talking with local officers such as the Kibungo hospital director (similar to many of the things that our group has done over the last few weeks).  Brad and Kathryn, with Bob’s help, are quickly learning the “who” and “what” of Kibungo.  The four of us students spent the morning at a village that is in a different sector (town) than Kibungo and we conducted one final health needs assessment there.  We toured about nine different homes, visiting with the families while asking them the same health-related questions we’ve been asking all along.  Many of the answers we got we got were right on track with those from previous surveys.  Consistency is a much appreciated thing with the type of work we’re trying to do!  Overall it was a great visit.  After lunch at the Anglican Diocese, the two groups spent the afternoon together at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage.  After Gina and Sam’s visit there last week, they had wanted to take the boys with them on a second trip to play with the children. The boys came this time, along with everyone else!  The group spent an hour and a half at the orphanage and had an absolute blast!  The trip ended on a great note as the older children performed some songs and dances for our group!  They were amazing (as was Bob… who was standing on the sidelines imitating their every move!)  Like most of the people we’ve met here in Rwanda, the children welcomed us with open arms and big smiles, and it was very hard to say goodbye to them.  I think everyone in the group agreed that the trip to the orphanage was one of the best things we could have done in our last days here.  The children there truly know how to make anyone smile.  Tonight, our group will enjoy a wonderful “farewell” dinner with the entire staff of the Anglican Diocese that we’ve been working so closely with.  They’re awesome people, and the food should be awesome also (by far…. Clayton and I are the group members who enjoy eating the most!)  It should be a wonderful evening.  It’ s hard to believe it, but our trip really is almost over.We left at 6:45am to go to Kigali for a meeting with the US Ambassador to Rwanda. We were all very exhausted on the way there. We met Dr. Brad Burg, Founder of Fight for the Children, and Katherine, Executive Director of FFTC at the US Embassy. They will be coming back to Kibungo with us for the remainder of our stay in Rwanda. Visiting the Embassy was a vivid reminder of life in America. The property is a huge compound of white slab buildings and nicely paved driveways (not at all native to Rwanda), with a long and thorough security check point involving two metal detectors and a passport ID check.  The grounds are covered in sharply trimmed hedges and beautiful plants, both native and foreign to Rwanda. Once in the main building, we were greeted by a US Marine, in full uniform and were directed to a large meeting room to wait for the Ambassador, which gave us a little time to plan strategic questions since this was the first spare moment we had with Dr. Berg and Katherine. The Ambassador was a tall man in his later middle age with a confident tone and strong intellect on a barrage of topics, most important to us; coordinating US government, Rwandan government, and NGO efforts. We also focused on abiding with the Rwandan Ministry of Health’s national goals for health clinics, which we had some firsthand knowledge of from our previous meeting with the Secretary General of the Ministry of Health a few days earlier.  Overall, the Ambassador offered a very straight forward and knowledgeable view on all things related to national Rwandan health care.  Once again, this is a great example of the wonderful and valuable contacts that Nancy (Fulton native and Rwandan missionary), Dr. Hansen, and Rev. Ernest (Director of Development at the Kibungo-Anglican Diocese) have worked hard to obtain for Fight for the Children and the Callaway/ Kibungo sister city partnership.  Breakfast was at the same time as usual and the day started out with another trip to the hospital.  Gina, Clayton, and Scott watched surgeries while Bob and I shadowed the pediatric ward.  The pediatric ward was very overwhelming.  Patients were separated into three rooms.  The first room was full of patients with unknown conditions, the second with patients being treated with familiar illnesses, and the third was the smallest, specializing in malnutrition.  There was one child in the malnutrition room who was not only suffering from this condition, but also HIV.  The doctors sent away test results that would confirm or deny the presence of AIDS.  If the results came back positive, the doctors estimated that the malnourished boy would have 3 months to live.  Ninety percent of the beds in the pediatric ward were full of mothers sitting with their children, with looks on their faces only a mother could understand.

Gina watched two surgeries while Clayton and Scott witnessed three.  In the surgeries, Gina, Clayton, and Scott were very shocked to discover the doctor’s excitement of having them film and take photos of the procedures in great detail.  In the middle of a stomach rupture procedure, a Mongolian doctor exposed the wound and said, “picture!, picture!, picture!,” while pushing the intestines aside to allow the students to take a photo.  This was clearly the only word he knew in English, as Clayton says.  The next procedure they watched involved the internal fixation of a tibial and fibular fracture.  The last procedure, only Clayton and Scott witnessed, was a baby delivered via a Caesarian Section.  This was a very fast procedure with a quick cut, and a baby being pulled out in a matter of four minutes.

After visiting the pediatric ward and the private pediatric ward, for the patients who are able to afford the private rooms, Bob and I headed to a returnee camp with Eugene, Ernest, and Nancy.  The camp was an hour away from Kibungo, off the beaten path with many twists and turns along the way.  The homes were positioned on a hill, one after another, full of people returning to Rwanda.  Many of the returnees were returning from Tanzania after being forced out of the country by the Tanzanian government.  Many of the returnees fled the country in the 1950’s when problems with the Tutsis and Hutus first began.  Other returnees came back to the country after fleeing during the genocide in 1994.

All in all, it was a very eventful and emotionally draining day.  Every day we learn more and more about Rwandan society and come to understand even better what drives this wonderfully optimistic country.  Our days are winding down, and soon we will be landing in Kansas City.  After tonight we have three full days of adventures left, and two days of attempting to sleep on planes.  We can’t wait!



Clayton Jordan
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Clayton

After a day full of traveling to Rwamagana and Kigali and conducting successful meetings with prominent government officials yesterday, we decided to relax a bit today. 

We had an early breakfast, and without skipping a beat, loaded up in Nancy’s land cruiser and headed to the Kibungo hospital where our group along with Nancy (from Fulton), Ernest (a pastor), and Valens (Nancy’s translator) met with the hospital’s director.  We discussed our sister-city partnership that has been established very successfully and made him aware of our future plans to raise enough funds in Callaway County to build a children’s and women’s clinic in Kibungo, possibly with a mobile clinic attachment to go to surrounding villages if enough funds are raised.  Like all of our previous meetings, he gratefully welcomed our idea and hopes that we proceed.

After the meeting, we had another short tour of the hospital’s facilities, and then our group parted.  Scott and I stayed at the hospital to observe two surgical procedures, and the rest of the group went to look at the plot of land given to us by the Anglican Church for the establishment of the children’s and women’s clinic.

Read details on the surgical observation. 
Warning - content contains graphic descriptions.

The rest of the group had a relaxing morning.  At the plot of land for the children’s and women’s clinic they walked around taking pictures for reference, and talked about potential uses of the land.  Gina and Sam played with some children from a nearby private nursery school.  They returned to Nancy’s house and rested, while Bob met with another NGO (International Rescue) to discuss our future plans and ensure that we’re working in tandem with rather than competitively against them.

This afternoon we had free!  Bob and Scott took naps while Gina, Sam, and I walked to downtown Kibungo (a 45 minute walk one-way) and met up with Valens (Nancy’s translator).  We took the traditional African fabric we purchased at market, and dropped it off at the mother’s union shop, where they are going to make us traditional African shirts from the fabric, custom measured to fit us and designed by us!  We were thankful Valens joined us to translate; otherwise we may have very well ended up with window curtains as opposed to shirts!  Let me tell you, many things have been lost in translation on this trip. 

We enjoyed the long walk (although very hot!), and played the “good-will ambassador” role to the tee, speaking to every Rwandan that passed us in Kinyarwanda (their native language).  We have learned MANY words!  They love it when us “mazungos” (as they call us) speak their language… they laugh and laugh!  This fantastic day was concluded with a nice dinner at the Anglican Diocese, and well deserved rest.



Gina Campagna
Monday, May 19, 2008
Gina

As I think about the course of the trip thus far, I’m amazed at how diverse and exciting our daily events have been.  From visiting hospitals to volunteering at schools and orphanages, our group has had an astounding opportunity to see and touch life in Rwanda from so many different angles.  It has been nothing short of awesome to be involved in so much, and our group is grateful for all the things we’ve seen and done so far.  I think it’s safe to say that our stay in Rwanda has touched all our hearts…. It is almost impossible not to love this country. 

After the exciting day we had yesterday of hunting hippos (well, not really hunting them… just looking at them at a fairly intimidating distance) at one of Rwanda’s National Parks (and yes… I was singing “The Lion King” but I wasn’t the only one), we got back to regular business today.

With the sister-city partnership finalized and official, our group decided that it was time to take our message outside of the boundaries of Kibungo.  Thus, we made our way this morning to the city of Rwamagana to meet with the Governor of the Eastern Province (a position similar in stature to that of a United States Governor).  We met with the Governor for about an hour, during which time our group explained the sister-city concept and also asked for insights and advice for the project, with special regard for the women and children’s health clinic.  The Governor listened with open ears, and he gave us a very positive response of welcoming and encouragement.  He also spent some time talking to our group about his thoughts on national health, including his views on the importance of overcoming malnutrition and also educating the rural communities.  It was most certainly a very productive meeting.  

From there, our group traveled to Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali to meet with a national officer, the Secretary General of the Rwandan ministry of health (a position second in line to the actual minister of health of the entire country).  Our group met with the Secretary General and one of her MD (Dr. Claude) advisors for an hour.  This was possibly the best meeting of the entire trip!  The Secretary and her advisor listened with smiles on their faces as we told them about the sister-city partnership.  Even at the national level, this project is receiving nothing but positive support and enthusiasm!  I can’t even begin to explain how rewarding it is to sit in a room with a national figurehead and have her express how grateful she is that our group chose to serve in her country.  It gives our group the motivation and excitement we need to keep moving along with this project so that we truly can accomplish some great things in the very near future!  

After we discussed the ideals of the partnership, we got into a more detailed conversation about the health needs facing the country as a whole.  We were able to listen to the Secretary General and learn what efforts are currently being made on the national level to help the situation.  As it turns out, some of their efforts and future plans are very similar to many of our group’s hopes and plans.  It looks as though we will have a good connection with the ministry of health and will be able to work together in a cooperative manner.  It was indeed a wonderfully successful meeting.

When we left the Secretary’s office, we headed to the downtown area of Kigali to eat a late lunch at the Bourbon Coffee Café… a coffee house and restaurant where a Rwandan girl named Sandra works.  Our group met Sandra on our first night in Kigali and exchanged contact info.  She called us last night and told us to visit her at the restaurant today.  The fact that we met up with Sandra is just one example of how our group is making fast friends here in Rwanda, friends that we will certainly continue to keep in touch with even when we return home to the States in the coming week.

We made the two hour care ride back to Kibungo after that, and spent the rest of the evening eating dinner and blogging (two things that consistently seem to be some of the most anticipated parts of the day!)  It’s fun for us to being able to share all our adventuresome stories with our dedicated readers!

Our group is having a great time here (of course Africa is amazing) but we’re also simply enjoying being together and getting to know each other.  This trip has truly blessed us all in countless ways!


Scott Oldebeken
Sunday, May 18th, 2008
Scott

Today we had a mid-trip getaway to the Akagera National Park, on the Rwandan-Tanzanian border. It was an incredible safari tour. We rode around the African plain with cameras ready-to-fire in classic tourist style.
 
We were able to save some money by using Nancy’s SUV and driver (Eugene), which made the trek very cheap. We stopped by the park office and picked up our guide and were off (with Gina singing “Circle of Life” from The Lion King).  Within about the first 5 minutes of driving, we spotted a small herd of impalas and just moments later a herd of giraffes munching on acacia trees and a local herd of zebras. Seeing them up close and in-person was so awesome.

Between the four of us constantly snapping cameras, I anticipate that we got some National Geographic-quality photos. As we later saw, the park is also home to families of baboons and velvet monkeys, which are small white monkeys with thick coats of fur.  We also spotted a herd of warthogs (which inspired another round of “Circle of Life” from Gina). Towards the end of the tour we stopped by the park’s massive lake to see the hippos and cranes, but we made sure to keep our distance from the hippos!

All in all, the day was a much needed break, which allowed us to sit back and enjoy part of the African experience, while chatting about our project from a refreshed point of view.


Scott Oldebeken
Saturday, May 17th, 2008
Scott

Clayton, Bob, and I started out early, for a Saturday, at 8:30am to retrieve electronic copies of area road and topography maps from the Ngoma District Office (Mayor’s office, located nearby in Kibungo).  These maps will be essential in organizing the range and coverage of the mobile clinic, a potential add-on to the initial sister-city project of a Kibungo women’s and children’s clinic.

The health surveys we gathered earlier this week in the local villages of Gahima and Karama (a sample of the surrounding rural area), clearly display their extensive healthcare needs that wouldn’t be met without a mobile component.

At 9:30am the whole group loaded up and headed down to the Hospital of Kibungo where we met with the local children’s HIV support group. The group consisted of about 35 children, with ages ranging from 5 to 19. The majority were under the age of 10. The group provides a major source of social and interpersonal support for the kids, because the harsh stereotypes surrounding HIV commonly lead to rejection in the children’s social circles. Their mentor, Jean Baptiste, takes on the responsibility of being the children’s main source of education on their health condition. He also plans fun activities to promote fellowship in their monthly meetings.

Their assignment this day was to draw a picture that symbolized their feelings. Towards the end of the meeting, they each got up and presented their pictures to us, describing in heart-breaking detail, what they symbolized. Many drew chronological sequences which demonstrated their initial loneliness and rejection, but then went on to show how they had found a loving and caring relationship in the HIV support group. Some also included sketches of hearts that they said symbolized their gratitude for our group’s participation and presence at the meeting.

The morning was spent hanging out and loving on the kids. As we said our goodbyes, we talked about the importance of respecting HIV, by taking their pills every day and teaching others so that they can fully pursue their dreams. Visiting these children made my trip, as I’m sure it did everyone else’s. We were lucky to meet such strong young men and women.

The rest of the day, we shopped in the Kibungo market and relaxed at Nancy’s house. At 7:00pm, we made our way down the road to the Anglican Bishop’s beautiful house for an excellent dinner.
 

Samantha Richman
Thursday, May 15, 2008 &
Friday, May 16, 2008
Sam

Everyday is an adventure, from smiling children to geckos running around on all the walls, we learn something new at every moment.  Yesterday, May 15th, we started out on our first relaxing day but not without getting some work done first.  After breakfast and bible study we headed off on a bumpy road to the little town of Karama where we assessed the medical needs of the residents who inhabited the village of a couple thousand. 

After visiting several homes we headed to Nancy’s house for a wonderful lunch prepared by Premintine (Nancy’s cook and friend).  It has been the most wonderful meal since we have been here and it consisted of vegetable beef soup, chapattis (homemade grilled cheese tortilla), juicy pineapple, and banana bread. 

From Nancy’s house we headed to the lake for our first relaxing afternoon.  The five of us, plus Nancy and Valens (Nancy’s amazing translator) enjoyed a pleasant lakeside view while we sipped down our Fantas (African soda).  We read, wrote in our journals, slept (Bob!), listened to IPods, and of course, conversed in entertaining conversations.  The day was a success (except for my first bug bite that Dr. Jordan with his walking pharmacy cleared right up for me).

Today was also declared a success, like all our days have been.  This morning we toured two clinics in Kibungo that were next-door to each other.  The first was the private clinic of Kibungo where there was only one patient in the facility.  The next clinic we toured right after the private clinic was the public health clinic that was seeing approximately 150 people, most of which were waiting outside in the hot sun.  The private clinic, although next door, is too expensive for the majority of the population.  This was more evidence to us how much this community and the surrounding communities need a public health facility that is inexpensive and worthwhile.

After lunch back at the Diocese, we headed to a Presbyterian Church to meet with several pastors and representatives of the Kibungo ecumenical ministry.  There we explained the idea of our Callaway County and Kibungo partnership and our hopes for the upcoming future.  We were received with warmth and gratitude and ended the day with playing kickball with several school children on the church grounds.

For supper, Ernest graciously invited us into his home to meet his wonderful family - his wife Clair, who was a phenomenal cook, his mother, and his four beautiful children - two boys, one baby girl, and an adopted 14 year old girl who was a genocide survivor who had lost her whole family.  I have never experienced such a welcome of gratitude than I have in our stay in Rwanda.  They opened their home to us with hearts full of love.  Words are hard to explain how much love I feel toward the people here in Rwanda.  We are all excited to be part of something so meaningful to so many people.  All I know is that we have received so much more from this community than we could ever possibly dream of giving them.

Clayton Jordan
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Clayton

We started out bright and early this morning with a pleasant breakfast, followed by a brief bible study with both the staff members and Nancy of the Anglican Diocese.  The bible study took place in Kinyarwanda, the local language, and was translated for us.

Shortly after, we loaded up and headed to Gahima, a small village just outside of Kibungo, where approximately 6,000 families live.  The purpose of our visit was to conduct a health survey in the community to get a feel for the medical needs there.  The knowledge obtained is valuable for the planning and execution of a very promising women’s and children’s clinic that will be established in Kibungo by Fight for the Children through the Callaway/Fulton-Kibungo partnership.  

We began at the village’s large church where about 250 people had gathered to worship.  After the church service was over, we were introduced, and the congregation was divided in half.  We split up into the two groups, and attempted to assess the medical needs of the village by asking the entire group various questions and allowing informal open-ended discussion.  The primary issues the village seemed to face with their various medical conditions included the cost and availability of health care and prescriptions, the distance they have to travel on foot to get medical attention, and the education and cultural awareness of both the patients and medical staff.

After assessing the congregation as a whole, we walked into the village where we were graciously invited into four different family’s houses and were able to interview them personally about all aspects of their family (how many members they have, if they use family planning, availability of mosquito nets, where they get their water, etc.), medical needs (vaccinations, medication, where they receive health care, how far they walk to get there, etc.), and the insurance situation including what they are able to afford.

This was an extremely eye-opening experience as we were not only able to see how a lot of these individuals live, but also the extreme lack of medical knowledge and healthcare.  When asking the congregation if the pregnant females would take pre-natal vitamins if they were made available to them, they responded unanimously “no, because they don’t work,” clearly indicating mistrust in the unknown and unfamiliar.

After collecting all of the necessary data, we stopped by the Gahima Village pastor’s house where we were generously welcomed in to visit and enjoy cold drinks and fresh bananas.  From there we headed back to the Anglican Diocese in Kibungo for lunch. 

We then visited the local Kibungo market where a large variety of products could be purchased (foods, spices/herbs, toiletries, clothes, electronics, tools, etc).  The market was a very busy place with an extremely large number of people in a fairly small area, all attempting to buy and sell various goods.  An afternoon thunderstorm with a lot of rain brought most of the market to an early close before we had a chance to see everything. 

On our way to the market as it was beginning to rain, we stopped to help a handicapped man in a wheelchair who was getting very wet, and gave him a ride to a sheltered area.  It was an extremely rewarding experience that came out of the storm, and he was incredibly grateful. 

We concluded the day with a visit to the local craft store where we all had the opportunity to purchase a large variety of Kibungo, hand-made crafts to bring back to the states.

Gina Campagna
Monday, May 12, 2008 &
Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gina

We began our Monday very early in the morning as Nancy McCue (Fulton resident who has been serving with the Anglican Church in Kibungo for over two years) and her Rwandan driver Eugene picked our group up from the AEE guesthouse at 8 AM.  The drive from Kigali to Kibungo is typically about 2 hours, but we made a day out of the trip by stopping at some locations along the way.

First, our group toured the construction site of the Center for Champions in Rwamagana.  This facility, created by the African Evangelistic Enterprise, will serve as a vocational training institute as well as a space for recreation among Rwandan students.  The hope is that one day, after completing the city health clinic in Kibungo, our group will be able to sponsor a second Fight for the Children clinic in that center.  We received a great tour by the project supervisor that lasted about an hour.

After that, our group traveled to the site of the prominent Partner’s in Health (PIH) Clinic (established by Dr. Paul Farmer) in Rwinkwavu.  There, the group received a tour of the facility by the clinic’s external relations director.  The tour opened our eyes to how one organization has executed an extremely successfully health clinic program, and it also opened the doors for potential future collaboration between health programs for the Kibungo area.  The time that the PIH staff spent with our group was enlightening and much appreciated!

The rest of that night was spent moving into and getting comfortable with our new home, a guesthouse of the Anglican Diocese.

The next morning (Tuesday) began with breakfast at 7 AM, followed by a short Bible study with the diocese staff members.  Later that morning, our group broke into two sections as Scott and Clayton got a tour of Kibungo’s local hospital and Sam and I visited an area Agape secondary school.  The morning was helpful as it helped us make good connections with people throughout Kibungo.

One of the most important events of Tuesday morning was our visit to Kibungo’s District Office.  There, we with the mayor of the Ngoma District, the Deputy Mayor of the District, and two military generals.  Our group presented these local leaders with gifts from Fulton, and we also presented a formal letter and resolution from the Mayor of Fulton and the County Commissioners, extending the invitation for Kibungo to become Fulton’s sister-city.  After a formal address by the District Mayor, the resolution was accepted and our two groups shook on the new sister-city partnership.

In the afternoon, our group divided yet again, and the two boys returned to the hospital for another hospital tour and the girls had an opportunity to spend time with children at a near-by Sister’s of Charity orphanage.  The afternoon was both sobering and hopeful, as we saw hardships that the Kibungo people face, but also realized the vast opportunities for help and assistance that exist there.

The last event for the day included a dinner with the Mayor and city officials to celebrate the new partnership.  Gifts and kind words of hope and welcoming were exchanged, and the two groups parted at the end of the night on excellent terms.

It was a great two days and the trip should only get better from here!

Scott Oldebeken 
Sunday, May 11, 2008 - Rwanda
Scott 

Yesterday, we arrived safely at Kigali International Airport, in Rwanda. We were lucky enough to have our two longest flights interrupted by a 9 hour lay over in Amsterdam, which allowed us to get out and stretch in the downtown district.  It was sort of a mini vacation.

We will be staying for a total of 2 days in the capital city, Kigali, at the AEE (African Evangelistic Enterprise) guesthouse. Yesterday (Saturday, May 10th) served as a much needed rest period to recuperate from the jet lag. Later that night, we were able to eat dinner with a Rwandan college student named Bosco and four of his friends, which provided deeper cross cultural fellowship as well as some great new friends that were full of laughs. 

 
This morning, at the invitation of Antoine, our host and head of the AEE in Rwanda,  we went to a monthly prayer breakfast he holds at Hotel Des Mille Collines (also known as Hotel Rwanda). We were quite honored to be sitting among a group of some of the country's highest high ranking politicians and leaders which included the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Tax and Finance, the Rwandan leader of Saddleback Ministries, and multiple senators.

After the morning long prayer meeting, we drove shortly across town to the Kigali Memorial Center, which is one of the most well known genocide memorials in Rwanda. The tour there revealed so much more to us about the genocide that occurred in Rwanda 14 years ago than we had previously understood. Seeing the personal consequences and losses of those that were targeted in the genocide was heart breaking, but the resilience that the Rwandan people have shown in reconciling the relationships threatened by those atrocities of genocide truly demonstrates the large heart of these people. 
 
Tomorrow, we will be leaving bright and early to travel to our trip's focus, Fulton/Callaway County's sister-city Kibungo, Rwanda.




Dr. Bob Hansen

Read about the inspiration for this
project through Bob's Blog.