I’ve written before about how difficult and sad I can find it working with these boys. Although I am regularly amazed by how well some of them have dealt with their difficult circumstances and by what strong, clever, witty, warm men they have become in spite of it all, sometimes it’s impossible not to be saddened by their situations, especially when they are clearly still traumatised themselves.

A couple of months ago I was contacted by a young man named Johnny Rich. His parents, Joe and Christine, were part of a group that included Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide who wrote a book detailing her terrible experiences and struggles to stay survive. Part of this group had visited the Rwandan Orphans Project Center last year when we were still housed in Nyabugogo and this year they returned – the first visit for the Rich family.

Erik’s story was written by Lukasz Zielonka. Lukasz – a Polish freelance writer and photographer – who spent several weeks with the children at the Rwandan Orphans Project Center in Kigali, Rwanda taking photos of them, writing their stories and spending time getting to know them.

What a month this has been! There have been so many things going on at the Rwandan Orphans Project Center that we have barely had time to catch our breath. We’ve been fortunate enough to have several new volunteers who have come to work with our children. Two of them, Anna and Louise, are very good friends of Jenny’s who decided to fly down from the United Kingdom for about a month to help out with our art program and also to assist us with the upcoming graduations of some of our older boys. Louise, an artist, had taken on the task of painting a huge version of the Rwandan Orphans Project logo in our dining hall. She spent several days and many long hours working very hard to complete it, and boy was it worth it. The end result is nothing short of amazing, and everyone, from the staff to the children and even our visitors, are massively impressed with her work.

Traditions and culture are important to many Rwandans, but because so many of the ROP boys have not had families or schooling to teach them about their heritage, they can seem a bit disconnected with the history and customs of their country and forefathers.

The very first time I met the children at the ROP Center – which was nearly a year ago now – they greeted me with song and dance. I realized quite quickly that music plays a very big role in Rwandan culture, and our Center was no different. Unfortunately the only instrument the boys had was an old barely functioning keyboard that featured more broken keys than functioning keys.

Well the Rwandan school year has ended and the long holiday has finally arrived. This hardly means that all of us at the Center can relax. In fact, having the boys back from school means we have more work to do than ever before. Thankfully we have some help.

Unfortunately for years now our boys have had very few activities to occupy their time at the Center. As you can imagine they had a lot of free time to kill in the afternoons after school and on the weekends. It was even worse during the holidays in between school terms. Their options were pretty much limited to kicking around a football, singing and napping. After we had moved from Nyabugogo to our new home in Nyarugunga I wanted to give them an activities that are more organized and formal. I wanted it them to have options to choose from that would fit their interests, whether they be music, sports, etc. I also wanted activities that could be practiced outside of the Center so they could represent their home and have something to be proud of.

New mattresses!

 

The Center is keeping me busy as always. Jenny has begun working with us as well. She's assisting with our development of a program to graduate many of our older boys as well as reintegrating many of the other boys with their families. It's a pretty mammoth task that I'm not looking forward it, although it's something that needs to be done for the sake of our own financial survival. Unfortunately our organization is on fiscal life support (hint hint, nudge nudge).

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