Blessings from Mama in the US - May 2015

MAY what a wonderful month for me and my visit to the USA with friends and family.  The month has been a journey of old friends, new friends and memories, old and new.  On May 10, Mother’s Day an article was printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer about Urukundo/Hope Made Real

This was then picked up by the Tribune Content Agency (@TribuneAgency)

Knowing how important youth connecting with other youth from other cultures is my visit to Propel School was an affirmation for me.

This was not my first visit to Propel school and I had a delightful time.

Hearts for Rwanda is an ongoing fundraiser for these students and I was pleased to see Rwanda’s flag as part of the program.

On May 19 an article by Carol Frazer of The Daily News of McKeesport, PA reported my visit to Mon Yough Catholic School. The young people welcomed me and listened as I shared the life at Urukundo Village.

This recognition of Hope Made Real and Urukundo Foundation is wonderful.  Reports from Urukundo are good. The children are well and progress is being made on Primary 4 at the Learning Centers.

Much Love,


Children, youth and college students are sharing God’s love, building relationships and empowering the children of Rwanda to live a life full of God’s blessings.  Here are some of the many stories.  Stories of hope.  Stories of love.  Stories of faith in God.  Stories with faces.  And stories showing the light of the world shining through everyone connected to this ministry.

"God Smiles on a Rainbow" Banners for Rwanda. A middle school and 3 high school students were the leaders coordinating the making of two banners based on Desmond Tutu’s book "God’s Dream" that would travel to Rwanda. Children’s hands and baby’s hands were painted and lovingly pressed on the banners to make rainbows. One banner hangs in Hope House for community worship and one will be in the boy’s dorm where evening devotions are held. Supplies were sent so the kids at Urukundo could make a banner for their church’s Sunday school. Smiles and hands of all these children reach out in friendship and love.


Rachel, a 5th grader, is helping to send children to the Urukundo School in Rwanda!!  Her school, Houserville Elementary, holds an annual Arts and Crafts and Caring Fair.  Students make crafts, sell them to other students then donate a portion to charity.  Rachel donated $37 to Hope Made Real for education and books.

"Some people in the world aren’t as lucky as we are. I know that people in Rwanda are happy we could help. I’m happy I could help."  ~Rachel Foster, 11  

Radio Park Elementary 3rd and 4th graders held a bake sale and collected change for books for Rwanda. They raised $549. Books were taken to the school for the kids to sign and write special messages.  These books will have a home in the library at the Urukundo School.


Friends School held a bake sale in 2014 raising $335 to help buy a cow and something fun, an Octaband.  This year they held a second bake sale and raised $250 that will go towards the Hope Made Real Education Fund to help send kids to school and university.


Sewing with Amy Frank!!

2013 Creative Kids Helping Kids - Sewers and crafters of all (or no) skill levels and all ages were invited to learn more about the Urukundo Home for Children and Learning Center in Rwanda and to make adorable and useful "counting fish" for their Learning Center.   

"It's fun to use our sewing to make something special for someone far away.  It feels sort of magic."  ~Lilly Frank, 8 years old

Photo credit:

2014 Secret Seamstress Society, a new group of young sewers came together this past fall to sew for the benefit of others in their community and beyond.  They created SuperHero Capes for the Urukundo Learning Center in Rwanda.  The capes had many uses…as aprons, during storytelling and as costumes for a play.

"We learn a lot about sewing here and make many projects for ourselves and our families and friends.  It's important to also create for people that need something somewhere else.  Plus - - it's a PARTY!"  ~Maya Thomas, 11 years old

Pine Street Vacation Bible School was excited to be a part of the Pathway to Learning at the Urukundo School.  $100 allows you to place a "Stone Step" with a special message along the path.  The children and teachers raised enough to place three steps that say:

Stone 1 - Depend on God Proverbs 3:5

Stone 2 - Claim Jesus John 3:16

Stone 3 - Choose to Follow Joshua 24:15

Sunday school “Kids in Mission” are serving throughout the world. What a wonderful example they are as they raise money for pigs, goats and desks for classrooms.

"It meant a lot because I got to help make joy for the people of Rwanda.” ~Marc, 10

"It felt good to lead the Rwanda pig mission because you know that you'll be helping to have a pig that can be used for food." ~George, 11

"Special. Heart-soaking. Fun." ~Bryant, 10

"It meant that we were the leader of a small fundraiser but it meant BIG to them." ~Thomas, 10

Gift of Voice – Children all over the world sing and what better way to share something that makes them happy than through songs. One group was videotaped as they sang two favorite songs with hand movements, "The Man Builds His House Upon the Rocks" and "Inright Outright Happy All the Time."  The kids in Rwanda wanted to reciprocate so they were taped singing two favorites, "Hosanna" and "Jesus is my Super Hero." Voices will ring out across the world as they share their songs of praise.

Girl Scouts is for every girl, everywhere—where today's girls can become tomorrow's leaders.  Most girls join for fun and friendship, but they also find it's a safe place to grow and share new experiences, learn to relate to others, develop values, build character and self-esteem and serve their communities. Several troops decided to go beyond their community to connect to the Urukundo Children's Home.  They helped assemble layette kits for new moms and made cards to welcome new babies into this world.  

"Meeting Mama Arlene was inspiring!  It is amazing to see what she has done!  I really like having a Pen Pal to write to and hear back from.  It feels good to be able to help children in Rwanda and hopefully make a difference in their lives because they are making a difference in my life." ~Kendall Soltis

Devotions and worship is an important part of the lives of the children at Urukundo.  What better way to connect children than through art and sharing their gifts of creativity. Using the book “Birds of Bethlehem” preschool children made birds to go along with the storytelling. Sharing also means providing supplies so the children in Rwanda can make them too. What fun they had gluing feathers to make birds that will announce the birth of Jesus during devotion storytime. 

Mary's Maidens are girls in grades 1-6 at Washington Street UM Church in Columbia, SC. At their monthly meetings the girls participate in missions and ministry at home and abroad. The girls learned about Urukundo from Lauren Wright, a church member who served in the Peace Corps in Rwanda and contacted Mama Arlene to see what was needed. With the help of church members, the girls collected paper, pencils, erasers, rulers, crayons, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and over $1,600.00 in donations. The items were delivered to Urukundo in March when Lauren's mother went to Rwanda for a visit.

"Mary's Maidens is a fun way for girls to get to know each other and work together for good causes. Helping the village was the best experience we had all year and we hope it benefits the people." ~ Darby


High School Students’ International Projects  

"Hearts for Rwanda" is a project that started 4 years ago to connect high school students through art to show that art is truly a universal language and that global outreach is an incredible experience for students.  4 x 6" blank pieces of canvas were sent to Rwanda for the children to decorate and then sent back to finish the collaboration process.  The guidelines were that the art must be positive and have a heart in the design.  Students in the US then glued the finished canvas to a piece of wood, epoxy glaze the front, paint the sides, and bracket the piece to be displayed.  All proceeds from the project helped build classrooms and send children to school.

Propel School has held a "Hearts for Rwanda" event the past three years raising just over $3,000. What an amazing commitment to provide resources for children’s education!!

"I found Mama Arlene very inspiring and optimistic which is very important for the cause she represents.  It was really great to meet her and I look forward to completing the "Hearts for Rwanda" project with Ms. Dean."  ~Paul, Grade 9   

"Mama Arlene was the most powerful speaker that I have ever seen and her presentation was very interesting and descriptive.  It was rewarding to learn about the children in Urukundo and the growth in the community."  ~Dejah, Grade 9    

Hailey, a high school student from Pennsylvania, coordinated a "Hearts for Rwanda" art sale for her senior class project and raised $1,150.

"There is a much bigger picture than what I participated in, and I'm so thankful I got to be in a snippet of it. I learned so much and had a lot of fun."  ~Haley Justice, 18

"1,000 Toothbrush Challenge" - Will, a junior in high school, coordinated this event with his church youth group K-Café. They were surprised to collect 2,174 toothbrushes for the Urukundo Dental Clinic!!  

"I chose to do the toothbrush challenge because it's for a good cause. I learned about giving back and doing something with what has been given to me."  ~Will Roeshot, 16

North Allegheny High School Interact Club held a "Coins for Rwanda Drive" where students brought their spare change to school.  Something so simple yet they raised the amazing total of $2,141. This is enough to fund a water tank for the Urukundo School.

State High Interact Club offered to work on a service project for the first time for Rwanda, making browsing sticks for the Urukundo Library to mark the book's place on the shelf.  This project fit so well with their theme for the year, books and reading.  Creativity was evident as paint, beads and embellishments were added to the sticks.  The kids in Rwanda just loved to use them when borrowing books from the shelves.

"Books inspire you to be something great."  ~Kaylah, 16   

"Books open you up to a whole new world and allows you to use your imagination and creativity."  ~Maryann, 15

"4K4 Rwanda" Lauren Sonsteby wanted to encourage others to make a difference during her last year in high school, so she coordinated a 4K Fun Run/Walk. She recruited fellow girl's lacrosse teammates, the boys track team, church youth groups and friends and families to participate to raise funds to send Urukundo high school graduates to university. May 16th 65 participated and others sponsored the event to raise over $3,000. 

"I was very motivated to do this run because I knew that the kids in Rwanda needed the money for a college education.  Helping people is my passion, and I enjoy reaching out to others who need it.  I am in a similar boat going to Penn State next year.  I wanted to give back with the help of the community to make a difference from across the world." ~Lauren Sonsteby

University students step up!!

Kappa Phi, is a Christ-centered organization for university women that focuses on service, worship, fellowship and study.  St. Paul’s Wesley Foundation is dedicated to supporting Penn State students as they find their path through CONNECTing, GROWing and SERVing.  Their mission is to offer Jesus Christ to the students and to train and equip disciples and to serve in mission. Together these university student groups sold carved Birds of Peace during the holidays and raised $700 to support the Urukundo Children’s Home University Education Fund.  It wonderful to see university students supporting university students through faith. 


Kappa Phi also collaborated with Sunday school children to make Nativity Storytelling kits for devotions. They cut, stuffed and sewed the figures. Sunday school kids in grades 1-4 used their creativity to decorate them.   

"Being a part of projects with Hope Made Real, we were made aware that this organization's operations go far beyond what we expected. By helping each other complete the projects- from creating puppets to selling bird ornaments- we knew that we were also involving our community and the community in Rwanda. I really enjoyed being a part of these projects as they were meaningful to myself and my fellow volunteers."  ~Adrian Pansky, 21


Penn State Knitivism is activism peacefully devoted to defending human rights one stitch at a time. They knit for peace throughout the world.  Members have spent many hours making baby hats and peace dolls for layette kits for the new Mom and Baby Love House.