October 2017 Newsletter

So much has happened in October, I am not sure where to begin.

Go Ed Volunteers

September 28th the Go Ed volunteers arrived.  Partnering with Go Ed, an association that brings University students from the USA to serve as Practicum for three months in Rwanda has been a delight. Our 2017 term volunteers are Hannah Pyrzynski, Andrea Manor, and Katie Wagner.

Hannah and Katie served their Practicum working at Urukundo and HRD (Handicapé Rwandais Réhabilité Réintégré dans ses Droits.)  If you know French; you now know what it stands for.  For me it is people with a heart for children with special needs. These two girls have such hearts.  Andrea came as a teacher in our preschool program.

Volunteers are so needed and welcomed at Urukundo Home and Urukundo Learning Center.



Nelly, Katie, Olive, Andrea, Pastor Yves, Diane, and Hannah holding Janette.  Great mix.

Our kids taught them Rwandan style dance. 

Love was the central theme and there was plenty to go around.

Child of the month

Claude’s Story

Having given my computer a tea bath; I sadly have no pictures of Claude when he was little.


Claude’s story is a long one and worth reading

The story began in June 2008 when Urukundo was called by the Department of Gender and Family Development. The Secretary to the Minister's program for the day was to secure homes for the prison children. No, they are not criminals. In Rwanda, when a nursing mother or a pregnant woman is incarcerated, the baby stays in the prison with the mother until the age of three years. At that time, family are looked for to take the baby. And if there is no family, then the child is placed in an orphanage or Home for vulnerable children. Working with the prison ministry was beneficial to Urukundo.

We arrived at the prison in the morning and was introduced to 3 year old Claude. He was afraid of me but ok with John, my manager at the time. Rwandan children fear white persons and I am definitely white.

The hardest part of all came when the little boy was taken from his mother to travel with us away from the prison and his only security, his mom. Claude was a very strong three years old. John was driving so I had to hold Claude He struggled to get away from me and was kicking and screaming and reaching for his mother. Big tears filled Claude’s little eyes and poured down his cheeks, his mother was weeping. Wanting to have her son but knowing he could not stay with her.  The prison staff cried along with us. Tears filled John's eyes. I cried but held it together until I was seated in the front seat and Claude was placed in my arms. For weeks, I had bruises on my legs and arms from trying to hold this little boy. He was so scared. He did not know me and besides that I was white. Later, I cried for his mother and for the loss of her little boy. There has to be a better way to do this. 

Claude did not accept living at Urukundo. He was a very strong minded 3 year old and was determined to go home to his mother even though home was a prison. It was where his mother was and where he wanted to be. I could understand how he felt but the prison was no place for him. His mother told us the other inmates abused the children if they cried or the prisoner was just in a bad mood. She wanted us to care for him until she could be with him. That might be a very long time. We were told his mother would be in prison for a very long time, perhaps as long as 17 years.  She was in prison for her part in the genocide. I have no idea what she did but it must have been bad to be sentenced to 17 years. If there was no pardon or reduction in the sentence, Claude would be a young men in his twenties by the time his mother was freed.

From the beginning, Claude had a mind of his own. He loved his mom and he made it quite clear, “I am going home to my mom.”  Not in English, of course. Home was the prison and every day he tried to escape.  I was the villain. He hated me and that was hard for me to accept. I wanted to take him in my arms and assure him it would be ok. I could not comfort this hurt little boy. For the first month, we had to keep him in our sight. As soon as he woke in the morning until the doors were locked at night that precious boy took off running to find his mother. He did not know where he was going; he just knew mama was not here in this home. He could see the road and that road led to his mother. It was hard with the other children to care for and to keep sight of him every minute. 

Finally, he made friends with Luki who had lived at Urukundo since he was 6 months old and was the same age as Claude.  They became fast friends. Luki assured him; he would be ok here and I was a good mama. After giving him time to adjust, we arranged for him to visit his mother and that seemed to solve his problem. I think we can thank his mother for that. While she was in the local prison, we took him to see her every 3 months. Then she was transferred to Butare Prison and we could take him every 6 months. Another move placed her so far away we could only make the trip once a year. Every September, Claude travels to Nyamagabe Prison and Claude takes sugar, soap for washing clothes, toothbrushes, tooth paste, material, a coat or dress and other things to her. She now has been pardoned and should be released in February 2018. She has already said she will not take Claude from Urukundo but will move close to us so she can visit him. He said at the same time “When my mom gets out, I will visit her on holiday and then come home”.

Claude was a fast learner and learned English quickly.

When Claude was 6 years old,I was surprised to see him with the four farmers (young men) setting in the Tiki hut. The men were gathered around him. I was concerned and called to him, “Claude, what are you doing?”   He looked up at me surprised and responded, “Mama, I am teaching them english.” He was.  The young men assured me. At 6 he was already a leader. Now he is 12 years old and his goal is to be a soldier or a Police Captain or maybe a banker. 

Claude was in the first graduating class from Kindergarten. Claude is now finishing Primary five and will finish primary school in 2018 moving on to secondary school.

His brothers and sisters in Urukundo family; Claude, Luki, Aline, and Nelly.  All Primary 5 students.


Claude (center) plays the violin.

He is captain for the soccer team (Foote ball) at school and our family team.

Claude has grown in to a wonderful responsible young man. He cares for his brothers and sisters at Urukundo and is the leader of the children. He is loved and respected by the family Urukundo.

Mama receives a gift

Surprises are so wonderful when totally unexpected.

I feel so honored.  Divine arrived for a visit home with a huge package. It was for me. I don’t do gifts well but she had brought it all the way from Kigali on a bus. Got to give credit for this and appreciate the gift and the giver.  

It was a Thomas Kinkade painting not a copy but an actual painting by a local artist from a picture he saw.

She said “Mama, this has mountains from Rwanda and Lake and beautiful leaves from Pennsylvania so you have both your homes.”  I love the painting and love the young woman who gave it to me.


Jeanne gets a roommate.  Catherine Wilkinson from London, England; joined our group and will be here for 4 weeks.

Catherine, nickname of Felix, is an architect and so was very interested in our construction projects but her passion as a volunteer was to work with the children at the preschool. It surely was a change of pace for her. She and Jeanne made a great team and are in demand throughout the school class rooms. Felix will miss graduation by one day. Jeanne came intending to be at the graduation so she is here until November 27, 2017.

Math class and teamwork. Can’t beat it. Progress for the kids.

Claudine gets a helping hand with math.

Nicola Hedden also from England arrived in the middle of the night and had a dark ride from Kigali to Urukundo Village. Kigali is well lite but the country side is still very dark. Better to see the stars.

After a night of some rest, she was up and ready to go. She is teaching English at the Primary level. We are so grateful for teachers especially Math and English.  The kids now call her Nicki. Wow. Another great volunteer.

Nicki is a business woman and has an interesting job. My understanding is her firm handles financial accounting for recording artist and others who sell their talents in recordings, etc. They collect the revenue and then pass it on to the performer. 

New Pastor at Urukundo

Pastor Yves Iragena has replaced Pastor Antoine who has moved on in his ministry. 

Pastor Yves has served his probationary 3 months with Urukundo and has accepted a permanent position on our staff.  He is 32 years old. Pastor Yves is young in the ministry; He has a Certificate of Ordination.  

He is husband to his lovely wife, Liberatha, and father of two boys; Yranson Cyusa Berwa & Govin Laurenzo Aberwe Intwari. 

He also takes care of his ageing mother & father.  His outreach is to youth and children. Our children are getting the spiritual guidance needed. The community children are responding and parents will follow. The attendance in worship each Lords day morning has tripled.  He is the perfect father image needed at Urukundo. God has blessed Urukundo by placing Pastor Yves and his family in our Foundation.

Pastor Yves with some of our kids, community kids and adults after worship. Jeanne is also in the mix.

Computer class in Library

Wonder where we can contact the organization who founded “One Laptop Per Child.” We really would like to find out how, we can qualify for their help. Our students would benefit so much. We really need more computers. 

Our computer lab is small and in the library now with only 4 computers for the children to practice on.

Classes are held in the ICDL lab. Practice in the library.

In process, the open door is the new lab location.

We are constructing a separate classroom to be ready for the 2018 term of school and to be open to teaching ICDL to adult business men & women and in the community.

Bus update

As promised but not ready yet. We are so close. I think the news will be worth the wait. So bear with me a while longer.  Bus donors the news will be good. I thank all who have sent gifts to help pay for a bus for the school kids and their safety.

It is an exercise in patience and determination.  We are going to succeed.

Visitors for October

Urukundo Village prepares for 22 Volunteers from Indigo Volunteers, a non-profit from England. 

Urukundo spruced up a bit and were ready to meet and greet with good lodging, great food, and loving children. This fantastic team of 20 bankers from HSBC and representing 14 different countries arrived this month October 2017.

Twenty beautiful people and the two leaders from Indigo came from England, Canada, Australia, Greece, Spain, Egypt, South Africa, Singapore, China, Brazil, United States, Dubai, Libya, Bangladesh Italy & India.

Comments from the Banking Team

“Thank you for welcoming us into your home.  Your love has changed the lives of all the visitors.”

“Thank you for all your incredibly dedicated work this week. You made all us visitors so welcome, loved, and well fed .“

“This really is the most beautiful home in the world.”

A lasting memento from the team dedicated to the children and all who visit our dining room

They tell me the Wise Old Owl watching over the kids represents me.  Funny

Be sure to see the October special on the web site for more details about this wonderful event at Urukundo Foundation/Hope Made Real.

Construction for October

Want to help build a school? Yes, you can.

School development: Two classrooms needed for January 2018 and a computer lab for teaching ICDL. This is outreach to the community and for our school.

Floor going down, paint added to cement for color.

Almost finished

Visitors from African International Club (AIC). 

This is the club that has so generously helped us purchase desks and chairs for our school. 

Andrea Morris from South Africa and Eva Lindgren from Sweden came for a short visit. Andrea wants to come back to worship with the kids and Eva is a nurse and will be back to care for bumps, scrapes and bruises. It was a delightful visit but too short. Thank you Margie Krogh, Secretary of Hope Made Real Board of Directors, for bringing AIC members. We will miss you as you return to the states.

Beautiful faces like this one makes my day.

Until next month.

Much Love,

Mama Arlene