Today was a day of healing after an emotional roller coaster yesterday. Our second day in Rwanda was spent visiting a school in Bugesera; one of Africa New Life’s schools in which Aspen Heights has multiple sponsor children at.
Bugesera is a village in Rwanda that was heavily impacted by the genocide and is amongst the poorest of places to live in Rwanda. Not long ago, Africa New Life was given a public school there to run and supply needy children with incredible educations.
With their company and ours, every child that attends the school is sponsored; meaning they are given food, shoes, an education, books, and a chance at a better life. We began the joy-filled day feeding breakfast to the children of the school and watching them prance around the courtyard excited to have free time.
Shortly following, we fitted all of the children in the classes with shoes that had been donated to them. Next time you judge “crocs” or think they are ugly, instead picture this. Seventy children in one classroom, swarming around you and approaching one at a time, letting their beaten shoes fall aside and slipping their foot into a pair of brand new crocs. It was like watching the face of prince charming and Cinderella every time we found a pair that fit, because they knew that they would be walking home with support beneath their feet as opposed to dirt.
After being overwhelmed by the joy radiating off of the school children, we had a celebration for the fifty-plus children sponsored by Aspen Heights employees (these are only the ones in this village, as we sponsor children in several other villages as well.)
This celebration marks the one time a year that these children will taste meat, the sweetness of cake in their mouth, and be cooled by Fanta. Fighting the urge to jump in and talk to the children while they devoured their treats with smiles, I observed. Observed children that were five and six years old waiting for all of their classmates to be seated before eating, observed children eating with no napkins because they were so neat, observed young boys walking around the classroom collecting empty plates without being asked. Taking all of this in Iwas overwhelmed, knowing that before they arrived at the school they did not get a meal every day, or have an education. Because of sponsorships from Aspen Heights employees, today they did.
After an incredible feast we recorded videos to send back to the employees of their sponsor children; we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up and what they wanted to tell their sponsors. Amongst the most heartwarming were children telling their sponsors that they loved them and that they were so thankful that they can eat and have an education all while professing their dreams of becoming leaders, presidents, and teachers.
Then came the gifts; the game of Operation, bubbles, jump ropes, shoes and more. Imagine seeing Operation or bubbles for the first time. Feel your heart pounding as you try not to hear “BUZZ” or your feet floating off the ground as you try to pop the bubble mid air. The laughter of children filled every room and every inch of ground at the school with the pure joy that they got from simple gifts.
Expressing this as beautiful is an understatement; it truly touches your soul. Driving home thinking about everything we experienced and having seen all of the good that we are doing through providing an education, I know that we will all leave a piece of our heart in Rwanda. My heart will stay in the classroom that was filled with children having dessert for the one time this year (many for the first time in their life), thanking God for Aspen Height’s sponsors that allowed them to be there. You will not have experienced genuine gratefulness until you have met the children of Rwanda and the joy that comes with a new pair of Crocs or a game of Operation.
Jillian and the Team