Tuesday, April 15, 2014

First Term Wrap Up

     Our inaugural first term of school has come to a close.  The 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide is April 7th, yet schools, businesses and many government agencies do not operate for the month of April, the month of mourning.  The Imana Kids took last week to reflect in bible study and in discussion/reflection groups with James and other deacons from the church.  Many of the older students attended memorial services at the National Stadium.  There are also many free events for the public throughout Kigali and on the radio.  Although most of "our kids" were not alive during the genocide, each of them will tell you how it affected their family.  Each of them carries this in their hearts.  Please know that they are getting even more ministering and love during this difficult time of remembrance.
     Here are a few highlights from our first term:

  • Every one of our Imana Kids had "good" marked for behavior. Every. Single. One.  We are overjoyed at this report.  
  • Teenagers will be teenagers.  Our 16 High Hill kids had lots of complaining initially (uniforms, food, freedom, a universal theme).  Yet by mid February, all of them were quick to say that they didn't want to leave High Hill for anywhere else.  Their complaints were hard for the board at first-we want them to be happy! Thankfully, our leadership team is made up of very experienced educators, parents and social workers that were quick to point out that developmentally, these were normal responses to a totally new environment, people and expectations.
  • Everyone got sick.  No worries! Just average sniffles and colds.  However, poor James traveled from school to school to reassure our kids that they were just fine.  Each of us wants TLC when we don't feel good...to an orphan TLC looks different.  It may look like a panicked phone call to demand a trip to the hospital...because of runny, itchy eyes or a headache.  James has proved himself over and over again to be a man with a heart for these kids. A patient man with a big heart!
  • The top three S3 students are Imana Kids.  The number one student in the S4 class in an Imana Kid!
  • We have a full time volunteer that has completed secondary school and does odd jobs to save money for college.  He currently assists James as a jack-of-all-trades.  We'd like to find a sponsor for him to get a monthly salary from us that can support his dreams to continue schooling.  Let us know if you're interested in writing his story...

     We were naive to think that once the kids were in school, our work as a foundation would slow down.  It is becoming clearer to us that one of our long term goals may include a new physical space to call home.  The Imana Kids mission statement includes providing each child of Kimisagara with access to food, a safe place to live and clean water.  Long term, we envision a space for the preschoolers that has grass to lie in the sun on, space to ride a trike and rooms with a table and chair for everyone.  This is heavy on our hearts and as we pray and seek wise counsel, won't you join us?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ball point pens, tourism school and more...

This is Kara. I'm in Brussels processing the last week that Kayla and I had the honor to experience.  We only slept about 4 hours a night, missed a lot of meals and were in a constant state of motion because of the countless lists to complete and problems to solve.  That being said, the transformations in the children are beyond describable.  If I begin writing, I won't stop. Here is the summary:

Top 10 Moments for Imana Kids (1/2014)

1. Light  As in the kids eyes.  For real, they look more alive than we have ever seen them.  All the kids living at their new schools are positively glowing.  Their affect is no longer flat and all of them are eager to share everything they are doing, seeing and feeling.
2.  The Nannies We have hired three women to care for the preschool aged children daily.  Kayla worked with them to develop a routine, to use general preschool educational materials and to begin to provide more structure and discipline.  The most beautiful piece of their story is that each of them was formerly a prostitute.  They have all joined James' church, were baptized and now trying desperately to find alternative incomes from their previous lifestyle.  The empowerment that having this job with the little ones is giving them is so hopeful.  Kayla and I were able to visit with them, to write down their stories and to pray for them.  They expressed that seeing these little orphans has touched their hearts and that this is more than an job for them.  We are hoping that in the near future, we could get sponsors for each woman.  Additionally, Rosette, one of the three, will be starting an intensive English language program next week in the evenings. Good, good stuff.
3  Greens and bananas The good news is that they aren't as expensive as we had previously anticipated.  Rosette, as of Tuesday, January 21, be buying fresh fruit along with sweet potatoes and greens, on her way to the orphanage. Until this week, the kids were eating maize for lunch and rice and beans for dinner.  That was literally it.  Now our menu is porridge with milk (and a SPRINKLE of sugar, this was a battle between James and me) and fruit for breakfast, sweet potatoes, greens or peanut butter and bread for lunch and beans/rice and vegetables for dinner.  The eggs are coming...this isn't fabulous, but as James told me many times this week "Building a foundation in a building is very difficult. But when it is strong, you can keep building up."
4. Letters  The kids worked really hard on writing or drawing (or both) to their sponsors.  Some of them are making remarkable progress, asking "How is life in Nebraska?" or "Please kiss your baby from me" while others are copying the exact letter that their sponsor wrote to them because they don't yet know English but they desire to communicate with their sponsor family.  ***Side note: the teachers will be working with the kids on letter writing. Please disregard any comments regarding "needing a phone" or bike or whatever.  Orphans are especially vulnerable and a product of their environment.  We apologize and we ask for grace...
5. Saturday mornings Our primary age kids are at Good Harvest while the secondary students live at High Hill Academy.  They are only a few blocks from each other and the headmasters of each school have given James permission to accompany the older kids to visit the primary students each Saturday.  They get to all walk together to see each other.  Watching their little reunion will be burned on my memory for a long time.
6. Character  Both of the headmasters at primary and secondary expressed to me on more than one occasion that they are really enjoying our kids.  The describe Imana Kids as being well behaved and "loving."  Kayla, the teacher, is quick to point out that all kids behave this way at the beginning of the school year!  However, we are excited and proud that so far, so good.  Also, we are thrilled that one of our teenage boys, who has had almost no education in his life, has chosen to be in P2 (~1st grade) despite being 14.  He is also making eye contact now and smiling.  The kids are all encouraging him and his teachers express his leadership qualities.
7.  Faith building  Some of you may have previously seen the baptism pictures.  James baptized 26 kids/young adults on their own request.  Now they have taken the initiative to hold prayer meetings together at their schools.  This is their salvation.  This matters more than math or English or national exam scores.
8. Bic Pens James and I bought $256 (American, not francs) worth of notebooks.  We had forgotten to get two kids their pens earlier, so we added 4 ball point pens.  The merchant gave us two free out of four free. *insert sarcasm here*  I share this to give perspective on the situation, the needs and the vast ocean of contrast in our cultures.
9. Gratitude Every single Imana Kid is thrilled with their 2 pens, their 24 notebooks, their periodic table, the three pair of socks and 3 pair underwear.  Take the excitement of our American back to school shopping and multiply it by, like, 1 million.
10. James God has gifted James to lead and love these children.  He is patient, he is fatherly and when he speaks, he is full of wisdom and love.  Orphans haven't had consistency in their lives; they don't have an example of a father's love; gaining these kids' trust is  beyond remarkable.  On a personal note, James and I each wrote the same bible verse for the new year without knowledge of the other doing so.  Isaiah 43:19 "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." 
    Thank you for all of your prayers, we have felt them and we have needed them.  Their are still many, many mountains to climb.  But we can look down from our perch and see all the ways that God is springing up new life in a wasteland.  Please continue to pray that we each have wisdom and discernment regarding the children still not sponsored, the costs that arise and the spiritual  battles that wage on.  The board will mail out letters this weekend!

Monday, December 30, 2013

What a way to welcome the New Year!

85 sponsor packets, 166 lollipops, gifts for our staff and extra handmade cards for the neighborhood children.

     Today Ryan Higgins, our director, began his 2 day journey to Rwanda, equipped with the precious words, images and treats that each of our sponsors has sent to their child.  He will spend New Years Day giving each orphan their family profile as well as helping them write their first letter back.  Each sponsored child will also be signing a Behavior Contract which we hope will set a standard for our students in the classroom and in the relationships that they will be developing.
     Ryan will also be working with James in last minute details regarding school supplies and transportation.  In addition, he will be problem solving with some of our headmasters.  In true Imana Kids fashion, the 11th our is upon us and there are conflicts with our S2 and S3 students and which school will best meet their needs.  Some of the kids have tested very low on placement exams, and deciding where to send them to fit their academic and social needs is no easy task.
     Unfortunately (and fortunately) Ryan and James will not have the time to devote to our preschool aged children.  The three nannies have been hired and the initial food program is up and running.  However, additional board members will work with the women later in the month regarding hygiene, first aid and nutrition, as well as identifying a structured, yet realistic routine for the little ones.
    If you are sponsoring a child, watch for them on Facebook and Twitter this week! Ryan will be doing his best to capture as much video and photography of these "first" moments for each child.  Please pray for all the kids, Ryan, James and the schools that will be welcoming them on Saturday.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Hey there friends.
It's been another blessed week for Imana Kids.  27 primary kids took their placement tests at Good Harvest.  The railing is now complete so no more of our sweet kiddos will fall.  2 more kids have been sponsored.
The finished railing!

Bus ride to visit their new school and take placement tests.
Taking the exams.

We do have a few prayer requests going into the weekend:
  • The reality of orphaned children is painful.  Many of our older children are testing very, very low.  James is struggling with where to place them in school.  No 10 year old wants to be in a class of 5 year olds.  This will also be difficult for the children and their future teachers (although the teachers are accustomed to this).
  • James is overwhelmed.  He has requested help in placing all the children.  Getting 93 kids tested and to the correct school is a really big job.  We have offered to hire staff to assist him but we are also concerned that we want him to feel that we support him.  There are many expectations for this upcoming month and we don't want him to feel alone or pressured.  If it were not so expensive, all of us would hop on a plane to assist him.  Yet we also know that one plane ticket is the equivalent of 50 mattresses.  We are coveting your prayers this weekend that we make wise choices regarding support for James and how we use our limited funds.
  • Next Saturday there will be more than 20 kids and young adults getting baptized.  James has been leading a bible study several days a week at the orphanage and every day more kids are accepting Christ.  This is amazing! This is their salvation.  Forever and ever.  This is also a (good)burden on James.  He requests that we all pray that he can lead them well and that their faith may blossom.  As a board, our first desire is that each child know God intimately as their father.
  • For the board.  Each of us is overwhelmed with joy in this advent season that our dreams for the kids of Kimisagara are becoming a reality.  We miss them all dearly and we want James to feel confident, supported and in community with us.  We don't know if we should spend the money and send someone to support him, to seek other staff in Rwanda or to just keep encouraging him from here. Thank you for your prayers, for loving the kids and for supporting us in more ways than we could imagine!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Burdened with Hope

  The clock is ticking.

     The next school year at Good Harvest and New Life schools begins in a month.  We are rejoicing and in awe that there are 70 children are leaving for boarding school.  70 kids getting the top teachers and the top education in Rwanda.  70 kids getting a new, clean bed all for themselves.  70 kids getting a shower and clothing.  70 kids getting three meals a day.  70 kids being cared for and nurtured by staff that knows the special needs of orphaned and vulnerable children.  Yet it gets better.

70 kids now feel wanted.

      The children and young adults of Kimisagara know what it means to be orphaned.  Most of them have spent their lives at the top of a cliff, watching life happen.  Their view from the orphanage allows them to watch kids with families get walked to school every day.  They can see and hear and smell what they are missing out on.  Seeing those kids sit and watch life happen was one of the many ways that God shaped our hearts to start Imana Kids.
     Our sponsors are already bonding with their sponsored children.  They are filling their paperwork with words of love and encouragement.  Our Imana Kids are getting framed on walls across North America (see what we did there, Canada? wink), their names are being whispered in prayers and their stories are being told.  Each of those 70 kids is beginning to believe that they matter.  That they are worth it.  And to us, that is one of the best outcomes that we could pray for.
     You may be crunching numbers now.  We've said from the beginning that we had 93 stories to tell.  We still do.  Some of those stories are of children and young adults that are not orphaned but they find acceptance and companionship and a meal in Kimisagara Orphanage.  And the reality is that until poverty and disease and all the sin of the world is eliminated, there will always be more children.  We know that and we know that our work as a foundation will be life long.
     Some of those remaining are our kids that haven't been sponsored yet.  That breaks our hearts.  That is our burden.  The little (and big) faces of those that we don't want to get left behind.  Although we are burdened by this thought, we know that our God knows each of these children's story.  He has counted every hair on their head and He knows them by name.  They are already His.  And we are only a chapter of this story.
     It is Advent.  A season of hope.  We find our peace that the God of the Old Testament kept His promise to each and every one His people as He does to us now too.
"And again, Isaiah says: 'The root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule the nations; in Him the Gentiles will find hope." -Romans 15: 12
     That hope arrived 2000 years ago on a cold night. That hope hung on a tree and vacated the grave and overcame death.  That same hope shows up in the mundane and in the extraordinary
His HOPE in the form of a long-awaited railing.

His HOPE in your actions of love and your commitment to changing lives.


You can still sponsor a child.  If your heart is tugging but you have concerns about the financial commitment, can you email us?  We can still use you in other ways to bless a child in Kigali.  We are in need of families that can commit to praying for and writing to a child on an ongoing basis and the financial element we can work on together.  We also take one time donations and you can specify how your gift used (nutrition program, mattress fees, school supplies, medical needs, transportation fees).

Will you also pray for James? 

      If you don't remember, James is our staff in Rwanda.  He has the enormous job of getting each child registered for the appropriate school, transporting them, paying fees AND ministering to everyone at the orphanage.  And he's rockin' it.  On December 21 they are having a Christmas and baptismal celebration where, as of today, 16 kids are getting baptized.  James has requested that we send him someone to help with all of the schools starting up, but we just don't have the money to do that.  He needs prayers for strength, endurance and discernment.  He also requests that we prayer for these "new" believers as well.

We can't find words for our gratitude.

Thank you from each of the board members for the many ways that God has used you to bless our new ministry.  Thank you for believing that we can changes the lives of each of these kids.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

November isn't Enough

     November in the United States marks National Adoption Month.  With an 18 year history, the government originally started National Adoption Month in an effort to promote foster care and adoption.  Most states have one Saturday in the month of November in which family courts complete adoptions for free, waving court fees, paperwork fees and lawyer costs.  We love this.  All kids everywhere deserve a home.
     Orphan Sunday, the first Sunday of November, began in 2003 in Zambia by a group known as Orphan's Hope.  With origins in the evangelical church, it is now a global movement to create awareness of the plight of orphans everywhere.  Learn more here. 
We at Imana Kids have been using social media heavily this month, promoting a child a day that needs sponsored.  This is in part an effort to take advantage of this month as well as it is because school starts in Rwanda on January 6.  That's less than two months away!  The good news is that there are 60 kids sponsored!  We have families and individuals in 16 states and three countries that have committed to loving one child and changing their world.  It's exciting for us to see our sponsors' profiles come rolling in; we know that their lives are going to be shaped with the relationships that they develop with their sponsored child almost as much as their child's life will change.
      Here's the deal.  There are around 35 kids and young adults left to be sponsored.  Some of them have names and stories.  Some of them are faces that we can't match with a name or story because there isn't one That's a daily reminder to all of us just how ugly and unjust it is that kids don't have families.  Thank God that our heavenly Father knows their names, their stories and their hearts.
     Here's part two of the deal.  We don't want National Adoption Month to exist.  There shouldn't be an Orphan Sunday.  Accepting that there will always be orphans in world is like putting a cap on what God is capable of doing.  Each of us has something to give, to do, to invest toward ending the orphan crisis.  Adoption isn't a solution.  We love adoption; love, love, love it.  But adopting one child isn't going to end the poverty, the loneliness, the disease, the hate, the apathy and the death that is the cause of the problem.
     So what is the solution?  Of course, if every Christian in the world adopted an orphan, there wouldn't be orphans.  For one moment.  Until a parent died, another father went to jail and a mama died from dirty water.  The solution is in education and in healthcare; in delivering justice and compassion.  The solution is in using our gifts, our resources and our talents to stop the cycle here and now.  We are the church and we are one giant body.  We don't settle for answering that call just one month a year.  We ask God, "How do you want us to do this big thing?  How do You, God, use us to end this"
    We are doing this in one little corner of Kigali.  We are doing this through you all; with your compassion, your time and your support.  We are doing this by sending street kids to two beautiful schools filled with knowledge, tools and people that can empower these kids to change their future.  To be the last orphan in their corner.  We are doing this here and now.
     Even if you aren't sure that you can sponsor a child, would you consider emailing us your interest?  There are more needs for these children than only financial and we want to use every gift and talent we can to change each of our "kids" lives.

Profiles and stories of the kids of Kimisiagara Orphanage. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

5 Reasons Not to Sponsor a Child

5.  "There are already so many needy children here. "

       You're right.  There are indeed needy children in every corner of our country.  If you feel that way, our prayer is that you are doing something about those children in need. Mentor through a community organization or donate to the Boys and Girls Clubs.  Imana Kids is for all that but our focus is a little more specific than needy kids.  These kids also happen to be orphans.  Our goal, as a family of Christians, is to answer the mandate of James 1:27; that we are called to care for widows and orphans in their times of distress.

4.  "There are already so many sponsorship programs in 'third world' countries. Why don't you join them?"

     Again, you are right.  Many great, well known organizations have existed for a long time to provide children all over the world with education.  Those groups are in Rwanda too.  But they aren't at Kimisagara, they do not serve widows and they do not have opportunities to support orphanages.  We exist to support Kimisagara street kids and orphans as well as the young men, women and orphans that call this special place home.

3.  "Won't sponsoring a child make them dependent on Americans?"

  Children receiving sponsorship through Imana Kids are not getting a "free ride" (Although, would that be so awful?).  The children of Kimisagara have either been abandoned by their birth families, kicked out a foster home (not for behavior but for lack of resources) or moved to Kimisagara because their previous orphanage has closed.  Sponsorship provides these kids with boarding school: three meals a day, supplies, tuition, supervision, spiritual and academic guidance.  Imana Kids students have signed a contract outlining both academic and behavioral expectations.  The students know that they must work hard to achieve their academic goals and to continue their education.
  Dr. Bruce Wydick of UCSF found that sponsored children in six different countries were 50-80% more likely to attend college, stayed in school 1.5-2 yrs longer than non-sponsored kids, as adults were 35% more likely to have a white collar job and were 30-75% more likely to be in leadership roles in their communities (Wydick, Journal of Political Economy. 2013.)

4.  "I don't like not seeing where my money goes."

  With Imana Kids, you can see where your money goes.  Actually, we want you to.  Firsthand.  Our sponsored children will communicate regularly with you, you receive updates and report cards and we provide trips to Rwanda to meet and spend time with your sponsored child.  We partner with Visiting Orphans to take people to the Land of a Thousand Hills so that others may be shaped and changed to love orphans and widows well.

5. " I can't afford it."

  For some of us, this may very well be true.  However, we believe that if you truly desire to follow God's word, then tithing (10%) and giving each month is an amazing way to experience God's goodness and grace.  It does take a leap of faith!  For all of us, when we give more than we believe we can "handle," God continues to provide for our needs-and even beyond.
Pray about it....and don't be afraid.  Please email us if, tweet us or reach out to someone else that sponsors a child.  It will change your world as much as it will change theirs.