Thursday, August 22, 2013

Update on Helena

Some readers may remember my June blog post about Helena, the little girl who fellow MK missioners, Catlin and David, have been helping "get new legs." Well, she's had some progress and some setbacks.

David has posted the bad news on his blog here. But there is hope and Helena's been exercising a little, despite having casts up to her waist. Check out the video, which is the good news, at David's blog here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Project-Lulu

Last week I mentioned that I would be starting some new projects.  I didn't want to say too much specifically about the projects at that point because I wanted them to be officially "unveiled" in our quarterly newsletter. But I know no one reads those newsletters anyway, right? So, I best talk about it here too. ;)

I just wrapped up the 2nd facilitator's meeting for one of my new endeavors, the Lulu program, and I get more and more excited about it each week. Lulu is a group that we will be running in our parish and local neighborhood for girls 15-20 years old to teach them about life skills, health and business/entrepreneurship skills. Lulu means "pearl" in Swahili. The idea is that the girls are pearls in God's hands and He cherishes them like a precious jewel. We are going to use materials from, and structure the group after, a program (which is where the name comes from) that was started here in Mwanza and already has a history of success. A lay missioner from another organization created the program and she has a wealth of information and experience that she has so generously agreed to share with us. Plus, every once in a while our girls, as well as our facilitators, will be able to meet girls from other Lulu programs around Mwanza to network and exchange ideas/experiences.

There is a need for education such as this all over the world, but especially in Tanzania. Often young girls bear the brunt of work in the household, causing them to leave school early. Girls here are regularly married at an early age so that the family can collect the bride price and also to lighten the financial burden of the family with one less mouth to feed. Girls have very little voice and their self esteem can be quite low. They are trafficked from villages into the city (or abroad) to work in homes as "house girls," where they aren't paid, are often abused and aren't send to school. Young women in TZ also experience high rates of physical, sexual and other form of abuse.

Lulu will help by teaching the girls their rights as human beings and residents of Tanzania. The group will give the girls a safe place to talk with other girls and to realize that they are not alone in their life situations. They will be able to build their own self esteem and will be empowered to help other girls in similar situations. And, most appealing to the girls themselves, it will give them an opportunity to learn business skills so they can start their own small businesses. Having access to their own money will give them a little bit of independence. With income, girls are less likely to sell their bodies, are more able to escape violence in their homes, and have more power within the family.

We are still in the planning stages of the group and hope to start meeting with the girls around the beginning of October. Stay tuned for more information as we continue planning.

In the meantime, here are some ways you can help, if you're interested.
  • Prayers that our group successfully gets off the ground and that we reach girls who are able to benefit from the program.
  • Ideas (and instructions!) for income generating activities. Partway through the program I will teach the girls a few things that they can do for a business. (Keep in mind that materials are hard to come by here in TZ and most girls won't be able to afford much in the way of start-up costs.)
  • Of course, we always need funds. At this point, we need money to buy pens and notebooks for all the girls as well as for other materials, such as paper and photocopies. Donations can be made here through MKLM in the name of "Katie Reid's Mission Account." (Please don't ship any of these things because the cost is very expensive, we have unreliable mail and we want to keep it locally-sustainable.)
  • Have you done a similar program for girls in Africa? I'd love to hear your experience, challenges, successes, ideas!
  • Spread the word about our work. Read our current newsletter and let me know in the comments section here if you want to get on our mailing list, then print the newsletter and give it to friends and family. The more people we have cheering us on, the better!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happy 1000th!*

The 1000th posting on my blog passed weeks ago and I didn't even mention or commemorate it! I can't believe that I've had this blog for over 8 years and that I've actually had something to post about over 1000 times, not too bad for an introvert. I can't say that my posts have always been interesting but I've managed to crank them out, which is more than I can say for any diary or journal that I've ever started. Those usually make it 6 months or a year, tops, and then they collect dust on the shelf.

Well, a lot has changed over these past 1012 posts. My first post was short and sweet. I think I've gotten a lot more rambley since then. Somewhere along the way I also started to use proper punctuation. I guess I realized it didn't take that much more effort to capitalize.

My second post was a picture of this little cutie.

baby maddie

Can you believe, this is her now? She's still a cutie, but not so little anymore.

Hanging with Maddie on the beach

My third post was this picture of her father.

another waldie!

Well, not much has changed there, as you can see...

American Gothic

Anyways, I guess I can't go through all 1000 posts one by one. That'd for sure lose all of the 3 remaining readers who have stuck with me over the past 8 years.

A lot of has changed over the past 1000 posts. People have died. People have been born. I've changed jobs 3 times. Chris has gotten a few more college degrees. Pets have come into and exited our lives. We live on a different continent.

But, yeah, just, thanks for reading, thanks for commenting. Here's to another 988 posts.

*This will actually by my 1012th post! Well on my way to another 1000, I guess.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Quarterly Newsletter

Click here to read and download our quarterly newsletter with information about what Chris and I have been up to in our ministries over the past few months, as well news about new ministries and projects. We are really excited about these new initiatives and I want to take this opportunity to appeal to you to help us with these endeavors.

At this point, we are now involved in more ministry projects than ever before. With this blessing comes the challenge of needing more funds in order to accomplish our increased work. Our current mission account* balance has been largely exhausted by our current projects and over the past several months we have received very few donations. With the launch of our new projects we are hoping that you will think about making a special donation. As always, your donations to our mission account help with our formal ministries, informal requests by people for personal assistance, “special projects,” (i.e. building Paulina’s house), as well as opportunities for us to continue cultural acclamation (i.e. language tutoring). With our new projects there will be increased start-up costs such as expenses for photocopies of curriculums, fees for materials, or small stipends for program assistants. The list of needs is endless and, needless to say, the more we have, the more we can do. Please consider making a special donation to our mission account to allow us to do more in our community. All donations through MKLM are tax deductible.

Chris and I are immensely grateful for all the support we receive from home. We are continually awed and humbled by the emails, prayers, packages, donations, gifts, etc. etc. We want you to know how much we appreciate your support in whatever form it comes and we are physically, emotionally and spiritually sustained by your generosity on a daily basis.

*A point of clarification: Donations to MKLM with the wording “Chris and Katie Reid-Mission Account” are credited to the account referenced in this email. Donations made to MKLM with anything else (even just our names) and no specific mention of a “Mission Account” are sent to MKLM’s general fund, which helps offset the cost of us in mission (i.e. our stipends, our health insurance, the programmatic fees associated on an administrative level). We appreciate donations in either manner and both are extremely helpful to our role in mission in TZ.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Project Teaser

I've got some new work projects on the horizon and I've been holding back from sharing it publicly. Today I had our first planning meeting and I couldn't be more thrilled.

First planning meeting of new project

I'm also honored to be working these three fabulous ladies! More info to come soon...

Monday, August 12, 2013

The End to our Little B

I posted this on Facebook, but just to keep the blog up-to-date (and for those not on FB), just a quick note about our little kitty's death.

Wembley April 2013

Little Wembley, only about 6 months old, died this weekend. We came home late from a wedding Saturday night/Sunday morning (blog post to come soon) and found him dead on the bed. As you might know from previous posts, he'd been sick. But he gotten better over the past month and we thought we'd gotten out of the woods on that one. But a few days ago he started acting erratic again and we suspected that his mysterious "sickness" was back again. He wasn't as bad this time as he was last time, so I was surprised on Saturday to find him dead. I didn't really expect it to kill him, but I did hope that if he was going to be continuously sick with an unknown ailment, that it would just take him quickly so he (and we) didn't have to suffer. 

We live in a place where people and kids die every day of mysterious causes. Chris and I have talked several times over the past day about how quickly we've moved on from the death of this little guy. Don't get me wrong. We're upset and there have been many times when we've forgotten he's dead and expected him to jump in our laps or beg for food. But at the same time I think that having seen so much human death and illness (not to mention suffering and poverty) over the past 1 1/2 years, losing a cat doesn't seem like that much of a loss to bare. I think we've definitely gained a new perspective on that one.

Wembley was a good little kitty, though. He liked to sit on the back of the couch and watch the birds outside playing on the roof of the truck. He made funny sounds when he ate. His meow often sounded like the Squeaky Namaqua rain frog. He followed me around the house and sat in my lap as soon as I sat down. He had his first taste of American kitty treats brought by my parents in July and once he tried them he couldn't get enough! And he really knew how to shake his booty to "The Hanky Panky." He'll definitely be missed.

Wembley. aka: Wembles, Little B, Little Man, Duder, Purr Baby
Approx. Feb 2013-Aug 2013

Sleeping on my lap July 2013

Working hard while I work at home

Are you watching me?

 Tired-after-a-long-journey cuddled with tired-after-being-left-alone-for-3-weeks

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Rwanda Trip-Natural Beauty

Chris and I were so fortunate to be able to meet up with my dad and stepmom in Rwanda. It was wonderful to be able to catch up with them in person for the first time in almost 2 years and it means the world to us that people are willing to take the time and spend the money to come all this way to visit us. Plus, they invited us to join them on their Rwandan nature adventure, which is something we couldn't have done on our own. I'm so happy we were able to experience with them some of Africa's most precious creatures and its stunning beauty. Some of the sights we saw in Rwanda can not be found anywhere else in the world. What a precious gift and a privileged to experience it!

Rwanda's countryside is stunning. Rolling hills into mountains, lush greenery (even in the dry season!), clean paved streets. Chris probably snapped 100 pictures just along the roads as we were driving.

The only downside to the beauty is that every square inch of the country is cultivated. As soon as a protected forest ends, the fields begin. If I didn't understand before, I definitely fully appreciate the need for preserved spaces.

Beautiful plantations
I don't know how people worked these fields. They were so high up!

Monkey following us on the road.
When we took a break from the twisty roads, this little guy came out to greet us.

Tea farms. Such beautiful color.
Tea plantations spread out all over the countryside. The color is just spectacular.

Because we were so close to Congo, there were several refugee camps along the road.
Because we were so close to the boarder of the DRC, there were several refugee camps plopped right into the middle of this mountain beauty. A sad reminder of the conflicts nearby.

Our first outdoor adventure was chimp trekking in Nyungwe Forest in the south of the country. It was a steep climb into the jungle and then, using trackers, we followed the chimps to where they were eating breakfast. It was tough to follow them because they move fast and hide in the trees and on the ground. But we got some good views of them, still.

The tracker in the woods.
Big thanks go to the trackers who spend their whole days out in the forest following the movement of the apes.

Monkey watching us watch him.
Monkeys seemed to be watching us as much as we were watching them.

Another monkey. I mean, my hubby looking sexy. Had to tuck in to make sure ants didn't crawl up!
Tucking your socks into your pants is important if you don't want to get ants in the pants! Ultimate dorkiness transformation complete!

Laughing with dad.
Relatives of the chimps.

Chimp taking a break by a tree.
We spotted this guy on the trail.

Pensive moment.
He didn't much like being followed, so he kept his back to us and ran away if we tried to get any closer.

Eventually he said, "Forget this!" and climbed away in the trees.

This little baby was making a lot of noise!

Later in the week we took our next hiking adventure to see the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park in the north-west of the country. We'd heard from many people that the hike is very difficult and it can take hours just to find the apes. Just like the chimps, you use trackers to find their location and once you find them you follow them through the forest. Because they don't stick to scenic trails, you could have to whack your way through the forest, which can be steep and slippery. Imagine our surprise, then, when the gorillas actually walked out of the forest into the surrounding fields to meet us! It all happened within the first 15 minutes of our hike. We didn't even make it into the woods!

The first silverback came right out of the forest to us!
This silverback walked out into the clearing and slapped the ground so hard right next to me, I could feel the ground shake. It about scared me half to death!

Here they all come! So close to us.
After the silverback announced his presence, the rest of the crew came out. There were 14 in this family, 2 silverbacks (1 dominant), several adolescents not yet of age, some mamas and 2 babies.

A baby eating.
They were just out looking for some food.

They don't call them silverbacks for nothing!
The silverback leader.

A momma.
One of the mamas.

Dad and Holly so close to the silverback.
So close!

Might be my all-time favorite picture. Everyone wants to take pictures of you with the gorillas but I wasn't so keen to sit with my back to them!
Everybody wanted to take our picture with the gorillas behind us. I wasn't that thrilled to have my back to these huge creatures! You just hear them moving and breaking things behind you. Kinda nerve wracking!

They really loved that bark. Apparently the underside is sweet.
Apparently, the inside of the tree is sweet.

Resting for a second.

A quite face.

The big guy guarding his flock.
This guy weighs about 260 kilos (almost 600 pounds)!

Beautiful hands.

Just a few seconds earlier this guy tripped over my foot and I almost fell on him.
This little guy actually hit my foot, which scared me and I almost tripped on him!

Our guides and trackers.
Our guide, in the middle, was talking to and playing with the gorillas. He's the oldest guide and was once the porter for Dian Fossey. All he said about her was that she liked animals more than people, which was probably quite true.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Rwanda Trip- Kigali and the Genocide Memorials

Even though Rwanda is right next to Tanzania, we would have had to fly through Nairobi to get there. So since we were planning on being in Nairobi the week before my parents met us in Rwanda, we decided to head to Rwanda a few days early instead of flying back and forth from Mwanza to Nairobi. That gave us a few extra days to sight-see before my dad and Holly flew in to meet us in Kigali.

Kigali, and Rwanda in general, is much more developed than Tanzania. We enjoyed walking on sidewalks, eating in cafes, driving on paved roads, etc.

Kigali. The development was amazing.
Downtown Kigali

The food in Rwanda was great. A club sandwich? Yes, please!
 Club sandwich!

Chris on moto taxi
A common mode of transport. They were MUCH more cautious drivers than in TZ.

Kigali, the part that resembled Tanzania.
Though, there are still parts of the city that resemble Tanzania.

During the week we were in Rwanda, Chris and I visited 3 different genocide memorial sites, as well as the Kigali Memorial Center. There's no way for me to adequately capture the feeling of visiting these places. It's unspeakable the brutality that humans can commit against fellow humans. Yet we continue to do it, time and time again, even to this day. I commend the Rwandans for the work they seem to have done and continue to do to promote peaceful conflict resolution and healing from the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, and for their work to remember the atrocity and commemorate those who were victims.

If you're squeamish and don't want to look at pictures of the genocide memorials or hear the atrocious stories of what happened, then skip this post and I'll do another one later with the more uplifting part of the trip. However, I feel like it's important to tell the stories so that more people know the truth of what happened here. Also because the international community did very little to help prevent, mitigate and respond to the genocide against the Tutsis, I feel we have a special responsibility to know more.

This church in Ntarama was the site of the murder of approximately 5000 people, including children.

A Genocide memorial site outside Kigali. Ths was a former church. See the holes in the walls where grenades hit.
This is the main church. The holes in the walls were from where grenade were thrown.

Clothes and remnants of those that died inside the church and compound.
The clothes and personal belongings of the people who were killed here are still housed inside the church. It's obvious that people did not know they were going to be killed because they brought food and other personal items to sustain them for a long period of time.

We couldn't take pictures inside but you can see bones and human remains on the bottom of the shelf inside.
Shelves of skulls can be seen inside this doorway of the church.

In the back of the compound at this site there is another smaller building that was once used as the children's classroom. Inside there is a wall with dried blood on it where children were taken by the feet and their heads were smashed into the wall to kill them. Horrible.

Chris and I also visited a church in Nyamata, however, we didn't take any pictures here. Approximately 2,500 people died in the compound of that church, a large number of them women, who were also raped. The alter still has blood on it and there are holes all over the ceiling and walls where bullets were unloaded to kill those inside the building.

Later in our trip, Dad, Holly, Chris and I visited Murambi Memorial Site, which was a vocational school under construction at the time of the genocide. An astonishing 27,000 people were murdered here. This site is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by hills. It's quiet and serene but also a perfect trap for people who could be viewed by the hills that surround the school on all sides. This site also serves as a reminder of how the Catholic Church played a horrible role in contributing to the genocide. A local bishop and the mayor encouraged people to come to this school and told the people they would be safe. Unfortunately, it was just a trick to get them to one concentrated place so they could be killed more easily.

These rooms all had mumified bodies in lime.
There are 24 rooms full of mummified bodies. We only go through 2 or 3 rooms before we had had enough.

You can see the bodies in the door.
The bodies were thrown into mass graves and there was some sort of reaction that caused them to be preserved.

Our tour guide was a survivor. At 19 he saw his father killed (he was later crucified in the town square). He ran to hide in the woods and later learned his mother and all siblings except 1 were murdered. Rising above his past, he is a success story.*
Our guide was a survivor himself, having lost both his parents and all his siblings but one brother. According to the guide, French soldiers built mass graves for the bodies here, covered them up and then played volleyball on top to cover up the grave. Again, horrible.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a very well done and touching museum that details the build up to and events that happened during the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994 as well as commemorates those who were lost.

Kigali Genocide Memorial. A very touching place.

The torch is lit every year during the 90 days of rememberence, April-July.
Since we were there during the 90 days of remembrance (the 3 months where the genocide was taking place), the torch was lit in the courtyard.

Another mass grave at the memorial.
The mass graves outside are surrounded by very pretty gardens. The graves had a lot of flower baskets on them, which had been placed by people visiting to pay their respects.

At each of the memorial sites we visited, there were family and those affected visiting to pay their respects. This church group sang and put flowers on the mass graves.
At each site we went to there were always groups of people from churches or various businesses who had come to visit and pay their respects. This church group stood by the mass grave and sang songs and hymnals. It was very moving.

Just like in all the memorial sites, we couldn't take pictures inside the buildings. But the museum was really well done and I think they did a good job of giving the details and documenting what happened.

Rwanda is more than just a country where atrocious things happened and soon I'll be writing a post about the beauty of the country and its animals. But, again, it's important that we understand what happened here and work to prevent future (and stop current) atrocities.

*Random side note, if you know us well, you might find it odd that dad's wearing what is obviously Chris's AmeriCorps sweatshirt (Yes, he still wears it!). For 5 days dad and Holly's luggage was delayed getting to Rwanda on their way from the US, so we had to help them out by lending them some of our clothes. They were troopers through the whole thing!