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Rwanda Journal: Dreams Do Come True

July 23, 2008 (Kigali, Rwanda) — The Rwanda Project came full circle Wednesday as Karlen Talbert, Sharee Miller, Sterelina Warner and Twanna Hodge met their "adopted" Rwandan sister — thus realizing the dream come true that brought Ivanna Eudora Kean High School students to the heart of the African continent. (See "Rwanda Orphan Gets Another Year in School Thanks to Local Students.")
We drove up the dusty road and into the gated yard of a simple red brick house overlooking Kigali's Genocide Memorial. There Vickie Umuhoza lives with her aunt, Peace Ruszage, when she's not in boarding school. As we pulled up, we were met by hundreds of Peace's neighbors to whom she is teaching English and business skills.
As we turned the corner to the back of her house to enter, another two dozen women were lined up selling handicrafts. They had been informed of our visit. It is Peace's belief that teaching the women skills they can use to earn money for their families is one of the most valuable things you can do for these women.
Peace encouraged the girls to stop and peruse the merchandise — which they happily did before stepping into the house to be greeted by a smiling Vickie.
The 9-year-old orphan has been put through two years at Musanze's Sonrise School, thanks to the efforts of the Kean students and their teacher and advisor, Barbara Young.
The girls' dream to meet Vickie came true Wednesday in a whirl of stuffed animals, books, clothing, jewelry and even a coil-shaped Slinky toy. Far from being overwhelmed by the attention and picture-taking, Vickie accepted all of it in grace and style — smiling and saying thank you in quiet but perfect English.
The girl, who lost her mother four years ago, is learning English in school and seemed to understand everything being said to her.
With the late-afternoon sun slanting through the orange-and-gray curtains, the lively chatter of women and children outside provided the background. Barbara leafed through a thick book of photographs she had put together to show the young Rwandan child the Virgin Islands visitors in their native environment.
The first picture in the book is a photograph of Vickie that hangs on Barbara's classroom wall. Also included were pictures of Magens Bay and a few of the girls cheerleading — a concept Vickie didn't quite grasp.
Vickie received one gift after another from her V.I. sisters, who have waited a year and a half in the hope of meeting her.
The Slinky toy, first popularized in the United States in the late 1940s and early '50s, seemed the favorite. Vickie, without benefit of steps on which to test the toy, found numerous ways to amuse herself with the shiny silver novelty.
As the aroma of charcoal and wood cooking fires wafted through the open windows, signaling dinner time, we found our way outside to take a few more photos.
And as we pulled away, with a promise to return, Vickie smiled and waved goodbye to her newfound sisters, who were happily reviewing their purchases and their time with Vickie.
So satisfied with their day, they happily accepted a 6 a.m. wake up call for Thursday, when we return to the work that we had begun Tuesday at the Amizero and Benipuwe orphan centers.
To be continued ….
Editor's note: For more about the trip, read first lady Cecile deJongh's Travel Journal.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

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July 23, 2008 (Kigali, Rwanda) -- The Rwanda Project came full circle Wednesday as Karlen Talbert, Sharee Miller, Sterelina Warner and Twanna Hodge met their "adopted" Rwandan sister -- thus realizing the dream come true that brought Ivanna Eudora Kean High School students to the heart of the African continent. (See "Rwanda Orphan Gets Another Year in School Thanks to Local Students.")
We drove up the dusty road and into the gated yard of a simple red brick house overlooking Kigali's Genocide Memorial. There Vickie Umuhoza lives with her aunt, Peace Ruszage, when she's not in boarding school. As we pulled up, we were met by hundreds of Peace's neighbors to whom she is teaching English and business skills.
As we turned the corner to the back of her house to enter, another two dozen women were lined up selling handicrafts. They had been informed of our visit. It is Peace's belief that teaching the women skills they can use to earn money for their families is one of the most valuable things you can do for these women.
Peace encouraged the girls to stop and peruse the merchandise -- which they happily did before stepping into the house to be greeted by a smiling Vickie.
The 9-year-old orphan has been put through two years at Musanze's Sonrise School, thanks to the efforts of the Kean students and their teacher and advisor, Barbara Young.
The girls' dream to meet Vickie came true Wednesday in a whirl of stuffed animals, books, clothing, jewelry and even a coil-shaped Slinky toy. Far from being overwhelmed by the attention and picture-taking, Vickie accepted all of it in grace and style -- smiling and saying thank you in quiet but perfect English.
The girl, who lost her mother four years ago, is learning English in school and seemed to understand everything being said to her.
With the late-afternoon sun slanting through the orange-and-gray curtains, the lively chatter of women and children outside provided the background. Barbara leafed through a thick book of photographs she had put together to show the young Rwandan child the Virgin Islands visitors in their native environment.
The first picture in the book is a photograph of Vickie that hangs on Barbara's classroom wall. Also included were pictures of Magens Bay and a few of the girls cheerleading -- a concept Vickie didn't quite grasp.
Vickie received one gift after another from her V.I. sisters, who have waited a year and a half in the hope of meeting her.
The Slinky toy, first popularized in the United States in the late 1940s and early '50s, seemed the favorite. Vickie, without benefit of steps on which to test the toy, found numerous ways to amuse herself with the shiny silver novelty.
As the aroma of charcoal and wood cooking fires wafted through the open windows, signaling dinner time, we found our way outside to take a few more photos.
And as we pulled away, with a promise to return, Vickie smiled and waved goodbye to her newfound sisters, who were happily reviewing their purchases and their time with Vickie.
So satisfied with their day, they happily accepted a 6 a.m. wake up call for Thursday, when we return to the work that we had begun Tuesday at the Amizero and Benipuwe orphan centers.
To be continued ....
Editor's note: For more about the trip, read first lady Cecile deJongh's Travel Journal.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.