A truly unique country

shoe shine boy

shoe shine boy

I am seated on a 20 cm high wooden stool on main street, Addis Ababa.  In front is a young boy brushing my shoes making them shine brighter than the day they left Chinese factory doors.  I enjoy seeing the boy diligently applying his skill. I am in Ethiopia.  In this blog post I will describe to you my first impression of what I find to be a truly unique country.

As I walk the street of the capital Addis Ababa, I am amazed by the number of people everywhere. Business is being done on every street corner. In an Indian sort of fashion, street boys plying their trade and often at costs that would not make a Dutch employee even bother getting out of bed. Just watching two old Muslim women greeting each other in an elaborate and traditional way is moving. I feel part of a world where I am the student, instead of being praised beyond reason as I often felt as a white in Zambia, I now feel I have to study and learn the local customs and culture in order to gain access to this utterly intriguing world.

There are many things that make the country unique. The first thing one would point out to you is that Ethiopia has never been colonised unlike any other African country. This leaves Ethiopia, a remainder of the ancient Aksum empire, with a great sense of pride, dignity and self-direction. Not only is the culture and traditions less worn out by the uniforming hand of modernity, even the official year count is 7 years behind the rest of the world. The stamp in my passport tells me I entered on 22 Sept 2004. My first reaction was to complain about a typically African outdated system; people too lazy to care about such precisities that make the western part of the globe spin. I luckily keep quiet and soon recall that Ethiopia lives in a year of its own and it daunts on me: I am the one to adjust.

Another examples is the Ethiopian language which has its own alphabet dating back to Egyptians times, with over 200 characters. Equally, Ethiopia has its own church, the Ethiopian Orthodox church, a particular version of Christianity forming a strong pillar in society. Whenever a taxi driver drives by an Orthodox church he makes the sign of a cross. All around me is a distinctly Ethiopian music along with traditional dances and clothes. Little is adopted and Western mingling is kept to a bare minimum. Ethiopian politics follow the same line of ‘proudly Ethiopian’; visionary and with an iron hand this country is pushed forward. Multinational and international food chains are not allowed into the country and international companies that are already present experience a hard time playing the Ethiopian game. Ironically, while critised by international bodies like the IMF and World Bank, Ethiopia had managed to run the fastest growing economy in Africa last year. With the EU crumbling for its survival, this should come as a humble reminder that the Western way is not the only way.

As you can tell I am intrigued by this mysterious, unique country. Closed off by much of the foreign world and bellicosely upholding their own way of doing things. But while I am in a country of great allure, at the same time I am struck by the grave poverty of it all. I feel I have never been in such a poor country as where I am seated right now having my shoes brushed and polished. As I get up I leave the boy with the trifling amount of 10 cents for his 20 minutes of craftsmanship. Paramount to the paradox I entered in, this boy grows up in one of the proudest nations in the world and while growth is rampant, poverty is still pervasive, and he is likely to make only marginally more cents when he gets older.

I remember when I started studying development, my first look at the development index of the world Ethiopia occupied the bottom rung, shouldering war torn Sierra Leone. More than ten years later, I get to be part of the economic flight the country is experiencing as of late. While the economic growth is erratic and its benefits mostly accrue to a lucky few, this miraculous growth holds more hope than the country has ever witnessed since LiveAid called the world into action during its tragic famine in 1984. I just hope I can be part of the new growth path the government embarked upon and help people lift themselves out of poverty, exemplifying the new hope that runs through the veins of this unique country.

Did-you-know-that:

–          Ethiopian women are commonly known to be the most beautiful on the continent. Well after a week in the country all I can say, this is not just a stereotype…

–          In the capital there is one junction where roads from all directions cross over each other at different levels, the local name for it: ‘confusion square’

–          Beggars are everywhere you look and because of the Orthodox Christian teaching that you should give to the poor and will be blessed by it. This led to such an influx of poor leaving the country side to crawl the streets of the capital in search of coins. It started to create problems and hassle in the city to the extent that the government deemed it illegal to either beg or give to beggars. To this effect, the number of beggars on the street dropped, yet there remains still a good crowd of crippled, blind, handicapped and just terribly poor sustained by compassionate people that feel it is ‘more blessed to give than to receive’ (bibleverse)

–      People in Ethiopia eat from one plate. It is even normal for someone to put food in your mouth as a gesture of friendship.

ethiopian dish

ethiopian dish

–       Ethiopia’s staple Teff (a very fine sort grain) is only grown on Ethiopian soil and made into ‘enjera’ (pancake like, see photo) on which the rest of the food is served.

–          Ethiopia is rich in its greetings. When greeting a nod or bow with the head shows respect. A more friendly greeting you touch your both right shoulders. Similar to Dutch custom you greet inner circle of the opposite sex with three kisses on the cheeks. To express your gratitude and respect you support your right elbow with your left hand and bent your knees slightly when shaking the other’s hand. When receiving a gift you are supposed to reach with two hands as one may be considered as reluctance or ingratitude.

– Coming saturday I will be watching Netherlands-Denmark at the ambassor’s house with all my fellow countrymen hopefully cheering the Dutchies to victory

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Buns and Bandits

As I disembark the plane, the sun tantalises my eyes, the unmistakable smell of Africa enters my nostrils and an old rippled smiling face greets me welcome. I just landed in Addis Ababa, more than one month ago from now, and am thrilled to be in Ethiopia. The reason for my visit is a job interview with SNV, a Dutch NGO. Only God knows what I am doing here in the first place, because judging by the bad phone interview I gave two weeks earlier, some strange spin of events (what can only be explained by divine grace if you ask me), made the Ethiopians decide to invite me for a face-to-face interview. hamburger bunThe job at stake is an advisory position to help the oilseeds (notably sesame) industry in Ethiopia flourish. It involves engaging with farmers, traders and processors to streamline the production process from ‘producer to plate’. The project aims to make more money land in the farmer’s pocket and make Ethiopia as a country more competitive on the world stage (exporting seeds to Israel, China, Europe and Japan). So think about me the next time you notice the little sesame seeds toppling your hamburger bun.

The interview goes well and although they acknowledge I am under-qualified for the position, they want to cash in on the potential they think to see, but I have to wait for the next day for the results to be out. It must have been the only night I can recall I am unable to sleep because of all the excitement running up and down my veins and thoughts running through my mind. The following day the die is cast; I am hired. I start to picture me living in this place for the coming years and I try hard to suppress a near constant ear-to-ear smile on my face. Not only is this my absolute dream job, this is the one country I would love to live in most (while Congo still has my heart). Still smiling, I send a thank-you prayer heavenwards.

Feeling a bit indulged in life’s riches, on top of the job offer, I had the chance to ride the motorcycle across East-Africa with my lovely (and brave..) sister before I start the job little less than 2 weeks from now.

Last time I left you readers at the beach along the Kenyan coast and albeit a tranquil interlude of watching waves hit the shore and getting our feet sandy for a couple of days, the journey was far from over and another one and a half thousand kilometres of road still awaits us. The country that is left, and still a strange to our bikes, is Tanzania. This is also where my involvement with Africa started exactly five years ago. I wasn’t a warm welcome.

First we have to bribe an immigration officer that was not amused by us missing the border post earlier (see last post). This hassle makes us fall behind schedule and forces us to drive at night into Tanzania. First we encounter a giraffe passing the road. Initially we only see its legs but when we look up there is this huge, majestic animal. Next thing is a road block on our way made up of big stones and thorny tree branches. As the block looks far from anything official I tell my sister that we are not stopping, but just drive through. We find a small space between two stones where our wheels fit and then hit the throttle. While driving the blockade my bike hits a tree branch which I drag along for some time. While we make it through, we still have a frightening 30 km to drive in pitch dark bush land. The thought of bandits blocking the road, obvious up to no good, is more than the excitement we signed up for. Luckily a lovely Tanzanian friend awaits us at our destination and we take a rest for a couple of days to get back our ‘cool’. The rest of the road is just stunning; lush green rolling hills, baobab trees springing out of the red soil, vast empty spaces, and traditional Maasaii walking by the road.

scenicThere is something profoundly exhilarating about being on the road for so long, loose from everything and just nature as your companion. The possibility of stopping anywhere or talk to someone, your body weight controlling the motorbike. The complete open space around you feels like driving around in someone else’s painting and little by little becoming drawn up in it.

In a month’s time over 3000 kilometers passed under our feet, thousands of people smiled and waved us bye, we collected a good list of crappy hotels not to visit, we had countless laughs, we have seen some of nature’s best, bandits and corrupt police officers crossed our path and unforgettable memories still echo in our minds. Back in Kigali, I park my bike and think this might be the craziest thing I have ever done.

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A trip less ordinary

It is the first of April as we set out for our great adventure. As the church choir stills sings its last song, we pack our last bag and head out of Kigali. After a 1-day drill course on the bike which my sister passed impressively, this is her second day on the bike. We drive through Rwanda’s hilly countryside as the sun welcomes us in. After a few hours drive we hit our first border. After hours getting passed the right six offices collecting stamps, we are in Uganda.

In Uganda they drive left. Still stamped out I continued my right track, and soon I encounter a car some 100m into the new land. Wondering what this maniac is doing on my side of the lane I flash my lights and speed up a bit, confidently maintaining the middle of my lane. As this not seem to scare of this alleged maniac I figured it is my time to duck and I drive into the side ditch. Another 100 meters down the road there is a signpost saying: ‘keep left’. Wondering what other trouble is on the way with maintaining this level of stupidity we finish our first day’s drive.

We find a lonely island on a lake where we peacefully spent the night. A day after the peace and quiet of our own little island, we hit the capital: Kampala. Kampala turns out to be a disaster; the bustling hustle of its shopping streets, crowded with flocks of people and taxi-motors driving in every direction possible. On top of that I get stopped by a corrupt police officer twice. The first time the cop takes out my keys and commands me off the road. While I was on of the few motos that actually waited for the traffic lights, he deemed I was not neatly keeping the (imaginary) waiting line and I had to pay a large fine. It took me 15 minutes of talking and finally I did the trick by showing my business card (I didn’t have one, so I showed one of a random guy working for another UN organisation I happened to have in my wallet). With the other cop I was less diplomatic and after he told me I was driving a one-way street I start acting lost and ask his help for directions to where I was going. After he gave me directions (and put my keys back in), he started asking for money. This is when I felt it was time for me to leave, and I hit the throttle (and drove into yet another one-way street) leaving the yelling officer behind me in smoke.

After the city’s craziness we chill out at lake Victoria, the famously sought after source of the Nile by Dr. Livingstone. The road ahead pointed towards Kenya and its coast. Along this road laughing children, fruit stalls and beautiful scenery wave us by and we approach our second border. Now a very basic understanding of the functioning of borders around the world tells you that there are two sides to every border. By some chance of event we only found one, and completely missed the Kenyan part of customs and immigration. Still waiting for us to pass the Kenyan border we stopped in a small town and asked someone ‘what country is this?’ ‘This is kenya!’ responded the young man with a smile. I smiled back and realised we illegally entered Obama’s birthplace. To tired to bother going back in search of the border, we continued our trip on Kenyan tarmac.

While not ‘officially’ welcomed in Kenya proves to be all we were looking for: friendly people, majestic nature, a currency that is easily calculated into euros, zebras along the road and reasonably good roads. Our second day in, we detour off the main road to visit a ancient rainforest, home of the colobus monkey.  This black and white creature plays in the canopy above us as we pass through the forest. On the road to Nairobi, the capital, we meet zebras and some more monkey on our path. In Nairobi, a former study mate of mine, Felice, warmly welcomes us in and we enjoy a hot shower to wash off all the dust and dirt.

In Nairobi we book a safari to Kenya’s part of the Serengeti wildlife parc. On the way I fall sick and once we arrive I get diagnosed by a maasai doctor in the parc with both a throat infection and malaria. Unfortunately he doesn’t prescribe me some traditional herbal drink or a dance I hoped for, but just the standard antibiotics. After the safari we self-prescribe another couple of days of rest at the Kenyan coast. This turns out a great medicine and I quickly regain strength. As I write I watch over a white beach, Azul blue water, and palm trees waving the sea. What more can men wish for?…

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The road ahead…

What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land. –Che  Guevara, motorcycle diaries-

Imagine a long road ahead. Imagine the wind blowing in your face and ribbing your shirt. Imagine the sun rising as a red glow at the horizon. Imagine endless plains of nothingness alternated by huts and electricity poles breaking the pattern. Imagine kids laughing and waving you bye. Now imagine me on a bike and my sister next to it and you got a good picture of what we’ll be doing the next month.

Now my life in Rwanda entered its closing chapter, it feels like time for a new challenge. Together with my sister I will be crossing the East Africa on bike: 4500Km ahead, 4 borders to cross and the road as a our guide.

We will both be driving a simple Indian bike. Now let me give you a little background on these Idian bikes: Bustling the streets of Kigali are flashy Indian sport bikes; simple, light engines and available at rock-bottom prices. They are without doubt the most bang for your Rwandan buck. These bikes are the NY’s yellow cabs of Kigali and hard to miss. Anyone with 10 dollars on him can hire one for a day and drive around passengers (earning about 20 dollars and possibly a broken bone). To avoid sitting on the back of one of these daredevils I decided to buy one myself when I came here: a Bajaj 125 cc. Driving the bike for almost 9 months now I have grown more confident, on the last trip with Bas we decided to test its limits and drive it to the West of the country. All went fine and this time I want to push it a little further; driving through the whole of East Africa.

Some think this trip is a great idea, others think I am mad; the vast majority of the Rwandans tilt towards the latter. Transport is seen as a danger way to get from A to B, using it for pleasure does not configure in the minds of people here. When skyping with my sister Tirsa, I told her about my plans and spontaneously she decided to join. Within a week she booked a ticket and as the bird sing their songs at the start of April we will both hit the road.

As there is no space to carry spares we will have to rely on the ingenuity of the local population along the road (which can hardly be overestimated). I guess it will not be the question if, but when we break down… The intended route is driving through Uganda, Kenya to the coast, Zanzibar and back through Tanzania but God knows what the actual route will be, how many monekys and elephants on the way and where the road will exactly takes us. All I know is that I am looking forward to this trip.

This trip marks the end of my stay in Rwanda. I have had the privilege to work in a fast developing country and can look back happily on the job I was able to do here, helping farmer to find a profitable market for their harvest. To give you some insight in the job I have been doing here is a link on a brief case study I wrote and here a link to a short video on Odette, one of the farmers I work with.

Warm greetings,

Janno.

  • My sister actually never sat on a motorcycle before…
  • In preparation I have been studying Swahili (the main language in East-Africa) for some months now and hope to engage in a conversation with some Ugandans, Kenyans and Tanzanians along the way.
  • In Swahili ‘I called’ is nilipiga simu meaning ‘I hit (slapped) the telephone’
  • I got a new job! Starting 21st of May I will be working in Ethiopia for SNV, a Dutch NGO working with sesame, maize and peas farmers. I will be stationed in Bahir Dar, a cute old touristic town as the shores of Lake Tana.
  • I got malaria again (my third time in Africa), have been sick for almost a month. The good thing was that a great friend of mine here (Kirsten) faithfully cooked and brought me ‘food for the sick’ meals:)
  • We hit the road this Sunday and will be back on the 28th. I will be in the Netherlands from 2-19 May.

and here your verse for the day again

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Dating in Rwanda (not for the light-hearted..)

Being single in Africa introduces me to a whole new world of twitches and turns having to do with the concept of being single in a foreign country. Being single is a defining social marker in Rwandese society and one of the characteristics, like my nationality, I am being asked for many times over (as opposed to age or any other basic information that doesn’t seem to match the relevance of my maritial status). When checking in in a hotel or filling out any registration form my material status is invariably one of the requirements I need to fill out.

Entering the newyear ‘finding a boyfriend and getting married’ tops the newyear resolution charter for 2012 in Rwanda. Nothing as elevated as losing 10 pounds in the gym, a better diet or quit smoking; the mind of a young Rwandan adult revolves around the quest to find the right one and get married.

Hence your role in Rwandan society is fairly straightforward: you are either single or married. All the in-between hybrids forms I know back home do not apply. To further simplify thing, in fact, there is only one real category: being married. Singleness can be read as a ‘not married yet, still searching’ kind of deal, just see it as sitting in the waiting room. The years long boy-girlfriend thing just for the sake of being boy- and girlfriend I know from back home I haven’t stumbled across here.

Being a single myself, a ‘waiting-room-sitter’ really.., and getting further into my twenties, finding an interested party is starting to make sense. In a post-genocide society women are outbalanced and all the foreign female aid workers don’t exactly add to that balance. Hence the one task a man is tasked with in life (although being less pressurized than the opposite sex) seems not out of reach. Adding to the odds are friends and colleagues who are always more than ready to present you some of their families’ best in terms of women offspring, which made me fortunate enough to meet just some of Rwandan female singles out there. Now getting in contact with and dating is an interesting experience.

A simple mutual affirming smile can trigger one of the two involved to inquire how the other is doing. After both expressed a general sense of well-being, numbers are exchanged and quite shamelessly the question is being asked on whether I have a girlfriend, or the more funny variant ‘how many girlfriends you have?’. When answering the question in the negative the storm isn’t quite over yet. You see, singleness is not as a homogenous concept as you might think; While there are only two categories, singleness tends to be a very broad one; there is singleness and singleness… Therefore my negative answer demands follow-up questions to determine the state of ‘singleness’ I am in. Questions are being fired at me at a threatening rate like ‘do you have children?’ and ‘so you have a girlfriend abroad?’. Strangely enough, having a child here or there and having a girlfriend waiting for you at home doesn’t exclude you from being single. Having established my sort of singleness, we can move on to heavier topics like marriage and preference on number of children. All in all this makes dating in Rwanda a frightening experience, not for the light-hearted.

The only good thing about dating here is the clarity as to what you do and who feeds the bill. As a man you decide when and where to go. Equally, the bill does not create the awkward situation as it might at home as both of us know who’s paying… As on what to do on your first date the picture is again quite clear; no need to crack your brain to come up with foreign romantic ideas like a picnic, cycling through nature or watching stars. You simply have a drink in a bar/restaurant, smile at each other and cover the subjects mentioned earlier.

All in all, it is good and refreshing to be in a country where the value of marriage is being upheld. There is definitely less beating around the bush as I am used to and that has an appeal of its own. You know what you are in it for (spotting a potential candidate), what to do (have a drink) and what to talk about (number of girlfriends and kids). Yet for all its clarity, funny questions and interesting experiences I decided to stop dating…

Did-you-know-that?

  • One of the funny questions you can get by sms from women here is ‘Did you eat?’ expressing a general sense of concern and care.
  • My bike got stolen last Friday. I parked it outside my house and it was gone when I got back. Miraculously my housemate stumbled across the bike somewhere parked in the back of our neighbourhood, broken open and then randomly left in someone’s garden. God knows what happened, but I am happy to have it back:)
  • Kigali now has it very own bowling alley! Having a bowling alley opening up is a welcome break in an otherwise not so eventful city, and the bowling… it is Hilarious! At first site sight the bowling alley looks impressively flashy, the real fun starts when the first ball starts rolling. After the first pins hit the floor, there is a little man standing at the back who manually puts back all the pins and then records the number of fallen pins in his computer. One time a friend of mine hit the pins so hard, the poor guy was knocked over, landed on the computer and the game was reset, resulting in a free new game. The whole scene with this guys behind is hilarious and just adds that little African touch to the game.
  • My contract here is ending in two month’s time. Ethiopia, Congo, the US? God knows what’s next but for now, there are some ideas starting to boil in my head on taking the bike out for a road trip around the region, but more on that later..

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Wind of hope

After a century of colonial exploitation, famine, dictatorship, war, failed economic liberalisation and communism, Africa seems to be off for a fresh start upon entering the 00s. The last time since independence a breeze of hope is blowing through the continent. Apart from the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya that add to this wind of change, it is the economic path that this continent recently embarked upon. The main drive for change is economic growth on the back of oil discoveries, rising food prices and the Chinese investing heavily in new businesses and resources (e.g. land) for its future population. Truth be told; this new wealth does not equally accrue to all, but generally new roads being build do benefit the villages along the way, helping women to get their tomatoes to the market.

In the same vein, my stay in Rwanda sparks optimism. Only 17 years ago, Rwanda was a classic example of an African basket case; war and despair. A quarter of the population had been cruelly murdered over a tribal conflict. How do you go from there? Paul Kagame, who is still seated in power, had an answer to the country’s woes. A Rwandan answer. Since of late, I have had the privilege to go behind the scene how this country is run. Half of my weeks I now spent at the Ministry of Agriculture (loaned out by my employer WFP) advising on market trends and how to buy for farmers.

I share an office with Francois, an intriguing man whose working spirit simply inspires. He is the head of the unit and answerable to the minister. He explains to me ‘We are building a new country Janno, we don’t know how to do it and do not have all the skills but we run forward, we just run and we’ll learn along the way.’ This is what I have learned so far; to just run. The justification behind the policies here seems to be thinner than ice and implementation rarely thought-through, but the one thing is hard to deny: they get things done! Ironically, it is exactly this that politics in more advanced countries are criticized for to be lacking.

I might be painting a different picture than the one often associated with Rwanda. But while and people are still traumatised and standards of living stumpy, a fresh wind of hope is blowing through this country, and the continent at large. In this post I just wanted you to feel this breeze, showing another side of the coin of an otherwise troubled continent.

Did-you-know-that:

  • To symphatise with the farmers I work with, I decided to start farming myself. In our little background I planted some maize seeds (donated by an old lady of a cooperative I visited) and miraculously there is now maize plants are growing out of the ground. I noticed our guard did the same, and I am shamefully out-competed by the local Rwandan as his maize towers above mine.
  • With a group of youth from different churches that worship together on Sunday eves, I went to Burundi last weekend and had a great time at the beach
  • I had my first overnight prayer. This means a whole night of singing worship songs, listening to sermons, dancing, and praying. I arrived at church a bit late and remember hoping there would be enough people left. When I entered the building I was just blown away; the place was packed… Thousands of people would spend their whole night to share time together and praise their creator. Not just sitting it through, but crying tears, singing at the top of their longs and dancing all over the place. Back home 10 people showing up for such a service would constitute a success; this place was overflowing with people. Faith just seems to run through the veins and the core of the peoples’ soul here
  • I had my 1st ‘Rwandafull’ birthday with as highlight a giant birthday cake in Rwandan colours made by a wonderful friend .
    Birthday cake
  • I have been offered contract extension which means I’ll stay a few more months, and then I feel ready for a new adventure.
  • I am flying back home to celebrate Christmas and New Year ’s Eve with family and friends. Am counting the days now and I secretly  hope for it to snow when I arrive

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I am a Child, Same as Others

With half a million orphans, Rwanda has one of the highest per capita orphan-populations in the world. This is a direct result of the horrific genocide that took place 17 years ago. My two housemates Sean and Jenny run an orphanage to give a home and love to some of these orphans. They do a tremendous job, leaving behind their comfortable lives back home, to care for more than 100 boys day in and day out. Their efforts do not go unnoticed and talking to some of the children makes you feel the overpowering gratitude towards this young couple together with all the local staff that care for them, teach them life skills, Math and English. As each boy has his own story to tell, his unique character and smile, I want to use this blog to voice just one of them. It is the voice of Lucky.

Lucky is one of our boys who has been living at the ROP Center for many years. He is in his final year as he is graduating from secondary school in December. Recently he wrote a poem for the celebration of ‘Africa’s Day of the Child’. Sean writes about it ‘despite the struggling English the poem hit me straight in the heart. It’s simple and genuine and even in its brevity you can’t help but get an idea of the pain these children must feel, and the hope they somehow find in life once someone, anyone, offers to help them.’

Read below his beautiful poem…

I am a child, same as the others
By: Lucky Faustin

I am a child, same as the others

I am a child like other children
I was born as they were born
I was never protected as they were
I suffered from difficulty and stress
I never wanted this, the love that was lacking

I am a child, same as the others
Your love is needed

Poverty is not a sickness
No one is born rich with wealth
You have to work hard
Fight against ignorance
Help those who are alone to be adopted
Pay their school fees for them
Help them when they are sick
Try to treat them well

The solution of poverty is to work hard
To work together willingly with others
Unify together
What you don’t know, you should ask

You cannot be sorry for your life
It may cause you to wander alone
You may spend nights in the bar, smelling like beer
When you return home you hit and torture your wife
That is not a family

When you see children in the road
Take one in and find someone to take another one in
The solution to their life comes from you
Uproot the wonderful completely

Education is greater than birth
If a child can learn he can become a leader
He may have a future without problems
He can be a soldier or he can be a policeman, protecting the country
He can build houses
He can help others in the streets

ROP is an exemplary place
We have the best behavior, culture and education
We have the teachers of our future
We will never criticize our leaders
Our guardians
Our parents
They always have us first
They are committed to us

Our parents live in America
They have always given much help in our lives
They really love us very much
We appreciate Sean and Jenny so much
We always live together with them
We joke and spend time together with them
They always give us what we need all the time
May God bless them

The children suffer from hunger
They take a decision to go to the streets
Where they become street children
This is caused by a lack of peace and harmony in their home
Each day, every day

They may spend nights under a bridge
They greet others on the streets
“How is it, man?” They say
“Be strong!” They say
Wearing rags for clothing

A girl sleeps wherever she can find
Sometimes where man take advantage
She can become pregnant
By luck she may live through it
She lives together with her baby on streets

A boy on the streets consumes drugs, alcohol and poison
They beg
Their voices change
The child becomes mature
He becomes a dangerous man
Because he lacks an education
And culture from his parents

When you pass by him, having a bag
He tears it from your shoulder
If you say something
He beats you
You may ask what happened to him
He tells you to go away
Saying the only one who cares about him is himself
He is not well
He suffers
Because nobody came to help him
Maybe someday he is in danger
Or he has nothing to eat
And he dies
Because nobody came to help him

You listen to me.
That is the street child’s life.

To hear other voices and see what the orphanage is doing please visit their website. And for anyone who feel they want to share a bit of his or her own with these kids, feel free to make a contribution (simply click on the above right on their site). Also a newspaper just wrote a story about Sean’s orphanage you can read here

Bless,

Janno.

Did-you-know-that:

  • The boys all LOVE Jackie Chan (‘tjiki tjen’). This ignited the crazy idea in Jenny’s head to write the Jackie Chan foundation a letter. To their suprise they got a response and recently Jenny met with the European representatives of the foundation, that now wants to start supporting their educational programme. The only question on the mind of all the boys is ‘When is Jackie Chan coming????!?’ (accompanied with all kind of kung fu moves)
  • At the end of each schoolterm Sean and Jenny take the best students of their class out for a free buffet lunch. It is hard to imagine just how much excitement this brings to the boys. Even harder to imagine the quantities with which the little boys pile up their plates. To the right a photo of the youngest student Emmanuela piling up his plate just like the older boys and he ate every bit of it. Take a moment to read the heart-touching story of this young bright one here.
  • in search of Rwanda…

    I tried to have some of the boys point out their country on a giant map of Africa painted on the wall, the closest they got was Cameroon, until one of the brighter boys managed to find the little country they are actually living in.

  • Cooking for over 100 boys every day ain’t peanuts. The center’s cook came in as a skinny guy, but rearing in a giant maize meal pan works on your muscles as the picture shows.

Your verse-of-the-day you can find here

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