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In 1994, Rwanda became world famous because of the most effective, efficient genocide of modern history. Between 7 and 9 people were killed every single minute during a period of 90 days. Between 800,000 and 1 million people were killed, not with modern weapons but with machetes and pangas.
And in exactly that setting we have the privilege to have an orphanage. A children’s village. We are taking care of children, but we are doing much more than that. As far as we know, there is no orphanage in the entire world that has ever reached self-sufficiency and economic independence.
That means we are taking care of kids and we are developing infrastructure, we are developing income-generating projects. We are transforming a dessert into a blooming garden. People say it is impossible. That we cannot do it. But we are sure that we can.
The children are the ones getting the benefit. We are offering them shelter, we feed them, we dress them, and we take care of their health. And of course, something extremely important — we send them to school. A poor country like Rwanda needs well-educated, trained youth.
We have family settings. In each family we have boys and girls living together of all ages. They perform all of the activities that need to be accomplished in the household. That means they cook, they make sure that everything is clean, they wash themselves, they do laundry, they make sure that the houses are orderly. In this situation we have mothers or fathers ensuring that everything in the family setting is functioning properly and they are role models for the children.
If you would have visited us four years ago, we didn’t have one single drop of water at the Children’s Village Kigarama. Friends from the United States came and helped us. Engineers Without Borders-Colorado installed rainwater catchment systems and now every single house has a cistern with a capacity of 10,000 liters. Engineers Without Borders came back to us in Rwanda and they installed high efficiency firewood stoves. Those stoves have improved enormously the quality of life for our kids and workers due to their efficiency and dramatic reduction of smoke.
Engineers Without Borders Johnson Space Center-NASA in Houston, TX also came to us and they installed a water purification system. Right now we have the capacity to drink water without limits. That system has the capacity to filter 20,000 liters of water per day.
One of thousands hills of Rwanda belongs to the Children’s Village Kigarama. Between 1.5 and two hectares is in vegetable production. The children are the ones working the fields and they are learning to grow food. The food that the children are growing is the food that the children are eating. Of course, we make sure that they have enough time to play, that they have enough time to go to school, that they have enough time to be children.
And of course not everything is work. We still do not have enough electricity. In the evenings the children come together and they sing, and they sing, and they have been singing for many, many, years. They have developed excellent voices.
Some of them, I am sure, are potential singers and artists. They have produced three different CDs and every single song is original by them. We had the American astronaut, Ronald Garon, take the CDs and listen to the music that our kids produced in the international space center together with other astronauts. It is beautiful music and we have the opportunity to listen to it and to enjoy it. We have the desire that people around the world will listen to and enjoy the music of these special children.
We have a baby house. Can you imagine being the mother or the father of 10 babies at the same time? We make sure that the babies get the best. I would like to tell you a little story. There was a storm. Lightening, wind, hail. Lightening hit us at the orphanage. The next day we received the news. A neighbor was hit by lightening. There was a young mother with a little baby on her back. The mother died immediately but the baby survived. Where do you think the baby is now? With us. His name is Vincent. And I am sure that there is a reason why Vincent survived.
And I’m sure also that each one of us has a task, has a place to be. I am sure that each one of us can make a real difference on planet earth.
And they play. Children in Africa many times don’t have a childhood. Already as little kids they need to work hard. And of course, we are helping our kids to understand that they need to work hard if they want to have success in life. But we need to make sure that there is enough free time so that they can just be children.
The quality of life of our kids is continues to get better and better. If you would leave the orphanage you will see that the quality of life of our neighbors is very low.
Most of the kids outside the orphanage eat one time per day. They don’t have shoes.
Many of them do not have the opportunity to go to school. Therefore, we have also decided to have an impact in our neighbors. We are running a tailoring school.
People from the neighborhood come and they learn to be tailors and after a two year training they get their certificate. They can leave and they can start their new profession and earn their livelihood with that.
As you already read, we are a children’s village. And usually an orphanage is a charity. That means we are dependent on the goodness and kindness of people from abroad. There is nothing wrong with that. But long term, what we are doing is creating a dependency. And long-term dependency is causing a lot of damage in Africa and in many poor counties around the world.
What happens dear friends, is people become passive. They lose the capacity to make decisions. They don’t know how to solve problems. They don’t know how to stand on their own feet. Of course, our main mission is to take good care of the kids, but what we would also like to do is to reach self-sufficiency and economic independence.
We need to discover our resources and develop them. That means we need to open our eyes, look around and see what is available. And use those resources. That is exactly what we are doing. How in the world are we daring to dream to reach self-sufficiency and economic independence? For that, my dear friends, we need to develop income-generating projects. We need to develop businesses. We need to produce income and that with money we can cover our own expenses.
At the orphanage we have the largest fruit production of the country. We have 22,000 pineapple plants. Every day we harvest 40 pineapples and very soon we will harvest 60 pineapples per day. We have 1800 mango tress. And 800 of these will start producing very soon. We have 1700 guava trees. From 90 trees we harvested 712 kilos. And we have 700 avocado trees.
What to do with all this fruit? This is our first income generating project. We want to process that fruit using only green technology. That means using the energy from the sun, using the energy of bio-gas, and eventually using energy from the wind. We will get an organic certification; we will get a fair trade certification. We will pack our fruit and we will export it.
And can you imagine one of these days you visit your grocery shop in whatever part of the world you are and finally you find a little package, with a beautiful kid smiling at you, and you turn the package over and you read organic, fair trade certified.
Green technology, produced in Rwanda, grown in an orphanage. I am sure that we will have great success and I am sure that you will love it.
The second income-generating project has to do with the resource, nature. We live very close to a beautiful lake called Kivu. In a plot of 3 hectares we are aiming to build an excellent eco-lodge, with the highest environmental standards of the United States.
But, why in the world will people come to an eco-lodge in Rwanda? This spot is beautiful. Really beautiful. We will use sustainable technology. We will have excellent services. We will offer many outside activities. Can you imagine hiking at the shores of the lake for a couple of hours, a couple of days, a couple of weeks?
And we can combine it with kayaking, mountain biking, sailing, and eventually horse riding.
But, dear friends, the key factor will be that the profits from the Birambye Lodge — and by the way, birambye means sustainability in Kinyarwanda — the profits of the Birambye Lodge will be used mainly to cover the educational needs of the children.
That means these little babies, these little kids, have the opportunity to become future medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects, whatever. There are no limits. And everything because an eco-lodge is being built at the shores of Lake Kivu.
We appreciate enormously that people are willing to help us, but we do not want to create any type of long-term dependency. If you take care of my life, you take away from me my human dignity, and I lose the capacity to stand on my own feet. Therefore, we want to get out of charity and we want to develop our own businesses. We want to be independent; we want to make our own decisions. Also, if we are wrong, if we make the wrong decision, it is no problem, but we should have that possibility.
And, my dear friends, what countries like Rwanda need is not general donations, is not gifts. What we need is your support. Support to develop our infrastructure.
Your help and support to develop our own businesses. The children of Rwanda have already suffered more than enough and they deserve a much better life
We are an orphanage in the middle of nowhere trying to do something that nobody else has ever accomplished. In a short period of time, we will reach self-sufficiency and economic independence. And the children will be the ones getting the benefit.
And it will not be you and me changing Africa. It will be those kids who got the right opportunities in life — they will be the ones, they will be the ones that in the future could eventually change the country.
We are inviting people from all over the world to get involved, to get involved in one of the most fascinating adventures that is happening right now in Africa. Nothing is impossible in life. We can reach self-sufficiency and economic independence. We can really impact the lives of people.
You are very welcome to come join us. Help us build the Birambye Lodge.
Support us developing the orchard project. Come and be involved in a fascinating experience. Discover that you have your own natural talents, abilities. You are very welcome to have a fascinating experience together with us in Rwanda.
I want to use this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who has come to us. Thank you to everyone who has supported us from so many places around the world. Without your help, we would not be able to do it. It is fascinating to see that people are willing to get involved. It is a privilege to motivate people to come and to do what they always wanted to do. Thank you my friends, really.
Thank you for all that you have done for us. It is fantastic.
That is the beauty and that is the goodness of life.