The last couple of days have been some of the most rewarding and life enriching days I’ve had maybe in my entire life. Today and yesterday we worked with TOMS shoes on what they call “shoes drops”. TOMS shoe’s business model is based around the idea of “One for One”. For every item you buy from TOMS they give a pair of their TOMS shoes to a person (mostly children) in need. So what we’ve been doing the last couple of days is being the hands and feet that get to carry out this amazing experience of giving children in real need a pair of brand new shoes. In the US we may have two, five, ten or more pairs of shoes; some of which we may hardly wear. Heck we may decide we don’t like our current pair of shoes after this season even. Well, the children here will wear the shoes that they have (that they may have received second or third hand) until they literally disintegrate off of their body.
Our first shoe drop we conducted on Monday 3.29.2010. We went up into the mountains to a hospital and school called Shyira. The drive up the mountain was narrow, curvy, and very treacherous. The roads were muddy and rocky and we were driving awfully close to the edge of the road that had quite the drop off. Just seeing the people in villages along the way was an experience in itself. I could’ve gone home after that drive and been impacted plenty from what I saw. You saw lots of mud houses; people working in the fields, little children (under the age of 2) walking near the streets with tattered clothes. The site would be enough to bring tears to your eyes. But as sad and heart wrenching as it was to initially see them like that, the smiles on their faces were enough to bring joy to your heart. At no point did you see self-pity in their eyes or anger on their face. These people are in the business of survival, they don’t have time for pity parties.
We got to the hospital after probably a 30 to 45 min bumpy, mud slinging ride and as we pulled into the area where the hospital was everyone of course started to come out to see the Muzungus (means white person in many Bantu languages of east, central and southern Africa). As we pulled down the road and little way to where the school was, probably 200 or more children began to run out to meet our trucks and they were yelling and laughing and just so excited to see us coming. I’m not sure if they knew they were getting shoes that day or not. It was definitely a site to see. So we carried several big boxes of shoes into a big indoor pavilion type building that was wide open and began unboxing the shoes and organizing them in preparation for the kids coming.
So what we did was bring in probably 6 kids at a time, fit them and then give them shoes. It was an amazing experience to be able to give them clean, new shoes and then watch their faces light up as they walk away in them. NO BETTER FEELING!! After the kids were given their shoes they went out and played with some of the folks that were there with us working on the shoe drop. So it was an all around great day of giving and playing and just loving on kids.
This morning (3.30.2010 as I write this) we went to a local boarding school called Sonrise Academy in Musanza. This school has become one of, if not the premier schools in Rwanda. Apparently a former President’s children and several other “important” folks in the Country send their children there, but the majority of the kids there are either orphans to kids from very poor villages that have shown some promise and have been sponsored in order to attend the school. Although this is a great school the majority of the children there are still poor and don’t have the best of things. So we handed out more shoes today and it was an awesome experience as well.
There’s just not enough good things to say about the experiences I’ve had here. Tonight after an authentic Rwandan dinner we were treated to some traditional dancing, drumming and singing. It was flipping amazing and I have the video to prove it. I’ll post some as I get them uploaded. The internet here is decent but not great enough to upload a ton of video so I’ll have to do that whenever I get home.
Tomorrow = Gorilla Trekking . Many good pictures and experiences to come from that I’m sure.