Dear FrOGs, I hope you all had a glorious summer and thankfully we finally have some gentle rain falling. Drought restriction 5 , the highest ever , hit BC hard and made us appreciate the struggles and challenges that the people of Gashora go through on an annual basis.
Sooo much has happened since our last newsletter. Let me start with the SEWING PROGRAM.
Half of the women that started in the JHA sewing program 2 years ago are now ready to work independently. They can still be called upon to help us with big orders when we need them. The other women are staying on as teacher assistants to help with the training of the new sewers. There now are a total of 50 sewers on 19 machines. Not all the women can always participate in the daily classes. Cultural difficulties still prevail with husbands being angry as house chores and childcare falls to them. This problem generally falls away as soon as the women start earning money and are making a noticeable difference to the economic situation of the family.
The WEAVING PROGRAM:
The Program continues to make great strides and our weavers are producing ever more beautiful and artistic baskets. Our Christmas shipment has just arrived with so many new designs and useful items in gorgeous patterns and colours. Please see below for our list of markets. Come visit us and bring your Christmas shopping list.
VISIT BY OUR AMERICAN PARTNER:
3 of our fellow partners from AFJ HAR ( American Friends of JHA Rwanda) recently visited Gashora and met with the JHA team. It was a whirlwind of a visit and Greg and his team where blown away by all that JHA has accomplished. One of the many comments I would like to share is the difference that they noticed between our JHA kids and the village kids. "The children visiting the JHA preschools are well fed, ie have enough energy to come running at you and almost knock you off your feet with their embraces. They are clean, have nice clothes and shoes, bright eyes, and run around playing games. They no longer suffer from malnutrition, do not have ring worms or open sores as their homes are clean and the families no longer share their living spaces with any animals. JHA has done a remarkable job in helping parents of our school children repair and clean up their homes and teaching them about the importance of personal hygiene. "
Greg christened the JHA neighborhood "MR. ROGER’S neighborhood" and the parallels lie not just in the name. As the Afjhar team left they shared this sentiment with us: "You arrive in Rwanda and you feel at home. Family is waiting to receive you. When you leave, be prepared to miss them as you would miss your own family."
One of the volunteers that had visited Gashora in the late spring is back there again to complete what was started at her previous visit. Namely spreading awareness of the benefits of planned parenting, helping with the washable sanitary pad sewing project and writing leadership manuals.
Our own wonderful volunteer Louise from Vancouver Island just returned from Gashora where she oversaw the sewing project, helped with the dying of the new colours for the weaving program, distributed the many washable diapers that so many of you donated and had a great time just playing with the children. I am sure they are all missing Louise dearly.
A Food Forest for Gashora:
Please let me introduce our newest FrOG. Jarrid Uphill. This wonderful young man will be working with the JHA FARM team over the next 10 years !!!!! to work along side them and introduce the techniques of permaculture. In order to fundraise for this new project he is presently offering the following:
"Have you considered permaculture in your backyard? Do you have available space that is not being used or you wish to retro fit? Do you have wet soggy spots you wish to mitigate for fall rains? Dream of rainwater harvesting and don’t know where to start? We can work together. I am currently fundraising for a food forest and peace garden to be installed in Gashora. This farm that provides support to marginalized women and children, food sovereignty and water security to its neighbouring community. All proceeds will go towards supporting the trip, design of the food forest and peace garden, development of a succession planting plan and knowledge sharing to maintain the growing forest and develop their own permaculture techniques.
Want to have your own permaculture system? Contact me, Jarrid Uphill and see how you can make a global impact by gardening at home. I am certified through Gia College in rainwater harvesting and have a diploma from Pacific Rim College in permaculture design."
Phone : 1 250 925 0713
Email : email@example.com
Instagram : permacultureonabudget
Want to know more about the fundraiser? Or just want to support?
More on the Farm
The farm continues to thrive, expand and produce in wonderful ways. Abdoul and his team "The JHA Miracle Workers" have had a phenomenal harvest despite a grasshopper infestation. Rather than using harmful chemicals to solve the problem, it was all hands on deck and the community came together to catch and eliminate this devastating pest quickly and efficiently.
The farm is now one of the biggest employers in the area. The cows, pigs, goats and recently added rabbits are happily reproducing. The amount of milk available for the community steadily increases.
In fact the team is now considering creating a "PIGGERY" social enterprise under the JHA umbrella. The investment will pay off within 6 months.
This is the plan:
FrOG invests in the Piggery, 10 sows. They produce piglets which are being sold and the proceeds support the pad sewing project. The pads will be distributed at the school where the moms and teenagers are being invited to a monthly party. There they will be given, in separate groups, "THE TALK", and learn that YES you can get pregnant even if you are not married!! They learn about planned parenthood, contraception and the right to say NO!!!!
The initial, one time investment is just under $ 13,000. Thanks to many of you we already have raised $ 8,500 for this worthwhile project. If you would like to support this project, please contact me. Thank you.
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT- Herbert ( not his real name )
We met Herbert this spring when we visited Gashora. He is an amazing young man whose family experienced some misfortune that left the family destitute. JHA took Herbert in. After spending just a few hours with him it quickly became apparent that this young man is absolutely brilliant. His intellect is superior, his personality is humble, kind and loving. He spends all his free daylight hours helping out at the farm or wherever help is needed. He studies late at night. He has big dreams and wants to help his country move forward. Graduating from a village High School would not exactly open many doors and the suggestion was made to send Herbert to a private school in Kigali for his final year. And so it came about that through some generous donations to the JHA THRIVE PROGRAM that Herbert started his final year at a new school.
Things didn’t start out easy as even the security guard looked down at him as the entered school grounds with Rogers, coming from the bus station, compared to well dressed students being dropped off in fancy cars.
Rogers, who had experienced similar discrimination during his high school and university years, is well able to mentor Herbert and booster his self esteem and self worth. In the few weeks since this school year began Herbert has already caught the attention of the principal and is being recommended for a basketball scholarship and tuition support. We have no doubt that he will graduate and we won’t be surprised if it is near the top of his class. In his way he will make his mark in the world.
Jha Real Moon Soccer:
The many soccer teams are continuing you train and play and thanks to the generous donations by many Vancouver Island soccer clubs more and more players now have cleats and soccer jerseys. As we all know, sport is an important part in children’s lives. It not only builds community but also helps keep the kids busy and the teenagers out of trouble.
Some other stories from the team:
- “So many "isms" in the world, but how about "smile-ism" ...Smilism." In Gashora Football has no boundaries to smiling.
JHA Real Moon Soccer Team against the team from the Gashora Refugee Camp
One of our beneficiaries had been thrown out of his home by his father to go fend for himself when he was just a young child. He had never been acknowledged by his family as his mother was a prostitute. Today that same father is walking around town, so proud, telling everyone about his wonderful son, that has accomplished so much under the care and love of JHA.
Some of our youngsters are struggling with the history of their parents. The children have a hard time to forgive their fathers who have been perpetrators during the Genocide. One father tried to explain that he felt he had no choice but to follow orders as the lives of his children had been threatened if he refused to obey the orders. His son responded that he rather would have been killed as a small child than live with the shame of knowing what his father did. Thank God we now have regular sessions with the team from PEACEFUL HEART that is now coming to Gashora to work with this kind of trauma.
When one of our team members received some payment for all his work, this is what he said : “ I used to be a street boy, and what is important is how many boys did I get off the street? That is my real payment."
I thought about a very young woman that came to me today, I had just left the piggery farm, on my small bike as usual, and never noticed someone was running behind after my bicycle. I heard a sobbing mother with two babies who go to our ECD center, one on her back and one holding her hands. "Rogers, Rogers I want to talk to you. You know very well that these two go to your school, thank you for all the help you have given us, but now I feel like giving up. Yesterday the house owner where we rented a small house with my children as a single mum threw us out of the house. As you see us together we slept outside with my babies, this is not the only problem now, I am wondering if we will keep this way and it is even hard for me to organize children to come to school from no where." I immediately noticed in her conversation that she even had no job to do since it is the trend now in Gashora, this never stopped me from asking "Where do you work" in quest to know if she even wants to work, and her answer was " I wish I had work ". Story short, I sent her to start work immediately at the farm and to eat from our farm feeding program. She ate with her children and when I went to the Dairy farm to check and she was there for the whole evening and received payment for her work."
Unfortunately we received some very sad news this week. One of our little girls from preschool and the sister of one of our beneficiaries passed away. She drowned in the nearby lake when accompanying her mom to catch fish to sell at the market. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and FrOG have offered to support the family during these difficult days.
I came across this prayer some time ago, and every time I recite it it makes me think of our amazing JHA Team in Gashora who LIVE this prayer every day of their lives. This prayer was written by Shantideva, a Buddhist monk of the Mahayana tradition who lived around 700 AD. He was a devoted practitioner who authored the Bodhicaryavatara or Bodhisattva Way of Life. It is said that His Holiness the Dalai Lama considers this text to be THE source for developing altruism in your character and the "Spirit of Awakening." It is also said that His Holiness the Dalai Lama recites this prayer every morning as part of his waking rituals. So, if you give it a try, you are in good company!
Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity
"May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened."
In closing, I would like to thank all of you wonderful Friends of Gashora for your ongoing support, love and care. Look at all you have helped to accomplish! Look at all the lives you have helped to impact! Look at all the people that are continuously joining us because you have shared our stories! You are amazing and we are grateful that you continue to choose to support FrOG. Blessings to all of you.
Please check out all the Christmas Fairs we are attending and share it with your friends. If you would like to help us at any of these event, we would be happy to have a few extra hands to help out.
Check out the dates for all the in person and ZOOM Floral Christmas Design Classes (wreath making, centrepieces, outdoor planters)