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A Note for New Readers

Urukundo Village is an independent home for Rwandan children created and funded through Hope Made Real and its incredibly kind donors. We are not funded by any particular denomination or organization and welcome all who seek to help the children of Rwanda and create a better world not just for a child, but for us all. 

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Saturday
Sep012007

Arlene in Rwanda Newsletter - September 2007

Urukundo Home for Children Newsletter – September 2007
Arlene in Rwanda
NOTE: See eight (8) photos at the end of the newsletter.
Greetings Brothers and Sisters in Christ and Partners in mission:

The New Urukundo Children's Village
Thanks to you, the land for the Urukundo Children’s Village is now purchased and the chicken buildings are almost completed. God is faithful. Now it is time to move to our first building project. I believe that it is vital to welcome the community to our Christian home. Therefore, our next project is a chapel. I am reminded that the early settlers in America first erected the church building and the community was then built around it. This is our hope for Urukundo Village.
If it is God’s, will we hope to begin building the Children's Chapel in mid-September. The completion of the chapel will then be surrounded by the children’s cottages. The Chapel will be both for the children and the community. The importance of building the Chapel now is to let the community know we are a Christian Village and that we love children and serve the Lord in everything we do. The Chapel will sit in the center of a flower garden with paths leading to the entrances and will greet our visitors in Jesus name. The garden will be designated as a Honor/Memorial Garden in honor of those who have supported Urukundo Home for Children with prayers and gifts.
Inside the Children’s Chapel: "The Vision"
Go with me on a virtual tour. As you enter the chapel you immediately come upon the baptismal and must go around it to get to your seat. This says, "It is time to slow down. This is a special sacred space." Next you see the big Christ Candle on the stand that reminds children that Christ is the "Light of the World". It is lit for all services. We will need a simple wooden stand for the LARGE house Bible. NO PULPIT. People can speak from the center table. This says that all God's children are invited to surround the banquet table of God now and in the kingdom to come. Nothing goes on the table except when communion is served. Then a white cloth is draped. A single cup and a single loaf are on the small stand until it is time for communion after the lesson.

Every service, including Sundays, is to be "Children's Church" filled with music with motions, drums and shaker instruments, and telling a Bible story. Prayer times will be kneeling times for children with their concerns prayed. I think a woman pastor assigned by the bishop would be good for us.
Toddler and Infant area: A simple low railing and little gate will keep it designated and the toddlers’ safe. Rocking chairs and a mat to crawl upon and some toys that are washable are needed.
Chairs and Benches: Older individuals need chairs with low backs. Some benches can also be used. We must make sure the benches are of different lengths so they can be arranged with everyone not looking at someone's back. People should be able to see each other's faces.
BUT... this is important... each child who is a family member of the orphanage will have his or her own individual stool with his or her name on it somewhere. "Belonging" is so, so important. Our children need to know that something belongs to them. It is children who are never allowed to have their own possessions, who later in life don't know how to share and give. It is as we have been given abundantly that we are then able to give in the same manner.
BIG Gates: These, at the rear of the chapel, facing the lawn next to the road can then be swung open so that we can seat more people; it will serve as an overflow seating area. This also allows us to build on later when adjoining property becomes available.
Windows: Again, these will be long and high to give light to the building but not interfere with the seating. The height also serves as a protective measure.
Book Shelves: These sit in the back for bibles and song books or what ever needs to be set here. This can be a built-in shelf when the building is constructed.
Lighting: I want anything but bare bulb florescent lighting! We could create our own hanging ceiling lights in cans. Or, we could build wooden boxes along the ceiling to use fluorescents that would illuminate upward. But, I don't want to kill the feeling of holiness of the room by creating glaring light.
Our Present (Rented) Home

Home for the Girls
There is no more room at the Home for Girls with the new addition of Esperance Savoronia We have no more beds. There are many orphans who want to come live with us so it is hard to say “there is no room at the inn”. The new site will provide for many more of these needy children. With the increase it was necessary this week to move the dinning room into the larger of our two main rooms of the girls’ home. Visitors also eat at our tables when they come. Each table has a name: The American Table, The African Table, and The Canadian Table in honor of David Ottier and Kirsten Cavendish & Bill Ginter, our visitors from Canada.

“Puppy”, one of our new guard dogs is a four-week-old African mix. The second, “Babe” is a four-month-old German Shepherd. Babe is already a good watch dog and when grown Puppy will be a strong dog as well. The dogs intimidate the children who will learn to trust them with time.

Home for the Boys
The boys have decided to get serious about the Chicken business. They, with the guidance of Papa John, have set about ten hens and we have over fifty chicks in the shed with more hatching every day. Chickens don’t thrill me, but the boys love the project. Bill Graf a visitor from Colorado introduced them to the Frisbee and it has become a new pass time. Bill also witnessed the signing of the property deed. God has blessed us by having Americans present at all our transactions. Creditability is very important.

This week the boys were challenged by a school soccer team so they are excit4d about Saturday’s game. I am learning more about soccer everyday and will be there to cheer them on.

The Chicken Project
This to has been a learning experience. I have discovered how much I don’t know about construction and chickens in Rwanda. I think in terms of chickens on my Grandfather Stiners’ farrm. The metal roof is ready to be put on thanks to Pastor Ed Wentz his wife, Norma and his brother Bob in Hanover. Thank you all!

United Methodist Woman Gitarama
It gave me great pleasure to meet the President and Secretary of the UMW in Gitarama. Together we presented twenty goats to an HIV/AID Association in the United Methodist Church. This is the fourth church group we have been able to assist in helping HIV/Aids affected families. The churches are: Mpushi Presbyterian Church, Byimana Pentecostal Church, Gitarama United Methodist Church, and Gitarama Lutheran Church.

Bishop of East Africa Conference: It was my pleasure and honor to meet UMC Bishop Daniel Wandabula of the East Africa Conference. The worship service took place in Kigali City. It was a privilege to hear him speak and to listen to his plans for the future of the United Methodist Church in Rwanda. This unscheduled service was attended by several hundred Christians.
Rwanda UMC continues to struggle after the unfortunate events caused by the past district superintendent, Jupa. He did so much harm to many supporting church families and the UMC Rwanda in general. The Bishop is working to have the UMC once again registered with the government. Please include him in your prayers as you pray for all the churches in Rwanda.
IN CLOSING: In closing, I am asking for your help to make the vision become a reality. There are so many dreams that God has set before us and I thank each of you for your continuing faithful support of all that is happening. So, have fun and choose a project and support it. Designate on your gift where your heart is and how you want to help. You can direct questions to me at Arlene@spiritworks.org I love hearing from you. Remember to pray for the vulnerable children in Rwanda and throughout the world. There are so many. If you would like to be a partner with me in mission I would be happy to welcome you as would my Lord.
Gifts can be sent to the mission through: Spiritworks-Rwanda Fund, 823 West Cremona St, Seattle, Washington 98119 Web site: www spiritworks.org
OR -- Rwanda Support, Saint Johns-Newberry UMC, 2101 Newberry Street, Williamsport Pa 17701
Arlene D Brown, Founder
BP 179
Urukundo Home for Children
Muhanga District, Rwanda
Cell 08769422

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Wednesday
Aug082007

Arlene in Rwanda August 2007 Newsletter

Volume #4 July/August Newsletter
ARLENE IN RWANDA

Greetings Sisters, Brothers, and Other Partners in mission.
July has been a wonderful month with visitors from Pennsylvania. Our visitors from America included Ms. Marilyn Ely from the Williamsport District of the United Methodist Church and Rev. Sharon Landis from the Altoona District of the UMC. They witnessed the deed signing of the new site of the URUKUNDO HOME FOR CHILDREN, were guests at the Liberation Day Celebration that marks the end of the Genocide, worshipped with Christians of different faiths, and taught and played with the children. Six of our boys and I enjoyed traveling to the Akagere National Park in Rwanda to see Zebra, Topi, Impala, Giraffe, and Cape Buffalo. I had a fight with a baboon and, believe it or not, I won. It was one of those times when you don't know what you are doing until after it is over. Yes, it could have been serious and God is kept busy looking out for me. This baboon left some black and blue marks and a bad memory, but there no permanent harm done.
The purchase of the land is is the newest development in the ministry here in Rwanda. I am praying that those back home will catch the dream and want to be a part of this 'God happening". I thank the couple who gave the money for the land to build. They took a step of faith and believe, with me, that it is "God in Charge". I know this is God’s plan and that God will provide. Yet, there are times when I tremble at the magnitude of the task. It continues to grow in faith and my spirit knows I must not put a limit on the awesome plans of God.
Our next step is to acquire an official Project Permit from the Sector. This requires a general plan for land development. A Rwandese Technician and Architect has measured the land and looked at the vision God has given and is now working out dimensions. Of course, in order not to limit God, we already see that we need more land.
Now, I need your input. Here is the initial basic vision. Our first project: is the chicken house. Sam is a Christian architect and builder who works with various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). He has measured the land and is drafting a proposal for a the hilly section of the property. He will level the land and use the fill to make bricks for the base of the structure. Locals will be employed which will help the economy. We will use Core Stone a local commodity, for the foundation. Other building materials have strange names: lake sand, swamp sand and stone aggregates. The project will also use spades, hoes, wheel barrows, nails and bricks. This equipment can also be used when we build the cottages for the children. After our initial investment the chicken house will be an income source for further construction and maintenance of the Home for Children.
Our second project is the garden. We must clear and terrace the land to prepare it for planting immediately before the rainy season. Seeds can be purchased here, but I would like to try some seeds from the United States. I need some help from farmers back home who will come to my assistance with advise.. and perhaps even seeds. We need to grow vegetables and fruit for our children. We also hope someone will help us to purchase a cow, thus eliminating the need to buy powdered milk for the children.
Our third project are the cottages for children. We will pursue the construction as God provides. Our architect, Immanuel Hitmana, is a Christian and Rwandese. It would be great to find an American architect to come and work with him. Combining American know-how and local wisdom could make it happen. In the meantime we will continue to house the children in the current rental properties that you so graciously provide with your contributions.
Please continue to pray for me and all the vulnerable children in Rwanda and through out the world. There are so many. If you would like to be a partner with me in mission I would be happy to welcome you as would my Lord. Gifts can be sent to the mission through:
Spiritworks-Rwanda Fund
823 West Cremona St
Seattle, Washington 98119
OR
Rwanda Support
Saint Johns-Newberry UMC
2101 Newberry Street
Williamsport Pa 17701
pdbrown@spiritworks.org
http://www.spiritworks.org
If you wish is to work with one particular project add a note to your letter. A memo on your check is not enough. It can be overlooked by the counters.

Support for my personal support can be sent to:
Spiritworks-Missionary
823 West Cremona St.
Seattle, WA 98119
Spiritworks is a non-profit Christian Foundation. Statements, sent on a regular basis, can be used for an exemption on tax returns.
I pray that God will continue to bless you and yours every day walkas you walk with Christ. Shalom, Arlene

Arlene D Brown
BP 179
Founder Urukundo Home for Children
Muhanga District, Rwanda
Cell 08769422
Monday
Jul022007

The July 2007 Newsletter

Newsletter #3 Volume #3 June/July 2007

ARLENE IN RWANDA
It is unbelievable but true! The number of children in our homes has grown to twenty-eight. We now have fifteen girls and thirteen boys. We have room for two more girls and three more boys. Those places will be filled as soon as God sends children our way. This brings our total, counting the staff and myself, to forty. We make quite a picture walking to church on Sunday morning.

The need to care of one’s own soul became my deep need as this population explosion took place. Living with forty people on a 24/7 basis can be wearing. II realized that I needed more solitude in order to remain healthy and to do the job God means for me to do.

As always God presented me with the perfect solution. A house opposite the girls home became available. When the owner approached me to rent it I was shocked. This small house would give me a quiet space to rest and still allow me to remain close to the children.

I now live in the house. The little ones love it because they can come and have time alone with me. The house has a three-room attached apartment. One room is now a classroom, and the other two rooms house a medical clinic and our staff nurse.

This has been a month with many changes for me and for the Urukundo Foundation. We celebrated National Children's Day in Rwanda. Urukundo was issued a special invitation by the mayor to bring five boys and five girls to the District Office. It was a delightful celebration for John Kevin, Juilette, myself, and Hope who accompanied the children. It was awesome to see hundreds of children dressed out in their school uniforms.

Kevin is now in United States. This is the sad song my children sing. They are happy for him but miss their big brother very much.
Yes, this is the same Kevin who has been with me since the day I arrived in Gitarama. He has been my constant companion as driver, interpreter, bodyguard and all around right-hand man. I consider him a co-founder of Urukundo. Without him I could not have accomplished the things that God has sent me here to do.

Kevin is a very intelligent young man who, with education, can return to be a leader in Rwanda. Praise God, and thanks to several people in America who have come to know him, Kevin has been given the opportunity to attend University in Kentucky. It was hard to let him go but his welfare is what counts and I look forward to the day when he will return to Rwanda to work with Urukundo and me again. Please keep him in prayer as he adjusts to a new culture.

BOYS HOME
During April we found and rented a house where we could keep orphaned boys. Each time we met people and told them about our home for girls we were asked why there were no boys at Urukundo since it was a home for children. We rented a house close by and the District brought seven boys who were found begging in the streets. Our number is now at fourteen.

Along with the boy’s house we purchased the chicken business that was on the property. As it becomes profitable it will add income to support the education expenses of our children as we prepare to send them to secondary school and later University. The problem is that the chickens live inside the boy’s compound running free and for me this was too close to the boys. (As many of you know I have a weird fear of chickens that I think goes back to my childhood.) I proceeded to fence off an area for the chickens, but that cut down on the boys’ play area. They love kick ball (soccer), basketball and running games and now there was no room. Fourteen active kids need a yard. I tried to think of a solution to grow the poultry business and still have space for the children to play. This was when the thought of owning land. John, our administrator, began to investigate the region for property where we might build a play ground and move the chickens. He located a possibility. The land was owned by the Friends Church in the Muhanga –Gitarama District who had changed their building plans and needed to sell this property.

THE GOOD NEWS is that I have now acquired this land to be given to Urukundo. It is designated as a farm (an acreage to be developed). The land is prime meters (acreage) situated in a developing area where values are going up. Everything about this land is two good to be true—but then, “God is in Charge.” The property line is close to a paved road that leads to Kigali and south to Burundi. And the road far enough away so that the noise of heavy trucks will not bother us. It is close to the water source, phone line, and electricity. This is hard to imagine in Rwanda. There is additional property adjoining ours that could be purchased at a later date. And the Rwanda government is considering giving us the land on our side of the road that is presently government owned. The large gift to purchase this land was made possible from Christian friends of Urukundo.

Now I need a lot of help and am praying for teams to come clear the land and begin construction. We need an architect to design our buildings and help us create a plan for the best use of the land. We need planners, gardeners, construction workers and laborers. There is enough land to build a chicken compound, to cultivate a large garden, construct a play area where the children can play in safety and build a home for our current children and those to come.

I also pray for someone to come and give me a hand managing Urukundo, long-term or short-term. Please pray for this mission and me. I know God will provide a way but just now I need encouragement and affirmation from you

May God continue to bless you and yours in your everyday walk with Christ. Amen and Shalom, Arlene
Saturday
Jun022007

Arlene in Rwanda June Newsletter

I would first like to share with you an article that was recently published in Rwanda’s first daily publication The New Times.

ORPHANS CELEBRATE ANNIVERSARY, RESIDENTS PLAN FOR FUTURE

by Danila Sabuti, May 10, 2007
Muhanga-Orphans in Kavumu Cell, Muhanga District can see a brighter future after one year of living in care of 76-year old American citizen Arlene Brown.
The children have been living under the care of Urukundo Home For Children (UHFC), which was founded last year in Kavumu cell, by Ms Brown. The celebration of the one year was held 6 May at the Woman’s Centre for Development and attracted various local leaders, and residents. According to Arlene, the dream of helping Rwandan children started ten years ago when she came to the country in 1996. “After my experience in Rwanda ten years ago, it was my dream to come back here and help whatever children God put in my care and now finally my dream has come true.”

After one year, I feel so proud of Rwandan children, and this is not just for today. I look forward to celebrating many more years and helping many more children. My plan is to see that each child under my care, completes their education and goes on to make a living.” David Dushimimana the executive secretary of Nyamabuye, urged residents to be cooperative and contribute to this mission helping Rwandan children.
“It is very important,” he said, to appreciate the efforts of Arlene Brown and this challenges us to help our own children. Personally I find this a challenge to me and all Muhanga residents. We should learn from donor activities.

Celebration Marking One Year
(See Picture #1)Bilese, Divine and Yours Truly were honored when the Mayor and approximately 500 others came to share in Urukundo’s first birthday complete with cake and a candle.

HOUSING IN RWANDA

The following will answer a few questions which arose after the publication of last months newsletter: The house that we live in (and one’s like ours) were all built for white people (Musungu’s). They were to be rented to white people who have the finances. Rent is usually pretty cheap with the exception of Kigali City, the business center of Rwanda.
These houses are all mud brick. Some have a cement top-covering. The brick and stone façade makes the front look appealing. The inside walls are a mix of sand and some cement, as are the floors. These are covered in red paint to slow the disintegration process. Most were built or reconstructed after the Genocide by Non- Government Organizations (NGO’s) that had the money. Most reliable structures were destroyed during the genocide. Rwanda is in the process of trying to recover, but it is a long road. Even houses rented to whites are now poorly constructed.
The three structures we rent are owned by the Rwandese Citizens and can be bought for about $30,000 U.S. Dollars. The girl’s home was built by our landlord, a builder before the genocide, and is fairly well constructed. The inside tells the story. Electricity consists of a bulb hanging from the ceiling. The wiring is on the outside portion of the walls, clearly visible, and there is no running water. There is no indoor plumbing and cooking (when there is food to cook) is usually done outside on a charcoal pot. The doors and window frames generally do not fit, and rarely keep out the dust and rain. You mop up water after every rainstorm and clean dust after a dust storm.
But, compare our home of “luxury” with those of the usual Rwandese house. They do not have windows, just openings to let in the light and wood on hinges to keep out some of the rain. The door is an opening with a piece of cloth hanging in it for privacy. Their homes are generally mud with no protection from the elements. Earlier this month Jean Paul's future mother-in-law died after her mud-brick house collapsed in on her. The wind and the rain battered it until it could not remain standing. This happens too often in Rwanda.

A small village viewed from the guesthouse
I sent the pictures so that the Christians in America will see that we are providing our children with better living conditions than the average citizen.
Sunday
May062007

Urukundo (Loves) Home for Children

Newsletter #2 Volume 2 May, 2007

URUKUNDO (LOVES) HOME FOR CHILDREN
ARLENE IN RWANDA
City of Gitarama
Easter week I lay in bed sick. I am well now having recovered from a sinus and ear infection that would not let me walk or breathe well and left me with a cough that will go away in time. Along with nausea caused from the middle-ear infection-- I walked like a drunken woman. I am taking better care of myself now.

URUKUNDO CHRISTIAN GUEST HOUSE
Our dream of a guesthouse has become a reality. And it has been more of a success than we anticipated. No, we are not making a fortune but it is paying its own utilities and rent with a little extra to replace money used from the “general undesignated mission fund” for furnishings and start-up costs. It is small with nine rooms. It sleeps eighteen. We have had to turn down larger groups because of space available.

Originally it was conceived as a place where we could welcome visitors traveling to work at the Children’s home and not as a profit-making business. We don’t have room in the children’s’ homes to sleep visitors and I wanted visitors to spend time with us in comfort – or, as comfortable as possible in Rwanda. Living in our home with twelve rambunctious girls is fun but not restful. It then occurred to us that we could rent rooms and provide meals to other visitors coming to Gitarama. Other non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) heard about us and called to see if we could pick up the overflow from their houses. We have been delighted. Then the local government officials called to ask if they could hold their meetings at our house. This too was good, as they wanted us to serve breakfast and lunch to their group. “Slowly by slowly” (a Rwandan figure of speech) we are being known and guests continue to come from Belgium, France, England, Canada, USA, Kenya and other areas of Rwanda. In time I pray we will be able to help support the Children’s home from this hospitality venture. “Praise God.”

URUKUNDO HOME FOR GIRLS
There have been no more snakes and thanks to the vitamins brought by the team from Central Pennsylvania our girls are in better health. They take one each morning with breakfast. Oh yeah. I take one too as do each of the staff.

Favorite Birthday present
Bilese recently celebrated her fifth birthday. Her best friend Annah, six years old, is in kindergarten thanks to a gift from friends in Wrightsville Pennsylvania. Bilese loves having eleven sisters and looks forward to welcoming twelve new brothers. The home for boys began on May 1. John, our Urukundo administrator, and his wife Hope are serving as house parents. Hope is a cook and also a certified teacher. John will be an important father figure for the boys and as my assistant he helps manage the employees, the homes, and the Guest House. We do not anticipate any other new employees at this time.

Urukundo Home for Children continues to grow. The addition of a house for boys makes us truly a home for children and not just a home for girls. The house we are renting is on the same street as the girl’s home and the guesthouse. We sit in a triangle. Someday this street may all be the Urukundo Christian Home for Children; “The Street of Joy and Love.” Who knows what God has in store? The new house has three large dorm rooms. Each room has space for three bunk beds and a desk for study. There is a large room for eating and group activities. An outside charcoal kitchen, the traditional Rwandan kitchen, will serve up nutritious meals to each boy.

HELP NEEDED
I welcome any donations to help furnish the home for boys. We are excited about this opportunity and already have two orphaned boys waiting to come to us as soon as the rooms are prepared.

IN CLOSING
Remember to pray for the vulnerable children in Rwanda and through out the world. There are so many. If you would like to be a partner with me in mission I would be happy to welcome you as would my Lord. If you wish to work with one particular project add a note to your letter stating your request.