Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Umuhire Placide

A perfect day, one of the best of my life. I met my little boy yesterday, Umuhire Placide. My family has sponsored him since he was five years old! He is ten now, and such a handsome little guy. Placide is the fourth sponsored child that I have had the privilege of meeting, and without fail meeting my sponsored children have been highlights of my life.

We sponsor Umuhire (also called Placide) in Rwanda through an organization called Compassion International. Compassion is a child sponsorship program that is established in 26 countries and has over 1.2 million children all over the globe connected with sponsors. I have never come across a more trustworthy and remarkable organization. The difference that Compassion sponsorship makes in a child’s life is immense: from health and education to faith and happiness

The day began at 6:30 AM sharp as my parents and I prepared to make the journey out to Placide’s village. Eugene, a Compassion employee who works in Rwanda, met us at our hotel. We drove 3 hours into the south of Rwanda to Ntongwe where Placide lives. As we drove, we watched the countryside pass by. Women walking along the side of the street with baskets on their heads and babies tied on their baskets. Men riding bicycles hauling large loads up the steep hills. Children cavorting along in the mud. Rwanda is Africa’s most densely populated country, and I can see why. Rural Rwanda consists of plots of farmland interspersed between homes and little villages. People were everywhere.

Seeing Placide for the first time
As we finally reached Placide’s project, we were scanning the surroundings to see if he was around waiting for us. Just as I stepped out of the car, I turned around and saw a little boy emerging from the nearby building with some of the Compassion center staff. I knew it was Umuhire from pictures I had been sent of him… except he was so much more precious in real life. He knew who we were too, and ran up to me with the biggest smile and gave me a tight hug. Oh how I wanted to hold him forever! I can’t describe how joyful that moment was. It is like seeing a dear member of your family that you are reunited with after a long time. Umuhire was so much more aborable that in pictures we had of him… in the photos he wasn’t smiling and seemed so forlorn. It was wonderful to see his brilliant smile and dimples and see that he looked healthy. 

My boy
The pipe-cleaner and bead dolls we made
The compassion staff guided us to the office, and we sat with our boy. I sat down right next to Umuhire and could not keep my eyes off of him. My heart was overwhelmed with love for him! We talked some with our little boy and made some crafts with him and the Compassion staff. We made little pipe-cleaner and bead dolls and paper boxes. Placide caught on quick as he was able to do the crafts much more readily than other children we have done them with. It was obvious that he is a bright child! 

Next, we all piled in the car with our boy and drove the bumpy dirt paths to his home in the hills. We were surrounded by little mud huts and small farming plots of land with banana trees or sorghum plants (kind of like corn stalks). A young teenage boy ran up to us as we got out of the car with a gleaming smile and hugged each of us tightly. He must be Placide’s brother, Albert! We were directed up a hill on a small dirt path. A young woman dressed in bright blue came rushing down the hill and exuberantly hugged me while she laughed uncontrollably. Later, we learned this is Placide’s Aunt Grace! As we reached the end of the path at a little mud hut, we turned into a courtyeard area in between two homes and were greeted by a blur of women and children. Finally, a beautiful woman in red with the biggest smile I have ever seen came and hugged us, also laughing hysterically. Eugene told us this was Placide’s mother. She was stunning, and looked so young and happy. We were ushered into Placide’s home and sat inside the tiny mud hut talking to them. Deborah, Placide's mother, expressed to us how grateful she was for our sponsorship. It had changed her and her family's lives and it meant so much to her that we travelled all this way to see them. It was a blessing getting to know them more and spend time with these precious people. We learned that the goat we once had given Placide as a birthday gift had multiplied and was sold with its babies to purchase a cow! This is a great possession for them.
The baskets that the family gave us as gifts
Albert, Placide, Deborah, Grace

We gave the family gifts of rice, oil, biscuits, sugar, plates, bowls, cups, and other useful items around the house. We also gave our boy gifts of toys and games like frisbees, balls, toy cars, Legos, bubbles, markers, etc. When I pulled out a colorado jersey and hat for him, he immediately went into the other room and put them on for us. It was so much fun playing with him and his brother. Village children crowded in the doorway, staring in. It was obvious how much Compassion impacted Placide and his family when compared to these kids. They were starving with bloated bellies and snot all over their faces and torn and threadbare clothing. Umuhire and his brother were smiling and clean and well put together. It was a comfort to see our boy in his home with such a supportive family and looking so healthy.
The cow!

All too soon, Eugene told us it was time to go. We prayed for health and prosperity and life and love. It was a beautiful day. I wish it could have lasted for eternity. We walked down the hill back to the car. Grace put her arm around me and told me she was so glad to meet me. Then Umuhire came up and put his arm around me and I walked with him. What a sweet family. I will carry these moments with me forever. We hugged Deborah, Grace, Placide, and Albert goodbye at the bottom of the hill near the car. Everyone was still smiling and laughing. I am glad to know Placide lives in a house full of laughter. I never wanted to leave. I already miss that boy and his family so much already. A truly perfect day!

Daddy, Grace, Deborah, Albert, Placide, Grace, Mom

Albert and Umuhire: Brothers

Me and Grace

Giving gifts and playing games

Placide in his new shirt and hat! Go Buffs!

The other village children

My boy


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