Two years ago, we introduced you to a pair of unnamed five-year-old twins we found living alone on the streets. Your support allowed us to welcome Benjamin into our home while setting up Grace in a nearby home for girls, ensuring their ability to see each other often. They chose names for themselves, and began the journey towards healing. While Benjamin has made incredible strides in his own recovery, he has continually longed for a family. Unable to live with his abusive mom, and having no other known relatives, his dream of a family looked grim.
Last month, however, we received a call from a woman, who explained, “I’m calling about a boy named Benjamin. This is his grandmother.” Our staff listened in disbelief as the grandmother expressed her strong desire to meet her grandchildren and have them come stay with her. The following week, Benjamin and Grace visited their grandma for the first time and also discovered they have an aunt and uncle! Benjamin and Grace returned home beaming. “I am so happy to have had conversations with my grandma and aunt,” Benjamin told us. “We fetched water and had fun playing games. I learned that they love me and care! I really never thought it was possible to have a family.”
This process of reconciling and moving in with family is what we call “reintegration.” Believing that many wounds can be healed when family ties are restored, reintegration is the goal we strive for with our kids whenever possible. Often taking several years to complete, reintegration is the ultimate culmination of a child’s transformation.
The twins happily meeting their grandma and aunt.
When asked what he thought about living with his grandma and Grace, Benjamin’s face glowed. He responded, “It makes me so happy. I would like that!” He paused before finishing, “…But only as long as there were days that I could still come to HFLM!”
We stand at a new starting line with our dear twins, looking ahead at a horizon that is shining brightly. This horizon breathes a new beginning, carrying with it potential for a family to begin writing a new chapter together at last.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa Hello HFLM family! My name is Amanda and I am an American living in Rwanda, serving Hope For Life. I come to you this month sharing a story that deeply impacted my life.
Samuel on the streets
Last month, I was doing errands in town when I saw a homeless boy. He was sitting in front of me against the market wall, with a glue bottle in his mouth getting high. His face was downtrodden as he stared at his dirty, shoeless feet. He reeked so strongly of glue that I had a headache within a few minutes of being near him. However, I felt a nudge to stop and talk to him. Over dinner in a nearby restaurant, a friendship began forming that would shape both of our lives. Over the course of many more meals, Samuel’s story started to slowly unfold. This 14-year-old boy hadn’t seen his father in 12 years and his mother is mentally ill, struggles with alcoholism, and is homeless. Having no other immediate family willing to care for him, Samuel left his mom and began living alone on the streets.
Samuel and his best buddy, Patrick at HFLM
Getting to know Samuel has inevitably changed me forever. I haven’t felt so personally destroyed on the inside for someone ever before. After our dinner dates, I would leave him and all I could do was cry. His face was written on my heart. Before falling asleep, I would lay in my bed thinking of him outside in the dark. At meals, I would look at my food wondering if he was hungry. All I could do was pray for God to have a plan.
Samuel and I
I am happy to tell you that a few weeks ago, HFLM officially accepted Samuel into the HFLM family! If you saw him today, you truly wouldn’t recognize him. He has had a very easy transition into our home and has quickly befriended many of our boys. He is most excited about returning to school in January 2016. In anticipation, he wakes up every morning on his own initiative to study. During a recent devotion, our staff asked the boys what they wanted to pray for. Their requests ranged from doing well in school to not wetting the bed. Sam’s character shone through as he replied, “I want God to help me love more.”
Though there are still many boys sleeping outside near me tonight, this week we celebrate the victory that is Samuel. I’m grateful to have a God who not only sees, but adores and cherishes every drop in the ocean!
HFLM has a new “mama”! We are overjoyed to introduce you to our newest Residential Counselor, Jeannette. By the end of her first week, our staff stood in awe as we heard the boys already calling her “mama.” Since joining in April, she has made valuable changes in our home and in our hearts.
Given that our home is constantly filled with boys transitioning from the streets, it has always been a challenge to develop habits of good hygiene. In Jeanette’s first hour on the clock, this experienced mother of three quickly inspired a house cleaning party. After only three weeks, Jeanette’s encouragement has quickly turned our young men into the sharpest looking kids on the block.
In addition to the physical improvements Jeannette has brought us, we’ve also witnessed growth within our kids. A former teacher and counselor, Jeannette quickly developed a new mentorship program whereby the older boys take turns leading Bible studies and tutoring sessions for the smaller kids. As a result, we’ve seen seeds of maturity and self-confidence start to flourish in our older boys. 13-year-old Eric has especially thrived in his new responsibilities and even earned the nickname “Mayor” from the smaller boys.
Jeannette was quick to connect with our boys’ hearts. Her patient and nurturing disposition naturally draws people in, leading our youth to openly share their lives with her. 17-year-old Valence became part of the HFLM family last December. This shy and withdrawn young man has had much difficulty transitioning into our home, as he has resisted participating in activities or connecting with staff. However, in Jeanette’s first few weeks, she and Valence could be seen every evening talking on the porch until the moon shone down on them. Since then, Valence has opened up about his life on the streets and is making significant progress in his rehabilitation.
Please join us in welcoming Jeannette into our HFLM family! We may be a family scattered across the world but our hearts beat together to see God’s kingdom flourish on the streets of Rwanda.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” – Jesus, Matthew 19:14
Meet Fred, our six-year-old neighbor. Fred was born without a tibia in his right leg. Due to the complexity of surgery in Rwanda, his leg was removed from the knee down. His family’s poverty made it impossible to get a prosthetic. To add to Fred’s hardship, many Rwandans have a fear of those with disabilities. Fred has never had friends. He says of his community, “They call me names, run from me, beat me, and throw rocks at me.”
Upon sharing Fred’s story with our boys, they immediately resonated. They, too, have known loneliness and rejection. They decided to befriend Fred and “show him how to make cars, draw, and build legos.” Benjamin even suggested we fix our old wheelchair so Fred could use it.
Fred and his wheelchair.
On Fred’s first play date, our boys had so much fun they invited him to a sleepover! He has spent every weekend since playing with his new friends. Fred’s mom recently called and said, “Fred never used to talk before, but now when he comes home from HFLM, he is like a radio! He wants us all to stop what we are doing and sit around him. Then he tells us everything about his time at HFLM from the second he arrived to the second he left. He said returning home is hard because it feels like he’s leaving heaven.”
Fred with his new friends.
We knew our boys were special, but these last few weeks have left us in awe. They repeatedly put love into action and show us the kingdom of God growing in and through their hearts.
Update on Sandrine: The road ahead is long, as Sandrine has suffered severe brain damage. She is not expected to regain her eyesight or the motor skills she previously possessed. We hope to see small improvements over the next months and continue to work with her family to find the best long-term solution.
We are thrilled to introduce the newest five members of the HFLM family! In the past two months, we’ve welcomed Gaetan, Ishimwe, Hassan, and two brothers, Patrick and Jean Paul. Coming from backgrounds of child labor, abuse, neglect, and immense poverty, their newfound excitement about life has brought freshness and energy into our home.
From left to right: Patrick (4), Jean Paul (12), Ishimwe (12), Gaetan (11), Hassan (12)
While we have experienced much joy with the addition of these new personalities, we have also experienced great pain. During four-year-old Patrick’s first few weeks at HFLM, he expressed continued concern for his two-year-old sister, Sandrine, who was still living with their mom. Their mom is deaf and mute, and struggles to find work because of her disability. Begging to survive, the family often went without eating. Little Patrick’s genuine fear for his sister moved us and we knew we had to learn more.
Patrick and Jean Paul’s sister, two-year-old Sandrine lays unconscious in the hospital.
Our first interaction with Sandrine broke our hearts. She could not sit or hold her head up on her own because of severe malnutrition. And despite being two years old, her development mirrored an infant’s. Due to her critical state and her mom’s disabilities, HFLM decided to take Sandrine in to live with us temporarily until we could identify a more sustainable solution for her and her mom. A few days after her arrival, Sandrine lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. There, she was diagnosed with cerebral malaria, a severe strain that enters the spine and brain, and she also suffered heart failure. She currently lays comatose in the hospital, experiencing seizures every few hours.
Patrick and Sandrine days before she was hospitalized.
Please join us in praying for a miracle for little Sandrine, as well as peace for her family and our staff. If you are interested in partnering with us to become a sponsor of one of these new children, please visit our website.
Our neighbors to the south in Burundi are experiencing political unrest and violence (BBC article here). The unrest began recently when current president Nkurunziza announced that he would be running for re-election this June after already serving two terms. Burundi’s constitution states that a president can only be elected to two terms. Nkurunziza, however, argues that he was “appointed” rather than elected for his first term.
Photo taken from BBC article referenced above
Weeks ago the country’s courts upheld Nkurunziza’s understanding, which has led to opposition and unrest from citizens and military members. Out of fear, tens of thousands of Burundians continue to flee to neighboring countries. Not only are we deeply concerned with the state of Burundi, and the mass amounts of refugees entering Rwanda, but two of our boys’ families live in Burundi. Please stand alongside us in prayer as we lift up Burundi and the families we work with. #ComeJesusCome
“Can I ask you something?” 16-year-old Djuhudi quietly asked his HFLM counselor one afternoon. “Does my dad love me? I don’t think he does.”
These issues began the day Djuhudi was born. Tragically, Djuhudi’s mom passed away in childbirth and his father blamed Djuhudi for her death. Djuhudi’s father has never accepted him as a son or pursued a relationship with him. While Djuhudi has made enormous strides over the past five years at HFLM, self-worth is still a daily struggle.
Djuhudi’s Sponsors, the Lush family, are crazy about him!
Djuhudi wearing a new shirt he unwrapped from his sponsors.
Then, one day, a package arrived with Djuhudi’s name written in big letters across the front. It had travelled 9,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from his sponsors in Colorado. Djuhudi unwrapped the package slowly, pausing frequently to ask, “Is this really for me?” With each rip of tape, a smile widened on his face, accompanied by a sparkle in his eyes that wasn’t usually there. In that moment, we sensed his relief. Djuhudi had been desperately trying to find love, and it ended up finding him, wrapped in a big brown box. He fumbled in awe as he opened the package and found numerous handwritten letters, photos, and gifts. He could not believe that someone had taken the time to do this just for him.
While this act of kindness might seem small to you and I, it was a loud affirmation of self-worth to Djuhudi. Our boys didn’t grow up receiving words of love spoken into their lives. They didn’t often have loving arms wrapped around them. They didn’t have family figures bending over backwards to put them through school. And while Djuhudi receives affirmation and love from our staff on a daily basis, the message of self-worth was reinforced in a unique way coming from a family on the other side of the world. And that love has stuck with him to this day.
Your support, encouragement, and love matter deeply to the children at HFLM. It reaffirms their value, provides hope, and gives second chances. A handwritten letter from you could be just the hope they need to keep believing that they aren’t alone. To learn about sponsoring a child and having the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with him, please visit our website.
Six years ago, HFLM began as an impromptu picnic of hot dog buns and bottled water with 11 hungry, street children. Today, HFLM operates from a beautiful facility built by the Hovde Foundation and is recognized as a local non-profit by the Rwandan Government. We have grown in stability and impact and currently serve over 100 people in our community.
In our sixth year of operation, we challenged ourselves to think big and set goals to ensure our organization will exist well into the future and bring long-term transformation to each of our children. We focused on organizational health, strengthening internal operations, and pursuing sustainability. We’re excited to celebrate our highlights with you!
The original boys on the streets in 2008
HFLM all grown up in 2014
Organizational Highlights from our Sixth Year:
Leadership transition from American to Rwandan Directors
Staff development and training, adding five Rwandan employees
Completed a four year process to receive our non-profit registration from the Rwandan Government
Held three successful fundraisers, more than doubling our donor base
Gained 20 new long-term child sponsors
Accepted nine new children into our program
Relocated a single mother of one of our boys, allowing her to escape prostitution and find alternative work
We had tremendous support this past year that led to these accomplishments. Thank you for believing in the vision God put on our hearts and for standing with us in partnership. Together, we have shown that we can make an enormous difference in Rwanda!
Two years ago on a dreary afternoon, a dejected young boy walked into our compound. He hadn’t showered in over a week and an expression of hard numbness was etched onto his 14-year-old face.Although his name, Joyeux, means happiness, he hadn’t experienced itin a long time. His family had rejected Joyeux and kicked him out of the house, leaving him nowhere to go except the streets.
Local street boys that attend HFLM’s outreach program: the boys wash their clothes, eat a warm meal, receive loving counsel, and learn about Jesus.
Joyeux had been living on the streets for over a year when he heard about HFLM’s weekly outreach services and decided to check it out. For the next two years, he came every week to shower, wash his clothes, eat a hot meal, receive loving counseling, and learn about Jesus. He reflected, “When I first came to HFLM, I didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, but my eyes have been opened. I enjoy coming to outreach and hearing the word of God. It makes me happy.” This past January, after three years on the streets, Joyeux asked his mom if he could come home. She was reluctant at first, but soon her heart softened and they were able to reconcile. Joyeux is now residing at home and will continue being supported by our staff.
Joyeux was motivated to reconcile with his family after participating in HFLM’s outreach program.
Joyeux is enrolling in vocational school, with HFLM’s financial assistance, to become a mechanic. He is deeply excited and cites HFLM as his motivation to not only pursue reconciliation with is family, but also to commit to studying. “I came to Hope For Life and listened to their advice. I made up my mind and want to have a better future. Life on the streets is not easy. I know that if I can learn something, my life will be better.” If you are interested in sponsoring this changed young man through auto mechanic trade school, please click here.
We are honored to journey with you as, together, we equip Rwandan children to change their futures. Thank you for standing with us in partnership!
Click here to watch the music video our boys and staff made.