Ijoro rwiza! (Good Night!)

The saying “A picture says a thousand words” feels very appropriate for this post. My journey to Cyangugu Province with Justin was to deliver mattresses to the Twa cooperative: “Abakundana”. During the group visit with World Dance for Humanity it was promised that every member would have a mattress and this moment was that promise being fulfilled. They needed 45 mattress to make it a reality and so World Dancers went back to Santa Barbara, CA and danced it into being! The money was raised and this is the moment when the goods were delivered. It was an honor for me to be there to witness the impact that World Dance for Humanity is having on the people of Rwanda first hand. I remember seeing photos of a similar event when I first became a member but at that time I never imagined I would be here in person to help make it happen – wow, what an amazing gift! Justin was up very early organizing the purchase and getting a truck for delivery, which was a 1 1/2 hour drive from where we were staying.

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When we arrived we were greeted by coop leaders and members. Justin met with cooperative leader Benjamin, the man whom I had seen earlier at the Funeral and was delighted to see me again, as I was to see him. It was so interesting to be meeting these people again after the World Dancer visit and my intention behind being with Justin is to be a representative of the support they receive from World Dance and Goats for Life. It is an absolute honor to be able to do so! To see familiar faces welcoming me back with recognition in their eyes is really a powerful feeling, especially being in such a remote part of the country as well as knowing that these people had not seen white people before the visit from World Dance (according to Justin). Now, I am here as a real presence in their lives and that feels indescribable.

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Justin gave a speech to the members as they waited patiently for the arrival of the mattresses. It is clear the group has much respect for Justin and that he has much love for them.

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As soon as they heard the truck pull up there were smiles, then some loud noises, people began jumping up from their seats with arms held high and that’s when the dancing and singing began. They made their way outside and the celebration continued until it was time to receive their gift.

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There were plenty of hugs for Justin and myself! Justin was clapping and dancing with them as I captured the moment on video. One of my favorite “Justin Moments” was when he ran, clapping and smiling over to where the mattresses were going to be distributed with a line of people following closely behind doing the same. Justin has such a beautiful, care-free energy and he runs in a way that reminds me of a small child, his head tilts slightly back as he effortlessly bounces along his way – very sweet to see. His laugh is more like a high pitched squeal or giggle, which is also a delight!

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The mattresses were unloaded and piled into three big piles. These two woman asked me to take their photo in front of them and were so excited to see themselves on my camera afterwards. It’s funny to have them ask for a photo and then stand there with no expression on their faces, but that is what happens here often unless you specifically say “Seka”, which means Smile! Trust me, these two woman were very happy!

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Then they were each given their  mattress and had a photo taken by Justin. Now every household has one mattress. That means that within the household the family members decided who sleeps on the mattress. These photos are then presented to the Government officials as proof of the cooperative goals being met. The leaders were very happy also as this shows they are doing their job well and serving the community members.

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They each carried their new mattress away with a big smile!

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Justin had them all line up in a big long line, standing proudly with their gifts!

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As we were wrapping up the photo shoot and some mattresses were laid on the ground the children began to push and shove each other onto the pile and then naturally they began to jump on them!  Lots of laughter accompanied this event! Both of our camera’s were running out of battery by this time and so we have no shot of the actual jumping but you can use your imagination with the photo’s below to recreate the scene.  They all look pretty calm in these photos but that was not the case only a few minutes later!

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Then the adults followed suit!

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As soon as I saw this, I knew I needed to get in on it – so I did! They loved it!

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After that everyone wanted me to come and have their photo with me on their bed! The laughter and excitement spread amongst the crowd!

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It was time for us to go as we had a 8 hour drive ahead of us and as it turned out, once again, many people to pick up and drive with back to Kigali! As we drove away there was a long line of people walking away with colorful mattresses balanced on their heads, children and people waving and chasing after the truck.

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Many people began walking home on the red dirt roads with Joy filled hearts about the wonderful sleep they would have tonight. During the distribution, one of the leaders came to me and made a joke that there were about to be a lot more babies in the coop and that now people will be late for work in the morning because they will sound asleep in their beds! It made me realize even more what I take for granted in my life and how this seemingly simple thing (a bed) that is a given to most of us has not even been a possibility in these people’s lives until now. As you can see, some of them are quite elderly so it will be a big change for them I am sure. Such a simple yet life changing gift. Proof that even the small things can make a huge difference.

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Every piece of the puzzle made this all possible but I would like to thank Justin for his heart and dedication to the work he does. He is an inspiration to everyone he meets and he is helping make real change in the world. He is truly a gift in himself!  I love you Justin.

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