The Gift of Hope
Rukundo International’s “Kids Sunday” not only provides children in the community with education, food, and spiritual growth, it has also brought hope to the entire community. Each Sunday, we open the grounds of our school and welcome any child from the community. The children are given a meal, the opportunity to attend a school-type lesson, and use of the recreational facilities with organized activities. Since the launch of “Kids Sunday” earlier this year, attendance has grown to well over 100 children per week!
At a recent meeting with Kids Sunday staff, growth was reported in every development area. Staff and community members are noticing a change that is sweeping through the area. It has all begun with the children and an outpouring of love. Love from sponsors like you, who continue to keep us at Rukundo pushing toward our goal of affecting change in an entire community. Seeing the amount of growth that is possible with such a small budget is truly remarkable.
When the program launched in January of this year, many of the children in the community who attended were without morals and guidance. Since many of the children who come to “Kids Sunday” have not attended any formal school or other organized activity, many feared that proper use of the facilities would be an issue; stealing from neighbors and abusive words were reported. However, the staff has been sensitive to the needs of the children and concluded that many of the children merely lacked the confidence and faith in themselves to make responsible decisions. The most tragic element in the lives of the children was their lack of hope. When they were asked about what they wanted to be when they grew up (perhaps the most common childhood question to ask), many children replied that they had no money for school fees and so there was no hope to “become” anything. No hope to be anything… take a second and imagine what it would be like to have no hope that you would ever be anything. No dreams, no aspirations, no meaning in life.
But then God began to work. The teachers and program workers began to work and invest in these children and the changes are miraculous. The children who had hardened their hearts to the cruel reality of their circumstances began to soften and molt. The rough exterior fell away for them to become new beings through love and guidance. Parents now seek the advice of staff when dealing with misbehavior at home. A trust and a bond has formed within the community because they have witnessed this change.
The children are no longer skipping the spiritual and school lesson portion of the Sunday session and are taking advantage of the entire program- not just the free meal. Their palates and bodies have adjusted to the food provided. Since many kids in the community are only able to eat once per day, having a healthy and balanced meal is an added bonus and an important addition to support their growth and development.
Children have also been instructed on the use of our toilet facilities and are able to use them properly even though many other schools do not have facilities that are widely acceptable as up to standard. The majority of schools and homes in the area where we work have what is known as a pit latrine- a hole in the ground, where one urinates and defecates. There is no running water at most homes and schools in this community, which makes proper hygiene a challenge. Open defecation is still commonly practices in rural areas, leading to many preventable health problems. Our school is teaching children and their parents how to be healthy, by demonstrating proper hygiene standards, such as always washing hands, to reduce sickness.
In less than a year of Sundays, these kids have been able to gain the confidence to clean and take care of themselves. Their handwriting and English have improved. Some “dropouts” have even returned to school to better “fit in” with the high standards of the program. But perhaps most importantly, they now have hope for themselves in the future. They dream about what career they will have in the future. They now stand confidently to answer questions in class and hold themselves accountable for their behavior, dress, and learning. The confidence and trust in the “Kid’s Sunday” program is growing daily.
In order to move forward, the program needs to make sure it can meet the needs of all students. This means that paper, writing utensils, and textbooks that are appropriate for the students’ ages should be purchased. The children who attend “Kid’s Sunday” are taking advantage of a free program. For these families, school fees and basic school supplies are simply not within their financial reach.
There is also need for televisions and requests for small field trips in order to offer more recreational opportunities for the children. A dance and song instructor has also been suggested. The staff is also ready to begin expanding the program to include Wednesday evenings as well. In the future, we would hope to make the program available on a daily basis, but with sensitivity to their household responsibilities. Expansion of the program to include medical clinics and other community resources is also everpresent.
We are thankful for your constant support and continue to be amazed by the hard work of our staff and the blessings the way that God allows us to be used for His purpose.