Ukraine Recap – Dylan Conde

We started our last day in Ukraine very early by driving to the airport in Kiev at 3am. The first flight was only a few hours. We landed in Frankfurt, Germany, early in the morning as well. A few of us were randomly selected for more security screening, which ended up taking a very long time. We eventually made it to our gate with seconds to spare. Finally we got through and got onto the plane heading to Houston. The flight was much longer than anyone expected: almost 11 hours.

After the flight we landed back in our favorite state and began talking about the great memories and relationships we had made over the past week and about all of the lessons we learned. We were so sad it was over, but at the same time it was an amazing week that allowed us to bond with the Ukrainian people we had met as well as our entire team.

As we head back to Austin, the relationships and memories we made will be carried with us into the future and I can’t wait to see the impact this week will have in everybody’s lives.

Headed back to the great state of Texas!

-Dylan Conde

Sunday, Rwanda: Last Day

Today is our last day in the beautiful country of Rwanda, and I know that we will all miss it and its people a lot.

We started today with attending Church and listening to a sermon with Pastor Charles. Aftweward, we went to a market for last minute souvenirs and then to go get coffee at a coffee shop called Question Coffee. Question Coffee is a coffee house that is serviced by over 30,000 Rwandan Female Farmers. They provide jobs and finances to these women, and in the process, they have ended up earning various awards for the quality of their coffee. We went to get lunch at the Guest House, before picking up all of the things we had made at the Africa New Life Sewing Center. At the request of some of our team, we were able to go tour the Africa New Life Hospital! It was besutiful and for only 50 US dollars, a person could stay the night, get treatment and meals.

We went back to the Guest House to pack up and get ready to leave!

 

Below are some highlights of the week:

 

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Saturday, Rwanda: Safari Day!!

Although we were sad that our service was done, we were estatic at the opportunity to go on an African Safari.

We saw so many various types of animals, including:

Impala

Baboon

Nile Crocodile

Hippopotamus 

Velvet monkey 

Smallest antelope  (leaf springer)

Herd of Elephants (including babies)

Cape Buffalo

Monitor lizard (predator to the crocodile)

Zebras

Giraffe

White browed coucou 

Pumba 

Gray crowned crane (Uganda’s national bird)

Medium antelope 

Egyptian goose

Goliath heron

Gray headedheron

Black headed heron 

African fish eagle 

Guinea fowl

 

The highlight of the day for many of us was being surrounded by a herd of elephants at a very close range! It was something that I know many of us thought we’d never get the opportunity to see!

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Friday, Rwanda: Sponser Day

We started the day off with an early morning, leaving the Guest House around 5:30 in the morning. We drove to Kageyo and picked up all of our sponsor kids. They rode onthe bus with us around the communties, and individually we got off to visit each of their homes and meet with their families.

While each person visited with their sponsor kid’s home, the rest of us played with the street kids. They especially loved playing scoccer.

Visiting our sponsor kid’s homes was emotional for all of us, but overall, it was a fantastic experience.

After we dropped our sponsor kids off at school again, we drove to Akagera National Park, where we stayed at their lodge for the night. IMG_3582.jpegIMG_3616.jpeg

Thursday, Rwanda

We started out the day with driving to Bugesera to visit the Nyamata Memorial. The Nyamata Memorial was a Church that many of the Tutsi found refuge in during the genocide. One day, the Hutu perpertrators broke into the church, using grenades, rifles, and machetes. They killed every single person out of the 10,000 that were hidden there.

Inside the memorial, the pews are littlered with the blood-stained clothes of the people who were killed that day. From the shawls of older women to the smallest baby onsies, the sight was shell shocking.

We were led down a set of tile stairs to a crypt, where a glass case held some of the skulls and bones of those murdered that day. Some of the skulls were shattered from what we could only assume was the blunt force of a machete. Others had the remnants of gunshots.

After we visited this crypt, we walked outside to the mass graves for everyone in the church, as well as those who died in the surrounding areas. The remains of about 50,000 people were burried in these mass graves.

The Memorial is a gritty rememberance of the brutal killings, but also a physical display of how far Rwanda has come as a nation in twenty short years. As a nation, Rwanda has united again. They have done what many of us have thought to be impossible: forgiving those who wronged them and their loved ones in one of the worst ways possible.

After we left the memorial, we drove to one of Africa New Life’s schools, so we could run a VBS-type camp for the primary (elementary) aged kids. We started by serving lunch to the kids and playing with them on the field.

We played tag, catch, and other various fun games. The “Bannana Song” and “Waka Waka” by Shakira were two favorites amongst the schoolyard.

After lunch and playtime, we started a series of stations for the kids, including playdough, coloring, and outdoor games. We played with the kids for about two hours and then we headed back to The Guest House.

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Guatemala: Adios!

We are at the hotel Barceló in Guatemala City tonight. It was so hard saying goodbye this morning.

Here are the pictures I have right now. There may be some that have been posted previously along with new ones. I’ll also get everyone else’s photos and post those tomorrow during our layover in Atlanta.

Bahamas Day 6

IMG_1015IMG_0961IMG_1035IMG_1005IMG_1010IMG_0955IMG_0970IMG_1000IMG_1045Best day yet!  Today we had an all day VBS for Treasure Cay Primary.  We started very early this morning prepping 150 hot dog lunches and headed to the school at 7:45!  We set up 12 stations of mini rockets, basketball whiffle ball, soccer, paracords, ring pop walks, polaroids and many more!

We had kids assigned to each grade and they had them all day – for 7 hours!  We started in the classroom writing our verse on shirts: Eph 2:10  “We were created in Christ, Jesus to do good works” and we taught them the Praise and Worship song and dance – Every Breath I Take!  Yes, even the boys learned the dance during our evenings at the house!
Then our kids spent the day rotating to different stations every 15 minutes – they went from station to station shouting their team chants and ended all together with a great talk from Coach Carp and a dance party!  We also had all 150 kids sing Happy Birthday to Ms. Kammy who has been tirelessly cooking our meals and doing everyones laundry daily!
Finally home at 5:30 to see how the locals climb coconuts down from the tree and open them with the machete!
We rewarded the teams hard work with dinner on the beach!  Your kids had their patience tested today with some having as many as 33 kids to two leaders in the class – they handled it with amazing grace!
Technical difficulties loading photos – Stay Tuned!

Pillow Elementary Day 5

Our last day at Pillow has been memorable. I am going to really miss everyone I worked with. The connections we all made with the kids were so genuine and strong.

Today all the Hyde Park Volunteers were running stations for track and field day. Some were doing throwing contests, dance offs, and the parachute game. Jilly Nickens and I were in charge of the relay station. We did potato sack races, kangaroo-hop races, and egg races. It was so fun to see each group of students run to our station with excitement and then compete and encourage one another.

We ate Schlotzsky’s for lunch which was generously provided by Pillow and we got re-energized to go play and dance with students the rest of the day.

Today was one of the most fun days I’ve had here at Pillow in both of my years. I loved being with the kids outside when they were free from school work and able to run and play.

As we left with big hugs, some lasting till the very last seconds, everyone felt that their hearts were full. Even though today was our last day, I encourage everyone to keep Pillow in their prayers and thoughts as the year progresses.

Pillow has been an amazing experience this year and I am so happy I was able to participate. Thank you to Ms. Polski and Mrs. Mullen’s and everyone it took to organize this trip. It has been truly a blast. Also, thank you to everyone who has been following along with the the blog. Y’all rock! I hope you enjoyed the daily updates and pictures.

Sincerely,

Kate Newman