Our Response volunteers plan trip to Rwanda

Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser planned for June 28

By Elizabeth Sias

Children from the community of Kivuruga, Rwanda. Volunteers from Our Response are taking a trip to Kivuruga in October. Funds raised from a spaghetti dinner on June 28 will go toward the trip.

During a humanitarian trip to Rwanda two years ago, Steve Fredlund saw firsthand the struggles of the people living in poverty.

Fredlund had taken his trip with pastors Bob Jonsson of  First Baptist and Mark Radeke of River of Life, and the journey marked one of the final preparatory stages before they launched the organization Our Response, a nonprofit organization that seeks to “ignite a community-wide financial response to global poverty, disease and suffering.”

Aware that their fledgling nonprofit would be most effective when paired with a larger organization that already had the resources and processes in place for international work, the men decided to partner with the group World Vision. World Vision is a Washington state-based Christian humanitarian organization that focuses on long term solutions. The organization estimates it provides assistance for approximately 100 million in 100 countries worldwide.

After the partnership was established, Fredlund and the others had to decide where to put Our Response to work. World Vision provided the group with a list of options, and the one all three agreed fit the mission of Our Response was the recently started Area Development Program (ADP) in the village of Kivuruga, Rwanda.

By partnering the resources and compassion of people in the East Central region of Minnesota with the needs of people in the community of Kivuruga, Our Response has raised over $55,000 of direct funding through child sponsorships and funding for a nutrition project, Fredlund said. Much of this is from 205 child sponsorships. As the group moves forward, the current child sponsorships will represent over $85,000 per year going into Kivuruga.

To continue efforts and build new relationships in Kivuruga, a team of eight area residents representing seven churches are taking a second trip to Rwanda this October. Our Response is hosting four Spaghetti Dinners to help raise funds for the trip, with the first on Tuesday, June 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Cambridge. Adults are $7 and children are $5, and everyone is welcome.

“We want to trigger a community-wide effort to increase our compassion and generosity as a community,” Fredlund said.

With the help of World Vision, the goal of Our Response’s work in Kivuruga is to develop a 15-year model improve their standard of living without Westernizing them. By 2025, the group would like to see Kivuruga as a self-sustaining community with increased life expectancy and health and decreased infant mortality rate.

“Then we can pull out and they’ll be set up for future generations,” Fredlund said.

One way to get involved is to sponsor a child in Kivuruga. Part of the $35 a month goes directly to a child and his or her family for essential items such as clothing, food, and schoolbooks, and part of it helps with community-wide projects, whether it’s building a well or something else.

Over half the people there are malnourished, Fredlund said, which is why World Vision has a nutrition center in the area to provide food and nutrition education.

Any cash contributions made to Our Response may be directed toward trips to and from Rwanda, special community projects like the nutrition center, or pooled for additional child sponsorships. The goal of Our Response is to raise $1 million over 10 years.

“I think it’s something our community can be very proud of,” Fredlund said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to go, ‘Wow, look what East Central Minnesota did.’”

The first spaghetti dinner fundraiser takes place Tuesday, June 28, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 304 Main St. S. in Cambridge. Adults are $7 and children are $5. The  other spaghetti dinners will be July 19, Aug. 30 and Sept. 13. All funds raised go toward the trip to Rwanda.

For questions on the spaghetti dinner, contact Shannon Lynch at 763-250-4655.

For more information on Our Response, or to donate to the organization, visit www.our-response.org or call Steve Fredlund at 651-587-5435.