Eleven people from East Central Minnesota will head to Kivuruga, Rwanda, July 29 to bring gifts and see first-hand the impact the Our Response organization has made in the country since late 2009.
Community members are invited to learn more about this trip and Our Response during a “Summer Shindig” from 1-7 p.m. Saturday, July 20, at the Anoka-Ramsey Community College Cambridge Campus.
The two main events of the Shindig include a free outdoor concert by the Mystery Mountain Boys at 2 p.m. and Tonic Sol-fa at 4:30 p.m.
Other activities include a water walk, to see what it is like to carry water every day; a soccer game, including some play with a Rwandan soccer ball; an inflatable bouncy house; face painting; food; and door prize drawings held every hour beginning at 2:30 p.m.
There will also be an area inside the college to look at all of the items being brought to Rwanda that were donated by people in the community, including eyeglasses, medical supplies, soccer balls, raincoats and hand-sewn clothing. There will also be an opportunity to learn more about Our Response, visit with the trip team and sign cards for the people of Rwanda.
The team leaving July 29 and returning Aug. 12 will be the third group of individuals representing Our Response to travel to Kivuruga.
Our Response Director Steve Fredlund had the opportunity to travel to Kivuruga as part of the first team in 2009, which resulted in the founding of Our Response, and he traveled there again as part of the second team in 2011.
“The goal of this trip is to continue to build relationships with the people of Rwanda, deepen our understanding of their issues and opportunities to help, bring encouragement and support through our visit and see first hand the impact the people of East Central Minnesota have made since late 2009 and, specifically, since the last trip in late 2011,” Fredlund said. “Personally, I am looking forward to seeing the friends I made during my prior to two trips, seeing the new water sources that have been put in, and talking with the children about how their lives are different since we began our efforts. I also look forward to again getting another shot of joy and contentment, which are so easily lost in our American culture; having a chance every two years to re-center myself in a global perspective carries through to all other avenues of my life.”
Fredlund said anyone is welcome to the Shindig.
“While all of the activities are free, including the concerts, there are opportunities to support the trip team through buying food, entering the raffles and participating in the auction,” Fredlund said. “Also, if people feel like they want to give directly to support the trip and the efforts in Rwanda, there will be opportunities to do so. However, there will not be any high-pressure efforts on fundraising; if people want to just come and enjoy the free activities as an individual, family or with friends or coworkers, that is excellent.”
Community members are invited to bring soccer balls and raincoats to the Shindig to send to Rwanda.
“In 2011, a group in Forest Lake donated a number of soccer balls that we distributed at schools and elsewhere,” Fredlund said. “It was so fun and such a powerful experience that we decided to do this again for the 2013 trip. The same group is donating balls, and we are inviting others to bring in new or slightly used balls, pumps and needles that we can bring with.
“Also, during the 2011 trip, we were with Florence, the head of the AIDS caregiver volunteers in Kivuruga, Rwanda, and asked what they needed. Florence talked about the difficulty of caring for her patience during the rainy season and how raincoats would be wonderful. One of our trip team members, Joel Preston, had his raincoat with him and immediately gave it to Florence while others followed suit. Joel decided to organize a raincoat drive so on our next trip (this summer), we could provide as many of the 126 raincoats needed by Florence and her volunteers. We are inviting people to bring those to the Shindig as well,” Fredlund added.
Fredlund said he feels Our Response is making a difference.
“Our Response has been working hard to bring East Central Minnesota together since late 2009,” Fredlund said. “Since that time, over $500,000 of direct funding has been delivered to Rwanda to transform the area of Kivuruga, in northern Rwanda. Over 560 children are currently sponsored in Kivuruga by the people of East Central Minnesota. Our community raised the money to build the Nutrition Center in Kivuruga and has provided primary funding for more than 10 water collection and filtration systems in that area, as well as many contributions toward education, nutrition programs, medical care and disease prevention. It truly is remarkable what our community has done to literally save lives and improve the quality of living in this remote part of the world.”
Our Response organizers appreciate the continued support of the community.
“It’s humbling to think that less than five years ago, I had never been outside of the U.S. or Canada; I had never met anyone with AIDS; I had never seen poverty in its extreme,” Fredlund said. “And now, I am returning to Rwanda for the third time with a group of people who are incredibly passionate for the poor and hurting. And I’m surrounding by hundreds of people in our community who desire to make a difference; to have their resources invested in a place that literally saves and transforms lives. Support comes in so many ways — the stories of individual and organizational involvement are many and unique; I could talk for hours about the different stories of personal commitment and sacrifice. And each one of these stories humbles me as we continue to push toward a vision of transforming Kivuruga, eradicating poverty and uniting our community. Thank you to everyone and every organization that has been part of this vision; we welcome everyone to join us on this life-changing adventure.”
Fredlund noted more volunteers can always be used for the Summer Shindig, and if interested in volunteering, call him at 651-587-5435 or email him at [email protected] Volunteers are also welcome to show up the day of the event, and one of the Our Response volunteers can guide them in the right direction. Door prizes will also be welcome the day of the event.