Wednesday, October 25, 2006

United For Uganda - Nov. 3-4

Greg Taylor, Ben Langford and I met yesterday preparing for the upcoming United For Uganda Meeting Nov. 3rd and 4th. It's going to be a great occasion held at Garnett Church of Christ here in Tulsa. It will bring together many people with big hearts for Uganda and Africa. It kicks off with an African themed dinner at 7 p.m. Friday night. If you live in the Tulsa area I especially encourage you to come (bring $10)to this dinner and see all the different types of Ugandan ministries. It will be cool, tight, or whatever word you use to describe great events like this. By the way, is tight still in?

Let me know if you plan to attend Friday night.

You can also read more about United For Uganda on Greg's blog. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Microloan inventor Yunus wins Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Institute went out of the box Friday as they announced this year's Peace Prize winner to Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist, and Grameen Bank. In Saturday's Wall Street Journal the Norwegian Nobel Committee was quoted as saying "Every single individual on earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life. Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development." They get it that the world needs more economic justice which leads to peace. Ideas like microcredit are exactly the types of ideas the world needs to come up with more.

While in Uganda we just dabbled in giving out microloans to those in the villages where we worked. In 2000 my teammate, Mark Moore, worked with the largest cell phone network provider to put a phone in the home of one our village church leaders. James Okumu, an incredible church planter and evangelist, had fellow villagers come to his house in one of the most remote locations I've seen in Uganda and they would communicate with the world. They could call into the nearest town and get market prices for crops ready to be harvested and sold. This would allow them to sell their crops at the right price rather than losing money to a middleman. If there was a sickness or death they could call for help. They could make district and national level government agencies aware that they were there and communicate the issues they faced. James would charge them just over cost and they would be provided a much needed service while James had a means to help care for all (last count was around 15) his deceased siblings' orphaned children. The program was much like Grameen's Village Phone project. In hindsight, I wish we would have had more manpower and resources to do more of this. Combining information technology and innovation with the poor creates great opportunities for better living.

So here's to the inventor of this seemingly simple but very powerful idea improving the lives of hundreds of millions of the poorest people of the world.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Roz Remembered by the World

The word of Roz passing away has now spread around the world. She is receiving her due press for living an incredible life of servanthood. Articles have now been published all over Africa and the world like the Rwanda Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, Newark Star Ledger, and this coming weekend I hear a story will appear in the NY Times. The following is a great article that appeared in the U.K.'s Telegraph.

Rosamund Carr, who died on September 29 aged 94, abandoned her life as a Manhattan socialite and moved to Central Africa with her adventurer husband; she remained there for more than 50 years and chronicled her experiences of the beauties and tragedies of the region in Land of a Thousand Hills — My Life in Rwanda (1999).

The eldest of three children of a New York bond trader, she was born Rosamund Halsey at South Orange, New Jersey, in 1912. Her early life was one of "boarding schools, country clubs and debutante balls", but when her father lost most of his money in the stock market crash of 1929, Rosamund had to look for work.

After two years at the Traphagen School of Fashion Design in New York, she was apprenticed at an artists' studio which specialised in fashion illustration and shop window displays. Eventually she set up on her own, providing fashion illustrations for New York department stores from an apartment on Madison Avenue.

One evening in 1941 she was invited to a showing of films on Africa by the British-born big game hunter and filmmaker Kenneth Carr. Before coming to America, Carr had lived in Africa for some 28 years and had worked variously as a tattoo artist, a coffee planter and a miner of silver and tungsten.

Though he was 24 years her senior, Rosamund was instantly captivated by this dashing, exotic figure and was thrilled when he asked her out and presented her with a pin made from a lion's claw laminated in gold. They married in 1942.

It was only after the marriage that she discovered that she had made a mistake. For despite his glamorous image, Carr was painfully inhibited, protective of his privacy and did not want children. He was also penniless. When America entered the war, he got a job in Washington advising the American government on the Central African region. But when it became clear that the war would not reach Central Africa, he found his services were no longer required. Later he found a job as a field engineer for a mica mine in North Carolina. But their marriage continued to deteriorate.

By 1949 they had decided that the only solution was to move to Africa, and on July 9 that year Rosamund packed four cotton dresses and a "lifetime's supply of cold cream" and set sail with her husband from Brooklyn Harbour in a cargo ship bound for West Africa. They sailed up the Congo river to what was then Stanleyville (now Kisingani), then drove a second-hand Ford pickup truck 620 miles to the Congo-Rwanda border, where they eventually turned to managing a farm. "It was so beautiful," Rosamund Carr recalled. "You could hear monkeys at night. There was a 50-foot waterfall on the property. Sometimes elephants would roam by."

But their marriage foundered, and in 1955 Rosamund bought a 270-acre flower plantation called Mugongo in the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes in Rwanda; she moved into an ivy-clad stone cottage where she planted a formal English garden. Meanwhile, after dabbling in various reckless business ventures, her former husband lost everything when Belgium's colonial rule of the Congo ended in 1960. He eventually left the country.

For the next 40-odd years, Rosamund Carr eked out a precarious living by growing flowers which she sold to hotels, businesses and embassies in Kigali. She also began raising money to send young Rwandans to school and university.

In 1967 she met another American woman living in Rwanda, the zoologist Dian Fossey, who lived and worked among the gorillas on the slopes of a nearby mountain. The two women became best friends. Dian Fossey was murdered in 1985, probably at the hands of poachers, and in a subsequent film about her life, Gorillas in the Mist, Rosamund Carr was played by the actress Julie Harris.

On April 6 1994 a plane carrying the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down, precipitating the slaughter of at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by militant Hutus. On the evening of the assassination, two of Rosamund Carr's Tutsi shepherds asked her if they could stay in her house. By the next morning she had taken in 14 terrified refugees and found her home besieged by a club-wielding Hutu mob.

When the Interahamwe militia turned up, her Tutsis attempted to flee. There was nothing she could do to save them: "They were all killed," she recalled, "my shepherds, their mothers, their children. Eight were killed in my garden." Rosamund Carr was eventually evacuated, wearing just her nightgown and carrying a few possessions, by staff from the American embassy.

She returned to America, but the thought of what she had left behind in Africa made her feel "like a traitor", and she felt that she had to do something to help the children she saw suffering every time she turned on the television news. In August 1994 she returned to her looted home in Rwanda and established her old pyrethrum-drying plant as an orphanage for children who had lost their parents in the genocide.

When fighting broke out again in 1998 she and her orphanage moved to Gisenyi, though they returned to the Mugongo plantation in November last year. About 120 children, both Hutu and Tutsi, now live at the orphanage in a complex that includes dormitories and a school.

Despite the hardships of her life, Rosamund Carr never abandoned her sense of Manhattan style and remained immaculately coiffed and dressed even in the most distressing circumstances. She was buried in the garden of her home at Mugongo last Sunday in a ceremony attended by a crowd of admirers and local people.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Remembering Roz

I am saddened today as I have just heard the news of Roz Carr passing away in Gisenyi, Rwanda. She passed away peacefully in her sleep Friday. She was to be buried on her farm in Mugongo, Rwanda today.

I have always been fascinated by Roz' persistence in life to help others, especially in Rwanda. I first met her when her orphanage was about four years old. She was thrilled to finally get "her children" in life. And after the terrible events of the genocide, she took responsibility for over 100 orphans who had nowhere else to go. She was 82 at the time. She named the orphanage "Imbabazi" which translated in Kinyarwanda language means "As a mother cares for a child". Her heart truly loved those children as if she were their real mother.

Over the course of seven years, I believe I visited Roz and the children six different times. She was always so welcoming and hospitable. I always had at least a truck load of visitors with me as I wanted others to see and be inspired by her love and service to those children. Offering hope was her mode of operation.

She was also loyal and persistent. She encountered many difficulties in her life in Rwanda, the worst being the genocide of 1994 where many of her friends were killed or maimed, but she never really considered leaving Rwanda. She loved the people and the land too much.

If you haven't ever read the fascinating life story of Rosamond Carr, please order her book and read it now. If you have read it, or if you are one of the lucky few who have actually met Roz, please share your favorite stories or memories you have of Roz.

Please pray for wisdom for those of us on the Imbabazi Board as well as those making decisions in Rwanda now regarding the future of the children of Imbabazi.