Refugee Camp

Last week we had the chance to visit our friend Celestin. Celestin works in southwest Rwanda (on the border of Tanzania), in a community of people who fled Rwanda between ’59 and ’94, and have come back at different times. There has been varying amounts of support from the government and foreign NGO’s, many lived in tents for many years before they received a more permanent mud hut. Celestin runs 2 preschools with about 25 children in each school. We visited to encourage him and remind him he is not forgotten out in the village.

Celestin teaching

Celestin teaching

We sat in on the class!

We sat in on the class!

While we were there, he took us to a refugee camp. Because of the situation in the Congo, Tanzania has kicked out many Rwandans who have been living there for upwards of 50 years. Many of the children we met, and even their parents, have never lived in Rwanda, and yet they were forced to leave their lives and everything they own (for a country they or their parents had been forced out of because of violence).

Bukora camp kitchen

the kitchen: each family cooks for themselves

I’ve never been in a refugee camp before, and this was honestly better than I expected (each family had a space, and they had water & washroom facilities), and yet it would be unimaginable to find myself there. As soon as we arrived, a little boy of about 3 attached himself to me (a very, very cute boy). It was his family’s place that we ended up visiting, with his twin sister, older sister, mom, and 5-day-old baby sister. Once this family arrived at the camp, the father returned to Tanzania to retrieve some of their belongings and cattle, and was killed by thieves. So this newly-widowed young woman gave birth in a refugee camp.


We had no words.
So we prayed for her, and played with the little boy.
We came home and convinced the team that is leaving soon for outreach that they should spend some time there, talking with people, helping them carry water, doing whatever they can. There is no programs at all for the children yet, and so at least to do some kind of children’s program: they flocked to us while we were there, and were very excited when Celestin started an impromptu class. (Many of the parents were also entertained.)

Bukora camp Anna

the kids followed us everywhere

We were there for 3 days, and oh, were we thankful to return to the relative comfort of Kigali. But we won’t forget those we met and those who, almost 20 years after the genocide ended, find their lives turned upside down again by the consequences.

A burnout update

Its been about two months since recognizing that I was at/on my way to disaster, physically, mentally, & spiritually.  I have made some adjustments to allow myself to recover:

I’ve let go of a lot of “shoulds.”  There are so many of them, and I don’t necessarily think that they are bad.  (ie, I should go play soccer with the students because it is good relationship-building time and it might be fun. OR I should spend my whole day at that wedding where I don’t understand anything thats going on, because culturally everyone goes to everything.)  But when it has been an activity that is exhausting for me, or if I am already worn out, I have let these things go.

I have let go of things that are really not my responsibility.  For example, when the water on base gets too low for our drinking water filter to work, someone has to make sure that the people living on base have access to drinking water.  But that someone doesn’t necessarily have to be me.

I’ve been eating a lot of salsa.

I have been pouring myself into things that are lifegiving, like teaching & mentoring for the staff internship and the staff fundraiser.

DTS staff use scrabble tiles to evaluate how the school is going

DTS staff use scrabble tiles to evaluate how the school is going

(I’ve been using scrabble tiles a lot.  They have been a great tool for processing: a fun way to draw out thoughts.  I’ve also been using them as a way to focus in my prayer times.)

When my schedule has been very full on the evenings and/or weekends, I have taken time to relax during the day.  (And tried hard not to feel guilty about it.)

It is working.  I am starting to be able to get a whole nights sleep a few times a week.  Most mornings when I get up I am not dreading the day and only looking forward to the evening.  I don’t think that I am entirely back to my usual self/capabilities yet, but I can see that things are getting better!  Thanks for all your support and encouragement.