The Rwandan Orphans Project has never had much to call our own. In the early days the Center was nothing more than a half-built, abandoned warehouse in Kigali’s dingy industrial district where hundreds of street kids came in search of food and a place to sleep. Fast forward to the present and the ROP Center occupies what was once a boarding school that sits on a large piece of land in a peaceful area called Nyarugunga. As wonderful as our current home is, it doesn’t belong to us. We only use it thanks to the generosity of a wealthy Rwandan couple who own the property and allow us to use it rent free.

The dream of all of us at the ROP has always been to have our own purpose built center on our own land. For years that was nothing more than a pipe dream, as our greatest priority was, and remains (we are facing tough times now more than ever) raising enough money to continue providing the care, education and other needs of our nearly 100 boys. To be frank, we put the dream of even owning our own land in the back of our minds; hopeful but not very optimistic about it happening anytime soon.

That all changed after a visit from a group of Australians back in July. Jenny and I were on holiday in Bujumbura, Burundi, but Jenny cut her vacation short, taking a six hour bus ride alone back to Kigali in order to meet this group. Jenny had been in touch with one of the group before their visit, who was keen to see the center, and particularly our quilting project. The day they came Jen gave them a tour and explained our project and what our goals were. They had kindly bought some quilt batting with them from Australia to help our project, along with some gifts for the boys. They all seemed very enthusiastic about our work and they spent a couple of hours with our boys. One of them even bought one of our quilts.

Not too long after their visit one of the members of the group, Tony, contacted Jenny and informed her that he and his wife Carol wanted to help the ROP to buy our own land. We were pleasantly shocked at the offer and told him we already had a plot in mind. In fact just a few weeks earlier we had been told about some land that was for sale in our own neighborhood. This land was being sold by a local family at a very low price considering its size and location. Tony asked us about the price and within days he had made a donation to cover the full cost of it. All of us at the ROP were thrilled. For the first time in our existence we would OWN something. As an organization we have been making great strides for some time now, but having our own land would be a giant step forward for the ROP.

A couple of weeks later, after making the final negotiations, Celestin, Tom, Jean de Dieu and I met with the owners of the land at their small house, next to what would soon be our land. Relatives and neighbors of the family were in attendance and we all sat together on old couches that they had brought out from their homes. It had the feel of a small ceremony rather than that of a business transaction. We filled out and signed the necessary documents and handed them the check for the land. I was sitting calmly but inside I was bursting with joy. The owner of the land then made a short speech thanking us for taking the time to make this deal with his family. As the ROP representative I also wanted to say a few words. I thanked the family for their patience during this long process and added that, “For many years this family has used this land to raise strong, healthy crops. I have no doubt that in the future this land will allow us to raise strong, healthy Rwandan children.” We stood together for one final photo. Now, officially, the ROP was the rightful owners to this beautiful plot.

The land itself could hardly be more suitable for us. It sits on a gently sloping hillside, with a road at the top and a river at the bottom.

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The river is significant because it gives us the ability to build greenhouses that would allow us grow crops year-round to sell at the market. This could potentially be the ROP’s first income generating project, and could help the ROP get on the track to self-sustainability. Of course we can’t afford this, or any other construction at the moment, but now that one dream has been realized we can move on to grander ideas.

So here it is, OUR land, in all its grandeur.

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Sean Jones

Sean Jones is the coordinator at the ROP Center and has been working at with the children in Kigali since January 2010.

10 comments

  • Gail Frith Gail Frith 14 May

    To Sean, Jenny and all at the ROP – we at jcdragonshearteurope.org are so thrilled that you finally have your own land and want to congratulate you on being ‘landowners’!

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  • CAROL ROBERTS CAROL ROBERTS 14 May

    So glad it has all happened, we feel very proud to be a part of what we could see was such a great thing happening for these boys

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  • XJ XJ 14 May

    Awesome!!!! Great day for the ROP!

    Aloha, XJ

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  • geri shea geri shea 14 May

    This is such GREAT news……..Can’t wait to see what other wonderful things will unfold for you and the boys!

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  • Sandy Brandvold Sandy Brandvold 14 May

    This came as such a wonderful surprise and I’m so excited to learn that it happened due to the efforts of the quilting program. The children must be thrilled. The land is beautiful and I can easily picture those greenhouses, chicken coops, etc. for our ‘Future Farmers’ of Rwanda! Perhaps you can also build an artists studio where the quilts and other artwork can be created, displayed and sold. We’ll all be praying for another benafactor to start the building project.

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  • anita carol smith anita carol smith 14 May

    I am so excited about the new land. I will be following the developments and making a donation. Congratulations! Anita Smith

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  • Jasper Jasper 14 May

    Am so Hapy for the Rwanda Orphans.

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  • Mike Farrant Mike Farrant 14 May

    Sean and Jenny,
    Fantastic news! I was so impressed by the work of the project when I visited as one of the Cricket Without Boundaries coaches (the old guy with the ‘tash’). Will there be space for a sports area? It will certainly be a great asset to add to your existing sustainability ideas – the goats, the rabbits, crop growing etc….
    I hope to return with CWB next Autumn. Best wishes to all at ROP.

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  • carmenping carmenping 14 May

    Good Morning,

    What a joy and pleasure to have just become aware of your inspiring community and your new land acquisition! Congratulations!! I live in California and facilitate story telling circles with many young people from all walks of life, and many adults as well. My sister was gifted one of your quilts from a sponsor of yours (Anita Smith) and I would love to purchase one, too; do you ever make round quilts (I use them in the center of our magic listening and talking, story telling circles (called
    Councils) and would LOVE to have a homemade one from you all! Please let me know how I might purchase one.. In the meanwhile, I send you all my love and best wishes from Los Angeles (the city of angels) and look forward to future contact! Carmen

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  • Carol Roberts Carol Roberts 14 May

    So happy it is all now starting to happen.

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