Greetings from the Heart of Africa
Less than 1% of our homes were vacant in 2021.
Greetings from the Heart of Africa
I am so sorry I will not be able to see all of you today (for me today anyway). I do however want to give y’all a little insight to the mission work happening. I think it might just make you smile.
I had mentioned before I left on this trip that I was not really sure what was going to happen on this trip. I thought I may be observing more than anything,but just maybe there would be an opportunity to come up with some economic solutions for those graduating the school program here… well man has God been present. Yesterday I had the amazing, energizing opportunity to be a part of God’s work. He truly just poured out his blessing like a waterfall all over my soul. The crazy thing is … I was in meetings all day long… It was perfect!
Setting the stage:
The day started with an orientation of the Campus in Kigali. Africa New Life has three schools that belong to them. They teach English using Bible stories as the textbook. The schools run Pre-K through 12. They are taught a full education with a Biblical worldview.
There are 7000 students throughout Rwanda that are currently in the program. These schools are performing well and the department of education has taken notice. A few years ago UNICEF came in and built a brand new school in Kayonza, about 3 hours from Kigali. Within 6 months the school had failed. The department of eduction called ANL and asked them if they wanted to take it over…. no joke. God provided a BRAND SPANKING NEW SCHOOL… FREE.
Within 30 days Africa New Life had the ribbon cutting and present were 500 kids all with sponsorships for education… in uniforms ready to attend. The Africa New Life schools are required to participate in the same national standardized testing as all the other schools in Rwanda. Consistently the ANL students score the highest in the country and this new school was no exception.
For a kid to qualify for the program they have some minimum requirements. One of which is the family has to be employed in some fashion or looking for employment. You can not just let the system take care of your responsibilities. Some kids are not ready for the program. They are called dream kids. These kids can get sponsorship for one year while they are prepared to enter the education program. This might mean getting them healthy, teaching personal hygiene, or creating a stable family environment where a relationship with the family is built and everyone learns to take part in this family member’s opportunity for success.
Children’s education is sponsored by someone in the US… this is the only part of this program that has no intention of becoming independently self-sustaining. Sponsoring a child’s education is $39.00 per month. For that they get one new uniform, books, and a meal every day of school. You have the opportunity to walk with your child on the journey of their education and of course the freedom and encouragement to attend graduation.
There is SO much opportunity here I could not possibly encapsulate all of it in an email so I am going to hit the highlights. …
While in orientation we ask a lot of questions and with questions new ideas are just bubbling over and spewing everywhere… In short order it became clear that a meeting with the key players was a necessity and hence began a cascading series of meetings with each department.
Present the whole time was the director of operations and as we went through each department the department head was called in and added to the meeting. It is not possible to explain to you how much fun this was as each department came through and we got to hear where they are, where they are going, we asked where their pain was and collectively-lovingly-passionately encouraged them with new ideas and requirements for follow-up and implementation.
Africa New Life's Kigali campus has:
A Bible College
Pastors in Rwanda often have no formal training. Often they are teaching from a Rwandan worldview in respect to scripture. This college is accredited and they can earn a diploma or a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and they teach a Biblical worldview and how God has a plan for us and Rwanda.
It costs just over $3,000 per year for the pastors to attend and it’s a three-year program. Capacity is 150 students with 50 on site in dorms and 100 living in local housing. Currently there are 124 enrolled.
The college has only existed for 4 years. In a meeting with the dean of the school it was mentioned that the 3k tuition is just a huge amount and is the limiter for attendance. We have come up with some potential concepts of a foreign exchange program where students in the US can attend one semester at ANL, get credit toward their degree, and get mission field exposure. There would be a $4,500 semester charge which is typical in US education that would cover the expense of the exchange student tuition and add a one year scholarship for a local pastor. They are excited about the new concept and our follow-up on our end will be to create the right contacts with the right people at schools here in the US. We all anticipate that with about 3-5 universities involved in this program the remaining 25 slots would be filled and 25 annual scholarships will be created.
This bakery was donated by a family in Belgium. The bakery has the capacity to bake the daily bread for all the students in the closest schools. One school is too far away for delivery from this place and food is bought locally. The Bakery operates in the black yet is underutilized at least one third of the year. We are not focusing much effort at this time here because of the amount of restructuring work being done in beauty and sewing. It is next on deck to be looked at as a potential profit center and a potential trade training opportunity after we get the other two restructured.
A Sewing Center:
The sewing center is what I came to see. We had a small part in its development 8 years ago. We had a concern because of the way the accounting is done it appeared the department was operating in the red… However, we have come to see that is not the case but some serious work still has to be done. This program is barely operating at break even and we are about to make some changes to improve that. The sewing center sews 4000 uniforms for the sponsored kids. They also create products that they sell on the world stage through various fair-trade organizations. There happened to be an owner of a product line in the US who was present in Rwanda and was able to make this meeting. She currently sells products through Macy’s, Anthropology, and Whole Foods.
It was determined at this meeting that while our women are quite capable of sewing uniforms, some of the ladies are ready to go to the next level. This department will need to buy a few newer higher grade sewing machines in order to match the quality that is competing at that level. Leisha is her name and she and another lady came up with at least 3 products that look super fashionable and are going to be tested in the market for viability. In addition it was determined that the lighting conditions and work environment need some improvement. Lastly… because of the reputation of ANL in the Kigali area and the country’s heartbeat for rebuilding the country, we have identified 50 schools in close proximity to Kigali that all wear uniforms to school. Instead of the schools purchasing their uniforms from China we need to secure those contracts and build the country from within.
Thus creating jobs and more money into the local economy that can additionally fund and support further education. This appears to be low hanging fruit in this culture. There is a new lady that has been in this department for a week who has been brought in to oversee business development of this ministry department. She was very excited to hear all the ideas at the table and will have a business plan submitted for review for implementation at the commencement of 2016.
A Beauty Academy:
3 years ago a couple in Austin that own some salons had a vision to open a beauty school in Rwanda where prostitutes and at-risk women would have an opportunity to come to a one year program to learn a skill and be able to gain employment. So far 70 percent of the women who have gone through the program have in fact been able to find jobs and have been rescued from the life of prostitution. However the vision for the program was that it would be self-sustaining and to that end this project is failing.
The department is in the red over $9,000 this year alone. Remember, a year’s tuition is only 3K to put this number in perspective. We have come up with a preliminary sketch of how to restructure this in moving forward. For starters we will have an opportunity for people to support a prostitute. The monthly expense for education is about $200. This is currently a one-year program. So, for a measly $200 per month someone can personally help a person with a name and a soul out of the sex trade and literally help change someone’s life. Now I am proposing we change this into a two-year program. In the first year they receive trade training and discipleship much like they get now.
Next we open up a salon in the city center of Kigali where the graduates of the program will have a second year of residency where they are required to fulfill one year of employment in which they will continue to have discipleship training but at this stage we layer in financial education. We teach them P&L statements, personal family budget, and a savings ledger. The second year which is a guaranteed job will require the 2nd year student to sponsor one of the first year students coming in behind her.
The idea here is that these girls will be working in a full-time employment for pay and the splits will be made so they can afford to meet the obligations. Responsibility will be to tithe 10%, save 10%, then pay expenses and have a small amount of coin left over. To keep this in perspective, the average ppc is about $45. So this 2nd-year resident sponsoring the new student is not a hard target to hit, not to mention it is teaching a pay-it-forward mentality.
Lastly, we would love to find a corporate sponsor (perhaps a hair product company like Revlon) that will do a savings matching at the completion of the 2 year program. So if a woman has saved $800 over her year with training and use of her savings ledger, she will be awarded a bonus of $800 at graduation toward something of equitable gain. She then has $1600 toward a home, car, or location to open her own shop etc. We know that there are a couple of defects to iron out with the new plan and we are working on some of those numbers, such as, what about the 30% that wash out? Then 30% of the new students would not have a sponsor… With a two-year program, even though the second year earns an income, will there be an increased wash out rate? Many of these will be ironed out as this new plan outline gets written into a more comprehensive business plan.
A Medical Clinic
The medical building is under construction. This will be a specialized clinic including operating rooms, clinic rooms, and delivery rooms. They will be able to house medical missionaries and give basic care to the members of the community. This will of course be used as an outreach center to introduce people to the Great Physician. While it may appear premature at this point, it may be a good time for others like Barney to get involved with what is happening with the numbers of this clinic.
Specifically I can tell you that this project is being led by a small group of 5 physicians ( I am sure there is more to the story) and a small concern is that notoriously physicians are not typically the best businessmen. These comments were made and I am just regurgitating. I too am outclassed in respect to the economics of health care so it might just need a special person who happened to be interested in coming alongside. *Hint, wink, smile* The building is a 3-story building under construction on the same campus in Kigali. Many people are very excited about this.
A Transportation Business
It is required by the government that anyone who transports people be a registered business, so naturally when we are being shuttled to and fro we fit that category. The transportation gig does own their own vans and busses. The shuttling of people is charged to the Africa New Life organization and the cost is included in the cost of the mission trip when short term missions (STM) come to serve. This section is operating in the black at this time. While it is a possibility to expand this into tourism (also another outreach opportunity), no action steps are specifically being suggested at this time. This falls after the bakery in its priority for review.
A Guest House
The guest house where the missionaries stay is also a self-supporting element for future potential profit growth. The rent in this house is $2700 per month without utilities. STM’s are charged $50.00 per day to cover the cost of room and board through their stay. This does in fact turn a small profit and cover the cost of staffing and logistics personnel.
Future development and non-action items of discussion were, for starters, whether or not to purchase the building used as the guest house. In addition, there are some properties that could potentially be bought cheaply and rehabbed and used for renting to teachers at the bible college or full time medical personnel at the new clinics. Loans are not available for real estate in this culture but discussions did exist that a private finance investor might be able to fill that role thereby allowing the ministry to buy property on 15 year notes thereby expanding its sustainability and footprint.
A THRIVING Church
The church at Africa New Life has approximately 1000 in regular attendance. The church is self-sustaining off of member giving. It is in the black and the congregation is in strong support and devotion to their pastoral leadership. It is a beautiful thing.
That was just Monday....
Today we are going to the Congo border to purchase a 3-acre parcel of land for a new school. You read that right… We have the funds, the land was selected and negotiations have been happening with the seller and the board. Last night the seller finally agreed to the price and the board gave advance unanimous approval if terms could be met, so today we are headed into the most dangerous area of Rwanda to carry the light of Christ into an otherwise dark and war-ridden area. This is the area where the fighters from the Hutu tribe from the genocide fled 20 years ago and as I understand it the culture of violence has been hard-grained into the people. I honestly have no more expectations for today other than a long car ride into the mountainous rainforest… but hey yesterday was all meetings and it was glorious!
On Wednesday we will have our second day of meeting with coffee plantations looking at additional employment opportunities for graduates… Also on table for discussions have been adding trade centers for welding and bicycle repair shops. These are sustainable economic business ministries that teach a trade, create employment, and spread the gospel.
Damn that was a long letter. Too long to proof-read – forgive the mistakes.
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