I’ve been pondering this idea for a while now… Cookies for Milk. It’s pretty literal. You make a donation for a cookie and it goes into a fund that provides milk (among other items for kids in Kigali, Rwanda). I’ll explain a little more after you read my father in law’s story below….
In 2009, Dana and I had the privilege of spending six weeks in Rwanda teaching conversational English through a ministry called Let’s Start Talking (LST). In LST’s parlance, Dana and I were the “workers” and our students the “readers.” However, in this small East African country that is still recovering from the horrific genocide of 1994, the roles were often reversed – our students taught us far more than the grammar and pronunciation we offered them. This was especially true with John Harelimana, one of my readers. John started a pre-school named “Manamfasha Pour Les Enfants” (God’s help for the children) in his impoverished neighborhood in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Every year, John teaches over 110 3-5 year olds academic, social, and hygiene skills that prepare them to succeed in primary school and have a chance to escape the cycle of poverty that otherwise darkens their hopes for the future.
After visiting the school and listening to 24 five year olds sing the ABCs and recite poetry while crammed into a room the size of many American walk-in closets, we were compelled to help. When we asked John what he needed most, he quickly replied, “a cow.” He tries to provide the children a small biscuit and a cup of “milk tea” each day, which for many is the only “meal” they will have that day until the evening. At the time, he had to water down the milk because he could not afford the $10 daily cost. Through the generosity of many our friends and family, the children of Manamfasha are now enjoying milk from John’s own cow, which has also produced two calves in a small hut built on land he was able to buy from the donations. He has since added a playground with equipment for the children and dreams of building a community recreation center on that land to give other children a safe place to escape the dangers of the streets of Kigali.
The cow and calves have many on-going needs – medications, feed during the dry season, and paying the “cowboy” to care for the animals and protect them against theft. The playground always needs upkeep and the government seems to regularly require improvements to the modest schoolhouse John built around his home. School supplies. Bibles to give away. Snacks for the children. Teacher’s salaries. John even provides clothes and shoes to some of the poorest students. It is a challenge to keep his passion alive in a country where many things are more expensive than in the U.S. and the average income is less than $2 a day. If you can help in any way, we would be most grateful.
Michael and I were part of the group that helped purchase the cow, and think about that cow often. I really love animals – even big smelly cows. I really want this cow to succeed and live well so it produces tasty milk. If John can provide real milk for these kids, they are nourished physically. Through his teaching they are nourished emotionally, and spiritually. It’s so hard to imagine poverty to this degree, even in the US, and I know that every little bit helps. My goal is to raise $100 to start. I’m going to make cookies and leaving them with a jar for donations. If you happen to find it (probably starting at work or Michael’s office) feel free to take a cookie even if you can’t donate. Baking is incredibly fulfilling and I wish I could send some cookies for the kids in Kigali to enjoy with their milk. Thanks for sharing your story with us Harvard & Dana and thanks for giving us to opportunity to help.