Author Archive | janet

Congratulations to our 20 New College Students!

We received the incredible news today that 20 of our high school graduates have been accepted into COLLEGE for the 2018-2019 school year! This brings us to a total of 57 college students WD4H is sponsoring. It’s VERY hard to get into college in Rwanda, and we are so proud of our students, who accomplished this through sheer hard work and determination – and the steadfast support from their sponsors. Not one of these young people ever dreamed of having the chance to go to high school – let alone college.

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Creating a Co-op: Tubehotwese’s Origin Story

Tubehotwese’s origin story is similar to the story behind many of our co-ops. Still suffering from the emotional scarring and destitution left by the Genocide, the people had no idea how to work together toward a better life. Until they could create a community spirit, they would be condemned to a life of poverty. They had to figure out a way to bring their opposing thoughts, differences, and talents together. Justin first worked with them individually, helping them build self-confidence and develop the motivation to lift themselves out of poverty. Once they understood what they could do as individuals, they worked in small groups to figure out what they could do together.

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2017 Program Highlights – Year in Review

In 2017, the World Dance community celebrated together, stood up for justice, supported each other, helped out here at home, and brought critical resources and abundant love to 9,021 people in 25 Rwandan communities struggling to improve their lives. We are grateful to everyone who came to a class, participated in an event, or made a donation…and helped us make a difference in the world. Incredible things are happening in the communities we serve. Thanks to class fees, donations, and Thriller sponsorships, in 2017 we were able to contribute $180,102 in aid to Rwanda.

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4 Cows for Rwanda ~ A gift from All Saints by the Sea

In 2015 and 2016, All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Montecito, California, donated 6 full-grown, pregnant cows to two of the communities we serve in Rwanda. The milk is providing a critical source of protein, especially to children, the elderly, and people with AIDS, and the manure has greatly increased crop yield. The cows bring life, sustenance, and hope to the communities, and are cared for and cherished by all. In 2017, All Saints graciously awarded a grant to purchase four more cows: two for Genda Ugire Utyo (“Go and Do That”) and two for Twiyubake (“Let Us Build Ourselves Up”).

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Thank you, Procter & Gamble Alumni Foundation!

One of our goals in Rwanda is to help each of our 25 cooperatives create a successful community-run business. As of March 2018, there are 12 businesses up and running and 3 being launched this spring. Of the 15 businesses, 6 were funded by the P&G Alumni Foundation. Our connection to this funder is through our Board Vice President Betsy Stivers, who served with the Procter & Gamble company for 21 years, retiring as VP of Product Supply for Global Health in 2001. Thanks to her involvement as an alum, we were able to seek funding from the P&G Alumni Foundation and were awarded a generous grant in December of 2016 that enabled us to: hire a Business Coordinator, offer a 3-Day Business Training to 60 of our co-op leaders, launch 1 new business and expand 2 existing businesses.

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The Journey Begins…

WD4H Intern Grace Stanley, a third year Global Studies student, is now in Rwanda, working with our team there and learning everything she can about the communities we serve. Subscribe below to follow her blog.   Feb 15: I am just overwhelmed with this feeling of gratitude to have the opportunity to be apart of the […]

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Student Leadership Training – December 2017

In December of 2017, my assistant Genevieve Feiner and I traveled to Rwanda to help with our annual Student Leadership Training in Kigali. Program Director Justin Bisengimana led the three-day training for 170 students, assisted by our Education Coordinator Chantal Kubwimana, Program Assistant Dany Rukundo, and Business Coordinator Judy Rwibutso. Genevieve captured the entire experience in photos and videos. Justin spoke eloquently, powerfully, clearly – giving the students concepts to expand their reality, gain self-confidence, and visualize themselves as leaders. During Justin’s lectures were partly in Kinyarwanda, partly in English. When he spoke, you could hear a pin drop – the students were so attentive, soaking in every word.

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Ruganeheza’s Ventilation Brick Business

Since they formed a cooperative in 2008, the dream of Ruganeheza (“Taking the Nation to a Better Future”) was to establish a ventilation brick business. All rural Rwandans use these for their homes, but no one was producing them locally. In 2014, Ruganeheza was able to raise enough money from their farming activities to start the enterprise. The project was bearing fruit, but some critical issues stopped them from moving forward with the project. The most pressing of these was that they had to devote 30% of their revenue to renting the brick molds from a distant supplier, which was clearly unsustainable.

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“Striving for Peace” – Business Expansion

Abaharaniramahoro (“Striving for Peace”) started out as a “singing cooperative,” occasionally earning money for the community by performing at local events. There came a time when they realized that singing alone was not going to sustain them, so they explored other income-generation ideas. They also started farming together to subsidize their meager income. After some time, they came up with the idea of adding value to their singing business by offering event rentals for weddings, baptisms, funerals, meetings, and concerts. They started with a few decorations and equipment they were able to purchase. The co-op made a request to WD4H to purchase addition assets, and the P&G Alumni Foundation grant fulfilled this, enabling them to expand their business and create a successful, sustainable enterprise.

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“Go and Do That” Co-op Launches Event Rental Business

Genda Ugire Utyo (“Go and Do That”) has been a farming community ever since they formed a cooperative in 2015. They are our biggest cooperative by far and have a deep understanding of what a cooperative can mean in the lives of its members. They see what can be achieved when a group of talented, determined people work together to improve their lives. When they began, they only envisioned working together on farming activities, but they are led by a spirited, ambitious group of women who devoted many months to researching other opportunities in their area. After some time, they came up with the idea of an Event Rental Business to service the weddings, funerals, and meetings being held in their district of Gahini. They were amazed and overjoyed when, in February of 2017, their project was funded by the P&G Alumni Foundation. They set to work finding the equipment they needed and launched the business in June.

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Rest in Peace, Naome

Today we mourn the passing of Naome Nyiraneza, President of the Tubehotwese (“Let Us All Live”) Cooperative. Those of us who have been to Rwanda knew Naome as a woman of great passion and vision, who led her community from the depths of poverty toward a better future. Under Naome’s leadership, the co-op gained a sense of unity and purpose, and the confidence and skills they needed to change their lives.

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Copakika’s Gorgeous Goats!

The generous year-end donations we received enabled us to buy 60 beautiful, full-grown, pregnant goats for the women of Copakika and Cooperative. Since we adopted this community one year ago, our Rwanda Team has been helping the members develop a sense of cohesion and purpose, and helping their leaders acquire the awareness, confidence, and skills they need to lift their people out of extreme poverty. Last August, we gave each woman a mattress to sleep on, which, in one stroke, gave them a new feeling about their lives. In January, we gave each woman a goat to call her own.

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“Sydney’s Seeds” – Permagardens in our Co-ops

In October of 2017, Permagarden training expert Thomas Cole traveled to Rwanda to teach his simple but highly effective farming techniques to five of our cooperatives, who, in turn, will be sharing their new knowledge with our other co-ops to provide a more bountiful harvest for all. The project is called “Sydney’s Seeds,” in honor of Sydney Baumgartner, a well-known Santa Barbara Master Landscaper.

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Health Insurance for Vulnerable Community Members

Our cooperatives all strive for economic development, but they cannot achieve this without access to healthcare. In order for a family to receive care at public health clinics, they must be able to cover the annual fee for each member which averaged $4.63 in 2017. This year 2017, these health concerns were answered by Jojo and David Barker and Annetta Patrick who covered the cost of health cards for those unable to pay. Jojo and Annetta, because of your generosity and love you have for Rwandans, your name is well known and is deep into their hearts. You mean so much in the lives of these community members

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The Kungabu Fish Food Machine Odyssey

In 2008, 30 impoverished Rwandan families founded the Kungabu Cooperative near Lake Kivu, envisioning a collective enterprise that would sustain all of the members: the farming of Tilapia fish. We began our assistance to the Kungabu in 2013 by donating cows, helping the young people go to school, and offering training in agriculture, co-op management, and business. We learned that in order to grow the Tilapia big enough to sell commercially, they needed expensive fish food pellets that could only be acquired in Uganda. But no machines of this kind were available for purchase in Africa. Our only viable option was to have the machine built in China and shipped to Rwanda via Tanzania. Thus began the odyssey of the Fish Food machine.

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Reusable Menstrual Pads for Rwanda

Carpinteria’s Crafty Ladies were busy again last spring producing REUSABLE MENSTRUAL PAD KITS for the women in our cooperatives. The kits were made with loving care and hand-carried by Festo and Odile, Rwandan students attending Westmont College here in Santa Barbara.The kits were distributed by our Rwanda Team to three of our Cooperatives which are all part of Never Again Fellowship:

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Mattresses for the Moms – Dancing for Joy!

In honor of Mother’s Day last May, our World Dancers and supporters donated a total of $6,000 to purchase 120 mattresses for women in Rwanda who have been sleeping on thin mats on the ground their whole lives. The mattresses went to three of our Cooperatives: Copakika (Kigali Co-op), Komera (Courage), and Umunezero (Joy). We recently received a beautiful report on the mattress delivery from Justin, our Rwanda Program Director. Thank you so much to everyone who helped bring this simple but life-changing gift to these women and their families!

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The Ejo Habo Orphans – Safe, Loved, and Happy

On February 20, 2017, a young girl named Violette appeared at the door of Justin Bisengimana, our Rwanda Program Director, with a tragic story about her family. Her father had survived the Genocide, but lost all his siblings and family members. Violette’s mother was very sick, and her father sold their house, land, and possessions to bring his wife to the hospital in Kigali and move the family there. Sadly, their mother died, and the money ran out. The father suffered a serious breakdown and is unable to care for his children. Justin took the children to Ejo Habo, the orphanage run by his mother, which is one of the communities supported by World Dance for Humanity. Not long after this, his mother found an abandoned baby outside her door. She suddenly had 11 additional children to care for.

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Goats to Itorero, the Dancing Co-op

Bringing a goat to a family means bringing a job, hope, confidence, and happiness in that family, and respect and honor in the community. In June of 2017, 76 beautiful little goats were delivered to Itorero Nyarwanda (“Rwandan Dancers”) Cooperative, one of the new communities within Never Again Fellowship. Itorero was founded in 2017 by a group of young people whose parents were members of Imbereheza Cooperative. Their primary business is singing and dancing at weddings and other celebrations. They are also working on farming as part of their economy. As it is with other cooperatives supported by WD4H, Itorero is focusing on organic farming, no chemicals in their crops. For them to make this happen, they need livestock to produce fertilizer. They can also sell baby goats to earn money.

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Lady, Maggie, and Franky – 3 Cows for Murindi

Murindi is a cooperative on the outskirts of Kigali that was founded by a group of women who were Genocide survivors. These are courageous, hard-working women who are raising cows in their small yards to sustain their community. Until now the cows have provided milk for the Murindi women and their children, with some milk sales outside the co-op. The women are trying to turn this enterprise into a small dairy. On June 1, 2017, three full-grown, pregnant cows were delivered to Murindi, making a total of 8 cows that were donated through World Dance for Humanity. (They’ll be receiving two more cows in January of 2018.) We are also hoping to be able to buy them a plot of land to make the full dairy operation possible. Each of the three cows delivered in June has a special donor who gave their cow a special name:

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Rwanda Business Training

Critical to the success of our community-run businesses in Rwanda is the three-day Business Training we host each spring. This year’s Training was sponsored by Proctor and Gamble Alumni Foundation through Betsy Stivers, a P&G alumna, engineer, World Dancer, and the Chair of our Business Committee. Sixty co-op leaders from across the country attended the three-day training held in Kigali. The experience has a profound impact on all the participants. After completing the course, the participants returned to their communities with new knowledge and skills that will help their businesses grow and their communities develop. The Training also deepened the bond between the co-op members, our Rwanda team, and World Dance for Humanity. It is this bond which is giving them the confidence to build a future with high aspirations and the tools to achieve them.

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The Menstrual Pad Project

Menstruation is a vexing problem for women and girls in poor countries all over the world. It is also a taboo subject in many societies, which means that very little has been done to provide an effective product for women instead of the old rags, bark, and leaves they’ve been using or disposal pads they can’t afford. World Dance for Humanity is bringing a sustainable solution, REUSABLE CLOTH PADS, to the women we work with in Rwanda. Here’s how it all got started…

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Abishyizehamwe Bakery – Open for Business!

Fresh Fritters, Anyone? Located in the remote mountains of northern Rwanda, the Abishyizehamwe (“United People”) Cooperative was founded in 2011 by 25 poor farmers, mostly women. They couldn’t afford livestock or fertilizer and were struggling to survive on their meager crops. In 2012 they went to World Vision for help, but didn’t receive funding because […]

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Water for Ruganeheza

There are many government-owned major water pipes that run throughout Rwanda, but they don’t reach the remote rural communities. Ruganeheza decided to build a pipeline that would connect to the government’s water supply, allowing water to flow directly to their community. This is something the government supports and encourages, as it allows them to get water to more people. In addition to the pipes, Ruganeheza constructed a water housing structure, equipped with several faucets, from which they can now sell water – at a very reasonable rate – to local communities.

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6 Women’s Stories

The people we support in Rwanda endured unimaginable suffering and hardship during the Genocide and in its aftermath. They overcame fear, isolation, and hopelessness by joining a cooperative and working with their fellow co-op members to stay alive. It is such a privilege to be working with these incredibly courageous human beings. Thank you for helping us give them the chance to rebuild their lives. Here are six of their stories.

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Rwanda 2016 Highlights

In 2016, WD4H sent $123,986 in aid to Rwanda. None of this went to salaries or administrative expenses – every dollar went to the projects, resulting in extraordinary progress in the communities we serve. By the end of January, WD4H will be helping 8,400 people in 25 Rwandan communities lift themselves out of crushing poverty.

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Mattresses for Tubehotwese

Just before the holidays we delivered mattresses to our co-ops which were purchased with donation from World Dance for Humanity. Many of the co-op members have never owned or even slept on a mattress, and some of them are in their 70s. We hope the photos and video can tell you how life-changing this was for them.

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All, Saint, and Sea – Meet the new Imbereheza Cows!

In 2016, All Saints by the Sea in Montecito, California, donated three cows to Imbereheza (Better Future), a cooperative in Eastern Rwanda made up of formerly warring Tutsi, Hutu, and Pygmies dedicated to living in peace together. The cows will provide fertilizer to improve crop production, and milk – which these people have never had before. The cows will change the lives of every co-op member forever, and will be cherished by the community.

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Rwanda Trip Video – Sharing the Experience

This past summer, 11 World Dancers and friends spent two weeks in Rwanda. It was an incredible trip that brought us closer to each other, and to the people we are working with there. We documented the entire experience so we could share it with you. Please – sit back, relax, and enjoy the intimacy and emotion of this journey.

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Rwanda Visit 2016

On July 12th, eleven World Dancers returned from an extraordinary two-week visit to Rwanda – more passionate than ever about the people we are serving there and the work we are doing together. The trip was very rough, extremely intense, and completely amazing. We spent almost all of our time in the villages… hugging, dancing wildly, and talking with the people about their lives. The changes we are seeing in each community are truly remarkable. Our contributions have given them the means to create a sustainable income and the confidence they need to envision and plan for the future. The experience we had belongs to everyone in the WD4H community. We are on this journey together – helping people survive, and succeed…one step at a time.

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The Kungabu Fish Farmers

The Cyangugu region in southwestern Rwanda is one of the poorest in the country. The people depend on subsistence farming and the meager wages they earn working on tea plantations owned by Indian companies to survive. In an effort to lift themselves out of poverty, 30 families in the area near Lake Kivu decided to pool their labor to form a farming cooperative in 2008. They had a vision to start a business that would sustain all of the members: the farming of Tilapia fish. They named themselves, “Kungabu” which means “The Fish Farmers.

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The Rwanda journey begins – thoughts before departure

“An anthropologist, an English teacher, a cook, a writer, a traveler, a lawyer, a tennis player, a photographer, a surfer, an urban farmer, and a firefighter all board a plane to Rwanda… This is the beginning of an extraordinary journey full of heart, soul, and service to humanity – commencing in 4 days! The deep love and support we will bring with us into these Rwandan communities will join together with their open arms and vibrant celebration to create one giant lovefest! There will be so much to learn, so much to witness, so much to celebrate, and so many to embrace in the land of one thousand hills.” (Click “Subscribe” on this page to follow the journey!)

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Wednesday, June 22 – Pack Party #1

“This is really happening! Today we packed some of the many donations that we will be bringing with us on our adventure: from soccer balls to school supplies, frisbees to fancy socks, T-shirts to toothbrushes! We are each allowed 2 checked bags, and those will be filled to the max with gifts for the 7500 people that we support. It will be amazing to meet each of these individuals face to face. Their story is sad, but they are rising up out of the ashes to build stronger communities, while striving to overcome extreme poverty and limited resources. I am humbled by their strength against such adversity. Can’t wait to get there, and hit the ground dancing.”

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Welcome Home – Faith & May!

On March 18, 2016 Murindi Women’s Cooperative received two full-grown pregnant cows donated by two World Dance supporters, Ken and Sharon. Ken’s donation was a Christmas gift to his grandchildren, who named their cow “Faith.” Sharon’s donation came from her Soulscape dancers from San Diego, who have now given FOUR cows to our Rwanda communities. Sharon named their cow “May,” which is the middle name of her mother, mother-in-law, daughter, and new baby granddaughter.

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Leona – A First Cow for “Those Who Strive for Peace”

Leona was the very first cow for this Co-op in Eastern Rwanda. Donor Arlene Satterlee gave this cow as a Christmas gift to all of her grandchildren, and named it after her Grandmother. Most of Co-op members are women, and they have been dreaming of having a cow for a very long time. “We felt it was a shame not to have a cow while other communities had cows. But we had a dream that one day it would happen. For us, a cow is the symbol of prosperity and peace. We thank you so much our donors for having taken us to this important level in our lives. Our prayers are answered and we hope this is the beginning of our miracles in raising cows.”

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Mattresses for the Mothers

Imagine trying to sleep on a thin mat made from papyrus or banana leaves. That’s what 102 mothers in our Rwandan communities do each night. This Mother’s Day, World Dance for Humanity is raising funds to buy mattresses (at $50 each) for these women. Honor the mothers in your life by giving a woman halfway around the world a chance to wake up rested and ready to take on the survival challenges she faces each day.

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Cows, Goats, and a Nursery School for Tubehotwese

LET US ALL LIVE The Tubehotwese (“Let Us All Live”) Cooperative in northeastern Rwanda was founded in 2007 by 12 widows and their families determined to survive by pooling their labor and meager resources. With help from World Dance for Humanity, the community has grown to 413 people, and is getting stronger each year. The […]

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Helping Kids in Our Community / Love and Licks from Gracie

Santa Barbara’s Westside Boys & Girls Club serves more than 100 children each day after school. Many of the kids are barely passing their subjects in school, and the Club is trying hard to give them the support they need to turn this around. They are severely short-staffed and need volunteers to work with the children. World Dance for Humanity is stepping up to fill this need by providing after-school volunteers. We’re also opening a window into the world for these children by nurturing a relationship between their Club and Rwanda. For two years, they have been sponsoring Clarisse, one of our Rwandan students. A few weeks ago, we shared a video of Clarisse’s life in her Rwandan village. It was VERY eye-opening for the children, who are making a video about their own lives to share with Clarisse!

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Video: A Day in the Life of 3 Rwandan Girls

This 10-minute video – gleaned from raw footage Justin sent us from Rwanda last week – is the first glimpse we have had into how our students live when they’re at home in their villages. Featuring: Celine (sponsored by Celina Hunt), Peninah (sponsored by Christy Morse), and Clarisse (sponsored by the Westside Boys and Girls Club).

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One Billion Rising 2016

“Well-behaved women rarely make history!” This slogan on Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s T-shirt summed up the spirit of activism, connection, and empowerment we all felt on Sunday, when we joined the world in protesting violence against women. We are grateful to the SB Rape Crisis Center for hosting the event, and to Senator Jackson and Assemblymember Das Williams for “Breaking the Chain” with us!

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembrance 2016

On the morning of January 18th, 20 World Dancers traded their raincoats for jingles, and joined with the community in Santa Barbara’s annual MLK tribute. Below are some impressions of the wonderful experience we shared together. Thank you Tom Spadoro, Grace Spadoro, Jacob Yinger, Rob Hoffman, and Hugh Brown, and Lida Paradisi for the wonderful pics and videos!

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2015 Rwanda Report

Thanks to our dancers and our family of supporters, in 2015 World Dance for Humanity was able to send $91,195 in assistance to Rwanda, provide $4,001 in emergency aid to earthquake victims in Nepal, and reach out to people in need throughout Santa Barbara. A generous grant from one of our dancers covered all of our administrative costs, so that EVERY DOLLAR raised could be used to help the people we serve.

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Albanian Dance Day – With a Special Guest!

Those of you who were in class Feb. 7th met SADIK KADRIJAJ, a young Albanian man from Kosova (former Yugoslavia) who was the subject of a documentary in the Santa Barbara film festival, “A Single Frame.” In this report, you’ll see how his visit made it possible for three of our Rwandan high school students to attend school in 2016!

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