In 2007, a team from Mars Hill Bible Church, on a two week visit to Rwanda alongside a Mars Hill water team, was introduced to the UmutaraDeafSchool on a “day off” from their normal workdays. The school was new then, established in 2005 when a local UPRCR (Union Reformed and Confessional Perspectives in Rwanda) leader became concerned concerned by many problems and challenges the disabled population in Rwanda were facing such as, poverty,begging, lack of educational opportunities and medical resources and how they were being marginalized as a people.
At the time, the students at the Umutara Deaf School were gathered in a make-shift building filled with children who had been pushed aside and thought unable to learn since their foundational days. Education was slow, not because teaching was inadequate, but because there was much ground to cover and huge mental and emotional issues to work through before a freedom to learn could begin. The Mars Hill team returned to Michigan, and in speaking later, realized that many had a sense in their spirits that out of all they experienced in Rwanda, this was the project that most directly tugged at their hearts. The small group began by providing money for food at the school – sending it through UPRCR in faith.
Now, seven years later, the school is thriving through the good work of Dr. Reverend Bashaka and his Rwandan team at UPRCR. Children are not only reaching educational milestones, but are visibly healthy and happy and learning trades to take with them into their communities when they graduate from the program – changing the ideas and prejudices of the handicapped in Rwanda.
Now their voices are beginning to reach outside the school grounds. A local Rwandan journalist crafted a story about the successes of the school and the story was broadcast on the network where, among others, the mayor of Rulindo watched. He saw the children reading and writing in English and thought “How can deaf people do this? I did not know it was possible” . He had just been tasked through his government position to find and help the disabled community in his region but his own understanding of handicaps was limited to the cultural prejudice and the thought the job impossible. A phone call to Dr Reverend Bashaka and the UPRCR led to a conversation that ended with the question… “I see your church has good experience, and good results, can you help us in Rulindo as well?”. So UPRCR began training local pastors in Rulindo to identify and serve the physically and mentally disabled throughout their province. This project is still new and is a high priority of focus for our mission – to assist and provide funding for this new community to be transformed, both in abilities and also mindsets.
Read through the stories of Rulindo, Umutara and sampling of the other projects UPRCR is involved with in Rwanda. Local to the core, we are not Westerners coming in to bring change, but a collaborative of people with access to resources who want to come alongside and support this Rwandan ministry; enabling UPRCR to have the opportunity to reach deeper and wider into individual lives and heal communities at large in their own neighborhoods.