Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Zen of Munich Airport. . .

The days leading up to my departure for my 7th trip to Rwanda have been sublime September days; full of fun visits and excursions with family and friends. It’s been the usual pre-departure whirlwind with a giant ‘to do’ list. ‘COMPUTER’ (translating as: sort through files/photos, delete, re-file, reorganize, make new folders, backupbackupbackup etc., etc.) and ‘WRITE BLOG’ were the two items NOT scratched. Now I have my chance and I am ‘seizing the day’!

I write from Munich Airport where I will be spending 24 hours, sort of like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. After arriving in Munich (0200 EST), I dutifully went immediately to the gate for my next flight to Istanbul. Stretched out on empty chairs and dozed. As the people started arriving, I moved to a seat RIGHT IN FRONT of the counter and dozed again with my head on my pack. Woke up to an EMPTY gate area, the doors locked and the plane still there. ARGH. A bit of a nightmare initially, but alas with finagling I will arrive in Kigali on the same flight, just 24 hours later. Feel so stupid. Need to wear a ‘WAKE UP!’ sign around my neck like Paddington Bear and set an alarm or two.

Looking ahead, I am excited to witness all the amazing changes, work with the new staff and live in the community in Ndera since my departure from Gardens for Health (GHI) last November. GHI is now partnering with 10 additional health centers in the northern district of Musanze (total 18) and the growing team is comprised of 114 dynamic individuals. GHI’s work and model is being recognized in larger realms including being selected as a semi-finalist for the 2014 Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Challenge. This award recognizes organizations with ‘innovative solutions to humanity’s most pressing problems’. At a gala event in Boston last week GHI received the Walden Woods Environmental Challenge Award which also honored Robert Redford.

Thanks to everyone who has helped Gardens for Health directly with donations, gifts-in-kind AND those who provide ongoing general support and interest. You have helped make a huge impact as we work with 2,180 families in the coming year and further establish international partnerships.

As I pour through correspondence, photos and documents I am filled with gratitude for all the goodness, extraordinary people, beautiful places and amazing opportunities in my life. Also very grateful that I have found a snug place to rest for the night and that I will arrive in Rwanda tomorrow night recharged!


Gardens for Health Community Dinner

Munich Airport

Helen's Munich 'nest'

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

GHI’s 4th Thanksgiving Celebrations. . .

“We are each other’s harvest” and celebrating the essence of community was once again realised at the 4th Annual Gardens for Health Thanksgiving held on November 8, 2013. Helping coordinate the event and being part of a composite team, including young children, GHI board members and friends from the USA, GHI staff and community friends, was a fantastic experience. I definitely felt that I was in my element!

The preparation process was in full swing the day before when dedicated staff did the predawn trips to the market to purchase 1000 ears of maize and 700 kg. of potatoes, as well as much more produce. Decorating, cleaning, slaughtering and butchering 10 goats were also some of the list items on Thursday.

Cooking and food preparation began in earnest in the night and through the AM on Friday. The amazing cooks working over hot fires magically produced the food: rice, beans, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, turkey stew, goat stew, and maize. The delicious salad was prepared by another contingent.  As projected, lunch was served to about 2000 people (including children) right on schedule. An astounding achievement!

The festivities really began when the mamas enrolled in the GHI program from the Musanze District arrived via prearranged transport. These women had been in bus transit for about 2 hours, some walking about two hours before meeting the bus. For many it was their first time to Kigali.  Greeting them and witnessing their elation and excitement was very moving.

Before departure mamas from the eight different health centers sang and danced wholeheartedly, presenting their offerings of food from their own gardens resulting in an enormous cornucopia of food deposited on large mats. These offerings manifest true generosity in the purest form.
Luckily the ominous clouds building throughout the day did not break into downpours until after most of the departures. We were definitely blessed! Continuous music accompanied the work of steadfast dishwashers into the night with intermittent spells of fervent dancing.

Being part of the extraordinary Gardens for Health team for this event was definitely an important goal for me as part of my post-operative recovery and healing. It helps put much of life into perspective in terms of needs and gratitude.

For more photos please see the Gardens for Health Facebook album:



 Salad crew

 One more turkey for the pot

 Kale smoothies



 Musanze mamas arrive

 The queue

 Carla serves beans

 Exuberant dancers

 Julie with the offerings from the mamas

Carla & Helen 
Wonderful sharing this time
 with a dear friend from Maine