Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hope for Life Names Executive Director

Hope For Life’s talented Rwandan staff unanimously elected Chantal (right in blue) 
to serve as our new Executive Director.

As a young child, HFL Co-Founder Chantal Umutesi dreamed of opening a home for vulnerable children in her community. She used her time and resources to care for her neighbors even as a 10-year-old. Chantal visited the homes of poverty stricken families, offering food, clothing, and friendship. She recalls, “I hated seeing children suffering. I dreamt of my country becoming a place of peace, where the vulnerable were valued.” Eventually, Chantal became the Children’s Director at her church, serving families that lived on $2 per day or less. 

In 2008, God used Chantal to help launch Hope For Life and continue fulfilling her call to love children. Without her, we are convinced that HFL never would have started or flourished. Every day, she invests all of herself into seeing the poor in her community come to know Jesus, and equipped to better their lives. She is a true model of what it looks like to love God and her neighbors as herself.

This year, our boards decided it was time to name a Rwandan Executive Director. With a unanimous vote, our boards and staff elected Chantal to be our new leader. With her experience in management and budgeting, her deep commitment to her neighbors, and her natural ability to lead, we are excited to watch Hope For Life continue to grow under her leadership.

Congratulations, Chantal! Your faithful devotion and deep commitment to your community is an inspiration to us all.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A tragic first for Hope For Life

We didn’t expect to start the New Year with both celebration and tears. And yet we find ourselves almost daily with both a smile on our face and tears in our eyes.

2015 was a year of major accomplishment. We transitioned to local Rwandan leadership, watched our community in the States reach new heights of generosity, witnessed a six-year-old take his first steps, and cheered as seven-year-old Benjamin met his relatives for the first time.  In the midst of these successes, no one expected to also have to say goodbye to a member of our family.

Brothers from left to right: Patrick, Mahoro, and Olivier.

Patrick, 12, moved to our neighborhood a year ago with his mom and brother to escape eviction and be closer to his oldest brother, Olivier, who lives at our home. Patrick and his older brother, Mahoro, were both part of our preventative sponsorship program and therefore could attend school. Life was looking better.

In early November, however, Patrick suddenly fell ill. As his fever grew worse, he was brought to our home so staff could better monitor him. On their own initiative, our boys took turns washing his clothes and keeping him company. Many days, you could find three or four boys in his room at a time constructing with Legos in bed, or surrounding Patrick in prayer. One day, one of our older boys voluntarily carried him all the way to the clinic and back.

Patrick being voluntarily carried by one of our older boys to the clinic.
When treatment wasn’t working, Patrick was transferred to a hospital where his condition continued to advance. Despite the best care and treatments available, Patrick passed away without a cause of death. This has been very hard on Patrick’s family and our staff who have done everything they could for Patrick. A day later, we arranged a burial and participated in our first funeral alongside his family and our neighboring community.

Patrick's grave.
In the midst of tragedy, we are reminded that life is precious, that God’s plans are greater than we can understand, and that your partnership is vital. Your generosity saves lives and offers second chances to build better futures. While we will greatly miss Patrick and his gentle, caring spirit, we rejoice in the fact that we will see him again someday. Please continue to keep the boys and staff in prayer as we navigate life without our friend.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Because of You

All that has happened in this past month has completely blown us away, and we can’t wait to share it with you!

USA staff at the Gala

·      Our Seattle community amazed us with their overwhelming support at our fundraising Gala. We set an ambitious goal of $40,000 and were thrilled to raise over $48,500 to continue equipping children to leave the streets!

 If you missed our powerful video from the fundraiser, you can watch it here!

·      Our amazing volunteer, Amanda, organized a medical trip to Kenya for our six-year-old neighbor, Fred, who was born with leg abnormalities. Doctors in Rwanda told us Fred’s leg needed to be amputated but we wanted a second opinion. Amanda spearheaded the fundraising effort, organized the details, and with the partnership of CURE International, received news that doctors will be able to save Fred’s leg! A huge thank you to all of you who have partnered with us in his story.
Fred after receiving great news

·      The school year ended in November and our older boys came home from boarding school with the good news that they will all move up to the next grade! Our boys are enjoying being reunited and have been spending their days playing (they got to bowling!), visiting their relatives, and the small ones receive extra tutoring from their big brothers.
Hilliary and the boys

·      Two of our US Board Members were able to visit Rwanda and reunite with the staff and kids. It was a fantastic time for all!

We are so thankful for all of the ways that you sacrifice, pray, and give so we can all watch the boys flourish. 20-year-old Emmanuel told us, “There are so many things I have achieved that I never thought I would. Because of you, I believe I can make it.”

Thank you for your part in the Hope For Life community. We could not do this without you!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Our Little Miracle

In June, we shared a story about two-year-old Sandrine, the sister of two boys currently living with us. Her mother brought her to HFLM asking us to help her severely malnourished daughter who also had malaria. Four days later, Sandrine fell into a coma and was diagnosed with cerebral malaria, a frequently fatal form of malaria. She remained in critical condition for five weeks, showing no signs of making a full recovery. We were doubtful she would survive. A few days later, however, Sandrine surprised us and woke from her coma. Unfortunately, though, she was blind and deaf, couldn’t feel physical touch, and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. We were heartbroken and turned to our Father in heaven asking for the impossible – for full healing. 

Sandrine’s story spread rapidly and people from our Rwandan community visited and prayed for her, along with churches in the USA. Several of you sensed that God would heal Sandrine and that she would grow up to serve Him. We are thrilled to inform you that the impossible is happening! Sandrine’s sensations have slowly returned, her hearing was restored, and she can now see!

With tears of joy in her eyes HFLM Administrative Director Marie Clarice said, "In the hospital, there were many children much stronger than Sandrine who died. She is our little miracle." Sandrine is not only a testament of God's love, but has been a blessing at our home, impacting our boy’s hearts. They regularly take turns holding her, playing with her, and feeding her. Her presence at HFLM has given our boys the opportunity to care for the needy, just as they have been cared for, and it has deeply impacted their hearts. 

Sandrine will continue to stay with us for the next several months while she continues to recover. We are currently seeking a long-term solution for her as she cannot reside at HFLM permanently.

Sandrine's a lucky girl to have 17 big brothers who love her!
We praise God for Sandrine's life and believe He has much planned for her. From the malnutrition and cerebral palsy she is still very weak, underdeveloped, and is unable to talk or sit by herself. We hope you are encouraged at the progress that is being made. Your prayers and partnership are making all the difference in this young girl’s life! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Experience East Africa Gala Auction Items

Check out some of the incredible live auction items we will have available on November 13th!

#1 - Woodinville Wine Tasting & Pizza For Four

  • Wine Tasting and Pizza at Novelty Hill Winery
  • Three Bottles of Wine

#2 - Woodland Park Zoo Family Pack

  • Admission to the Woodland Park Zoo for two adults and two children
  • Molly Moon's Gift Certificate
  • Ivars or Kid Valley Gift Certificate

#3 - Customized Fitness Package with Salubrious Fitness

  • 30-day Customized Workout Regimen
  • 30-day Challenge

#4 - Sounders "Go for the Goal"

  • Two Tickets to 2016 Season Opening Match
  • Team Autographed Jersey
  • Fan Gear 

#5 - Canlis Dinner & Space Needle Views

  • Canlis Gift Certificate
  • Admission for two to the Space Needle Observation Deck

#6 - Wenatchee Golf Getaway

  • Round of golf with cart for four people at Wenatchee Golf & Country Club

# 7 - XBox One 1TB FIFIA 16 Bundle

#8 - Springtime Leavenworth Escape

  • Three night weekend stay for up to 17 at Natapoc Lodge in Wenatchee
  • Wine Tasting at Plain Cellars

#9 - Painting by Isaac Anderson

  • Mixed media, plaster on panel painting by nationally-awarded artist, Isaac Anderson

#10 - Wellness Package

  • Two Massages
  • Chiropractic Consultation
  • Professional Teeth Whitening
  • Haircuts for a Year

#11 - Canlis Dinner & Scenic Flight Tour for Two

  • Canlis Gift Certificate
  • Scenic Seattle Flight Tour

#12 - North End Adventure for Two

  • Dinner at Anthony's
  • Segway Tour in Edmonds
  • Walnut Street Coffee Gift Certificate

For a chance to bid on these amazing auction packages, purchase your Gala tickets at:

Thank you to our event sponsors, Ronald Blue & Company and Nakanishi Dental Labs!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Process of Reintegration

Two years ago, we introduced you to a pair of unnamed five-year-old twins we found living alone on the streets. Your support allowed us to welcome Benjamin into our home while setting up Grace in a nearby home for girls, ensuring their ability to see each other often. They chose names for themselves, and began the journey towards healing. While Benjamin has made incredible strides in his own recovery, he has continually longed for a family. Unable to live with his abusive mom, and having no other known relatives, his dream of a family looked grim.

Last month, however, we received a call from a woman, who explained, “I’m calling about a boy named Benjamin. This is his grandmother.” Our staff listened in disbelief as the grandmother expressed her strong desire to meet her grandchildren and have them come stay with her. The following week, Benjamin and Grace visited their grandma for the first time and also discovered they have an aunt and uncle! Benjamin and Grace returned home beaming. “I am so happy to have had conversations with my grandma and aunt,” Benjamin told us. “We fetched water and had fun playing games. I learned that they love me and care! I really never thought it was possible to have a family.”

This process of reconciling and moving in with family is what we call “reintegration.” Believing that many wounds can be healed when family ties are restored, reintegration is the goal we strive for with our kids whenever possible. Often taking several years to complete, reintegration is the ultimate culmination of a child’s transformation.

The twins happily meeting their grandma and aunt.
When asked what he thought about living with his grandma and Grace, Benjamin’s face glowed. He responded, “It makes me so happy. I would like that!” He paused before finishing, “…But only as long as there were days that I could still come to HFLM!”

We stand at a new starting line with our dear twins, looking ahead at a horizon that is shining brightly. This horizon breathes a new beginning, carrying with it potential for a family to begin writing a new chapter together at last.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Meet Samuel, HFLM's Newest Family Member

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa

Hello HFLM family! My name is Amanda and I am an American living in Rwanda, serving Hope For Life. I come to you this month sharing a story that deeply impacted my life. 

Samuel on the streets

Last month, I was doing errands in town when I saw a homeless boy. He was sitting in front of me against the market wall, with a glue bottle in his mouth getting high. His face was downtrodden as he stared at his dirty, shoeless feet. He reeked so strongly of glue that I had a headache within a few minutes of being near him. However, I felt a nudge to stop and talk to him. Over dinner in a nearby restaurant, a friendship began forming that would shape both of our lives. Over the course of many more meals, Samuel’s story started to slowly unfold. This 14-year-old boy hadn’t seen his father in 12 years and his mother is mentally ill, struggles with alcoholism, and is homeless. Having no other immediate family willing to care for him, Samuel left his mom and began living alone on the streets.

Samuel and his best buddy, Patrick at HFLM 

Getting to know Samuel has inevitably changed me forever. I haven’t felt so personally destroyed on the inside for someone ever before. After our dinner dates, I would leave him and all I could do was cry. His face was written on my heart. Before falling asleep, I would lay in my bed thinking of him outside in the dark. At meals, I would look at my food wondering if he was hungry. All I could do was pray for God to have a plan.

Samuel and I

I am happy to tell you that a few weeks ago, HFLM officially accepted Samuel into the HFLM family! If you saw him today, you truly wouldn’t recognize him. He has had a very easy transition into our home and has quickly befriended many of our boys. He is most excited about returning to school in January 2016. In anticipation, he wakes up every morning on his own initiative to study. During a recent devotion, our staff asked the boys what they wanted to pray for. Their requests ranged from doing well in school to not wetting the bed. Sam’s character shone through as he replied, “I want God to help me love more.”

Though there are still many boys sleeping outside near me tonight, this week we celebrate the victory that is Samuel. I’m grateful to have a God who not only sees, but adores and cherishes every drop in the ocean!