Thursday, February 25, 2016

48 Hours in Team Rwanda's World

I have written and said this countless times...

"Life in the US is like a small slightly wavy line of ups and downs."

Think this....
"Life in Rwanda is more like straight up and down.  You can have your best moments and your worst moments within minutes of each other all day long."

Think this....
Nothing exemplified my statement more than the 48+ hours spanning from Monday morning to Wednesday evening.

This is life within Team Rwanda....

Monday morning, after getting the team off to Morocco for the Continental Championships on Friday and regrouping and preparing for the new week of training camps with the team going to Cameroon, I decided to go for a ride.  I hadn't ridden in over a week.  When you run a cycling team there is no time to actual cycle.  I had seen Sterling, our coach, ride by my office window on the way out and thought, time to go.  

Riding alone for me in Rwanda is difficult as the crowds, people and bad drivers make for a not so relaxing few hours.  The complete opposite of what most cyclists derive from a ride. But it was election day so I figured the roads would be a bit quieter.  And they were.

11:30am....Seven miles out of town at the top of the first hill towards Gisenyi my phone rings.  I never answer my phone while riding and I never answer my phone if I don't recognize the number.  For some reason I answered the call.  A Rwandan woman told me her husband had taken one of our "team members" to the Musanze Hospital.  I'm kicking running through my mental rolodex of the riders coming from that direction.  Then she said, he's from California.  Sterling....

I call Simon, our Belgian coach and tell him to meet me at the hospital with the car.  I turn around and race back down the hill into town.  When I arrive Sterling is yelling for pain meds, the orderly and "doctor" are trying to assess the injuries.  We are in a disgustingly dirty room, with blood stained rags on the floor and Sterling laying on a not so clean table with swollen wrists, a continually swelling left ankle and a variety of scrapes and road rash. Of course, every single item needs to be paid for before they will do anything.  Pain meds, 3,000 RWF run to the pharmacy across the hospital grounds.  X-Rays?  Run to reception, stand in line, pay 16,000 RWF then they will X-Ray.  It's insane.  

I keep calling an American friend who is a doctor working at the hospital.  She's not there but says there are some Belgian doctors on the grounds.  I ask about the Belgian doctors and no one knows anything about them.  Ok....they are white, there are about 6 white people and over 300 Rwandans on the grounds.  We kind of stick out.  Nope...nothing.  They take X-rays, looks like broken bones, they put him on another dirty bed in another disgustingly dirty section of the ward and I'm trying to figure out where the Belgian doctors are.  No one, no doctors, no nurses, no one is doing anything.  Well, unless you count 7 nurses/orderlies texting and Facebooking in the nursing station across from Sterling.  I see the Belgians...I grab them and show them the X-rays and immediately they went to work talking to the insurance company and figuring out the best course of action.  The Belgian nurses start cleaning his wounds after spending 30 minutes looking for gauze and antibiotic wash and ointment.  

They redo the X-rays and he needs to get to another hospital, to Kigali.  He needs surgery.

The insurance company after numerous calls into the two hospitals cannot get an ambulance arranged to transport him.  

Sidebar....after 7 years of working with cyclists, breaking my own collarbone in Tanzania I have learned to stay calm and go into triage mode.  I don't show much emotion, outside of anger for the lack of ineptitude and sense of urgency.  I show no fear.  Looking at his situation....I had fear.  He needed to get to another hospital in another country.  

With the help of a angel of mercy Rwandan doctor not even on duty at the hospital I finally got all the transfer paperwork arranged to get Sterling to King Faisal in Kigali.  Then...the ambulance.  We're waiting...waiting, a patient in the ward is WAILING in pain, stressing Simon, Sterling and myself.  They couldn't give her pain meds because the family could not pay for pain meds.  At one point I said I would pay for her pain meds....the nurse laughed.  I almost slapped her.

Where is the ambulance?  I go out and see the doctor at the ambulance with the hood up.  He says, "I am doctor and mechanic.  The battery is dead and they cannot find the key to unlock the battery cage."   UGH....yes, in Africa we lock our batteries in our vehicles...theft. As people are running around trying to find the ONE person with the ONE key I realize the realities of the third world in which we live.

Another hour passes and finally, 8 hours after Sterling's accident he's on his way to King Faisal in Kigali.  I go home to pass out after dropping Simon off to grab dinner and drinks in town.

By this time I feel like my right eyeball is going to pop out of my head.  A friend in Kigali is meeting Sterling at the hospital, the insurance company is updated, I take two Tylenol PM and pass out about midnight.

5:00am (Tuesday)...I wake to numerous text messages.  I'm on the road of death to Kigali by 6:45 to hit King Faisal.  I grab our new English teacher/Development person/Tourism person who just arrived late Saturday night.  We might as well submit all her work permit info as this is day 3 of the 5 day window we have to do so.

8:30...changing money for Sterling's medical expenses at the Forex

9:00...at the Federation, grab Francine to go with Lacey to Immigration

9:30...drop them at Immigration head to King Faisal

10:00ish...I'm at Faisal...NOTHING has been done other than he's there with our dear friend, Martin, who met him there the night before.  There is one doctor I trust at King Faisal, Dr. Albert...he's out of the country.  Sterling and Martin tell me there are no parts to fix Sterling's foot.  We need a special plate.  

10:30ish...I barge into the office of Dr. Albert's boss.  I show him the X-rays.  He says he thinks he has the part.  He'll call me in the afternoon.

11:00...Lacey calls me, they won't take her paperwork for the work permit because her University diploma is in Latin...for fuck's sake.  

I meet up with Lacey at the US Embassy.  They want a notarized translation of the diploma.  If I send that email to St. Lawrence University I'm thinking they might think we're a bit nutty here in Rwanda.  We go to a cafe, google translate it on my iPad and I call Francine to meet us at the Federation to print off the document.  

"I will be back at 2:00 I'm at lunch."

It's 11:45am.

"You will meet us at the Federation in 15 minutes!!!!!!!!!"  I got the stink eye from six Mzungus at the Mzungu cafe.  I have zero Kumbaya.

Taking lunch is a very UNAmerican thing unless you're closing a major business deal.  Who do you know in the US who takes 2+ hours for lunch?  I don't think I've ever taken lunch.

We head to the Federation, print the document, head back to the US Embassy, get it notarized and at 1:00pm Lacey is at Immigration to submit the paperwork.  They try to tell her they are closing for lunch.  Seriously, what is up with LUNCH in Rwanda?  She forces the paperwork on them and they take it.  SCORE!!!

Back to King Faisal...talking to the insurance company on and off the entire time.

Security Guard tries to block my way into the ward. 

"It's not visiting hours."

"Stop me...."  I get back to Sterling.  "Ok...we're working to get you out of here."

After a quick bite for lunch...less than 45 minutes...back on the road of death to Musanze to beat the darkness.  As I start driving...Jeanne d'Arc has taken Silver at the Continental Champs in Morocco, a historical day for Rwanda.  I can't tweet/FB anything for the next 2 hours while I'm driving.

....she did it...only missing Gold by 1 sec...wow....I call Sterling.  I can hear the change in his voice.  We did it!!!



We had asked for Sterling to go to the Continental Championships...instead they took someone from the Federation instead of the coach.  Sterling should have been there.  The irony of that decision, out of my control, was not lost on me at that moment.

I grab some dinner and spend another 3 hours on the phone with the insurance company.  They are sending Sterling to Nairobi.  Hallelujah.

After several SMS/calls, the doctor in Kigali finally messages me back, they have the part.  Sorry....he's going to Nairobi as not only Team Rwanda but the insurance company has had enough with the inability to make a decision, relay information and give any indication he is getting the best care in Rwanda.

I pass out about midnight with the phone in my hand.

5:45am...phone rings, it's our guard David...he's caught a thief.

I throw on my clothes fully expecting to see some stranger they nabbed coming into our compound as we've had a few lately.  He shows me two boxes of produce and two bags of eggs (60).  Our Team Rwanda cook has been stealing.  We thought he had been but never had proof.  Wednesday morning we had our proof.  At least $10 worth of food.  He wasn't stealing to feed his family he was steeling to profit off the back of Team Rwanda.

I pounded on Simon's door, "Cook Breakfast!"

I'm not about to let a petty thief interrupt our Tour of Cameroon training camp.  

After several hours, getting all the witnesses in place, we had enough.

I looked at Thomas and said, "You didn't steal from a Mzungu, you stole from Team Rwanda.  You're a disgrace."

We escorted him off the property.

He came back 20 minutes later asking to be paid for the day.

It's the closest I've ever come to slapping someone.  I told him he had two choices...leave and never set foot on our property again or I would call the police commissioner who I have on speed dial and have him arrested.  He took option one.

He had stolen over $1,000 of food over 4-5 monhts from the team....I was sick.

The riders have been learning about integrity, discipline and character in English class.  I'm walking back to my house and I pass Bosco getting ready to head out for his training ride..."Mukecuru, Thomas has bad, bad character."

Yes, Bosco, he does.

I start sorting out Sterling's bag.  He's leaving at 6:10pm for Nairobi.  I arrange to get a bag and money to him with a driver heading to Kigali.  We live two hours away.

Little Eric comes back from training as I'm walking back to the office and hands me this photo.  He says, "From Mama, for you."


It is a photo of his mother and his three siblings.  It was a thank you for giving her food money every month.  I walk away holding back the avalanche of tears.  

Then I get the message....Valens has won the Continental Championships U23 ITT.  Rwanda's first gold medal in the history of the Championships.  The Rwandan national anthem is played for the first time.  


A couple more phone calls to the insurance company and a Facebook photo and Sterling is on his way to Nairobi for surgery.

54 hours later from when it all began....


My last chat with Sterling today, another 18 hours later....thank you for insurance, good hospitals, doctors and getting me through another day.

Tonight. Surgen(s) have all talked to me
Its like an episode of House
They know their shit

You cannot make this up...





Monday, February 15, 2016

Nothing Left to Give

A few weeks ago I was reading my friend's blog, I Love Devotionals.  Wendy is South African and her husband used to work with MTN Qhubeka (Adrien's former team) doing public relations.  Cycling is a VERY small world, especially on this massive continent.  

She was writing about her word for 2016.  Her word is "well".  Mine is "fifty".  I never said I was normal.  

In another blog she asked for guests to write about what they thought of when they heard "well".  I liked how she prefaced the "guest blog".  

What I really want to do is to open up the doors of my home, (tell the dog to stop barking at you), sit you down on my couch, and fill you up with cake, and then listen to the stories you have about "well".  

Here are my thoughts on well....

If you feel you have nothing left to give....

Take the time to read Wendy's devotions and be inspired.  It's the best way to start your day.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Leviticus: My Many Burnt Offerings

This year I decided to read the Bible.  Not just a few chapters but the entire thing from Genesis to Revelation, in that order.  I didn't have any particular reason other than trying to find ways to keep my sanity while in Rwanda.  I figured why not, let's do it.

Maybe readers should start with the New Testament.  I grew up in a religious family, went to Catechism class, was confirmed, got kicked out of church and over the years found myself back with God.  Not so much religion, any particular religion, definitely still not church, but I'm good with God and really in the end, that works for me, but the first few books of the Bible are not light reading!

I am proud to say, I'm still on track and the reading has sparked some very interesting conversations, none as much as the reading of Leviticus.  Genesis is pretty much creation and the procreation of God's chosen people, the Israelites.  Exodus is the exit of the Israelites from Egypt under slavery to Pharaoh, even though frankly, the Israelites were a pain in Moses' ass.  My main takeaway from Exodus was God chooses the most unlikely people to be heroes or to do great things.  Moses never wanted to be a leader, kept asking God to give it to someone else.  God knew what he was doing even when Moses was a bit whiny.  Exodus contains one of my favorite passages in the Bible:

Exodus 14:14  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  

Still....that's where I struggle.

And then there's Leviticus how to be perfect in the eyes of God and if not, what you need to slaughter.  As I read all the protocol around which animal to sacrifice based on the sin you committed I began to realize, I am so thankful I did not live in the desert in the time of Leviticus.  I don't think I would have had a herd big enough to handle all my sin offerings on a weekly basis.  I write this tongue in cheek...somewhat.  Reading Leviticus made me "check" my daily behavior.  Throw down an F bomb, there goes a male lamb one year old.  Speak poorly of someone, go round up a goat free of defect and head to the tent of meeting.

The rules are very specific.  Aaron, Moses's brother, had two sons Nadab and Abihu, they were given the job of putting the incense in the censers and lighting them.  They lit an unauthorized fire and bam the Lord consumed them with fire and they died.

Don't forget to double check the instructions!

A rule I highlighted which should be put in force more today...Leviticus 5:2...If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.  

In other words, it is your duty to speak up!

Several chapters cover defiling molds, skin diseases and discharges.  

The term, scapegoat, comes from Leviticus, to take the sins of others.



One thing I am left questioning, other than the amount of animals necessary to cover the sins of 650,000 Israelites (that's just men counted in the Bible), is the value, or lack thereof, placed on women.  Judaism takes the first five books as the Bible as the Torah.  The Muslims believe these books were given to Moses via God but they are corrupted by Jewish translation in the Torah.  Either way, women do not have many rights in the traditional Jewish and Muslim religions.  Why did God specify 50 shekels for a man and 30 for a woman?

As you can imagine, it has created some lively morning discussions over coffee.

As I ride my bike trying to ignore the onslaught of people hassling me for money, I try to remember....throw down the F bomb or smack that kid screaming MUZUNGU AMAFARANGA, go home and sacrifice a goat.

It's keeping me on the straight and narrow.

How many animals would you have sacrificed for your sin offering today?

Be nice...save a lamb.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Another Look at Serena Williams' SI Cover

In December, the Sport Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year graced one of the most coveted covers of the year.  Instead of a he, or a horse, she was a she.  The iconic Serena Williams, one of the most successful female tennis players, was the well-deserved choice.




I remember Serena and her older sister, Venus, coming up in the world of tennis a decade plus ago.  I loved their strength, their attitude on the court, their take no prisoners’ style of tennis complete with 100mph+ serves and I loved Venus’s name.  I loved that they were not from the elite, mostly white, country clubs instead learning the game on public courts in a very un-country club part of Compton, CA in the early days.  Her younger sister, Serena, emerged even more powerful on the court after following in her big sister’s footsteps.

Kudos to all your accomplishments Serena, you deserve all the accolades.

The only challenge I have with her selection is not about her resume of greatness or the selection itself, it is the cover she chose.   

I understand Serena loves fashion and likes to be involved with the creative aspects of her photo shoots.  This is the perfect cover for Vogue or Vanity Fair, not Sports Illustrated.

Here’s why….

Women, especially women in the cycling world, have enough issues with how we are portrayed in the media.  When Serena’s cover came out, I was messaging with a friend on Facebook who owns a cycling related website.  He had just shared an ad from a client on his page with a girl wearing cycling bibs and no jersey, not even a sport bra.  Something similar to this…
 


I can assure you, as a woman buying cycling gear, that will definitely NOT make me purchase them from your company.  Who are you marketing to?  Definitely not the women wanting your product.

I appreciate Serena’s artistic vision for her cover, but I wonder if she ever considered how women who have a more traditional view towards sexism in the media would accept it.

Apparently, according to ESPNW, it was a show of strength, a victory for women.

For centuries, black women have been demeaned and taught to value themselves less than women of any other race. Williams, specifically, has bore the brunt of centuries-old scrutiny regarding her body composition and race. And finally, after 20 years of consistency, and over 250 consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 in the world, Williams has earned the right to call the shots, both literally and figuratively. Far from an unseasoned rookie, Williams has gained the opportunity to control her image and how she'd like to be portrayed on one of the most meaningful magazine covers of her iconic career. Williams going against the grain and portraying herself as a feminine, strong and powerful woman, void of tennis props, is a major victory for all women who work tirelessly, and often thanklessly, to crash through glass ceilings in any industry.

Sorry Shana Renee, author of this piece, it is not a victory, it’s an epic defeat to all of us women who want to be taken seriously in the sport, in this case cycling.  Perhaps tennis is more evolved; women get paid the same as men.  Not in cycling.

One of the larger bike manufacturers in the market, Colnago, takes this view of women in cycling:
 

I have never stood next to my bike like this.  First, the bike is way too big for her and she's in socks.  Secondly, what exactly was meant by "Ready for the weekend ride?"  (eye roll)

Last night at dinner I showed Jeanne d’Arc, our sole female cyclist, and asked her what she thought.  She was embarrassed.  She had an awkward laugh and blushed and shook her head.  I asked if she knew Serena, she did.  I asked if she had ever seen Sports Illustrated, she hadn’t.  I asked if she would pose like this for a magazine.  She just kept shaking her head saying, No No No.

Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) is beautiful.  She is a stunning young woman with a megawatt smile and a sweet soul.  She is also fierce on the bike.  She may become the first Rwandan woman to medal at the Continental Championships in a few weeks in Morocco.  She is the real deal.


She has so many obstacles in front of her.  Culturally she is far outside the mores for women in Rwanda.  There is a belief in Rwanda among some women if you ride a bike when you are a teenager or older, you will not be a virgin and you will not find a husband.  Jeanne d’Arc supports her family of seven (five siblings and her parents) with the money she earns riding for Team Rwanda.



I recently heard young women (teenage years) in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda and the most progressive place in the country, were telling their school masters they did not want to do any physical activity because having muscular legs, especially calves was something they wanted to avoid.  It was not “attractive”.  These women would have loved the SI cover of Serena because it didn’t show her strength.  These women are increasingly joining the ranks of the fast growing overweight and obese population in this developing country.

Ironically, when I was searching for information about women in cycling and how we are portrayed I came across a panel discussion on “How is Women’s Cycling Portrayed in the Cycling Media?”  This is the same website which today posted a story about Jeanne d’Arc written by a recent guest at our center, Emily Conrad-Pickles.  The title says it all…. “Team Rwanda’s Only Female Rider:  I find freedom on the bike and prejudice off it.

I am one of the few women team managers on the continent.  I struggle every day with being taken seriously. I work in Africa, the land of patriarchy.  I am the only female working in cycling in Rwanda.  I fight every week to get more races for women only to be told there’s not enough women and Jeanne d’Arc wins everything anyway.  How can you build it if you don’t give the wanna be Jeanne d’Arc’s an opportunity to step out onto the road and race?  I tried to run a women’s camp and could not get any funding from the UCI.  They wouldn’t even return emails. 

Kathryn Bertine’s documentary, Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls & Power of Women’s Professional Cycling, still rings true almost two years later.   We are making progress, but it is slow.

So Serena, your SI cover might be fine for the US market, but for markets where women face real obstacles in sport on a daily basis, it is not. With your power and credibility in the sport save those photos for Vogue and show women who emulate you that it is perfectly fine to have muscles, show real strength and dominate a sport. 

And here's the real litmus test....one of our riders, when shown the photo and asked if he would pose half naked across his bike just laughed and said, if they paid me a lot of money I would do it.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Responsibility to Give

No one has ever become poor by giving~~Anne Frank

This quote, attributed to a woman who gave us a front row seat into her life as a jew during the Holocaust, should be embraced by all of us who hold on just a little too tightly in our scarcity thinking vs. our potential for abundant living.

Over the past year, I have been devouring books on "Giving".  I am interested in the psychology behind why we give, why we don't and what triggers some to give much while others who have much, give little or none.  I do this for two reasons, one, I'm interested in the dynamics behind my giving, secondly, selfishly, I want to know why people give to Team Rwanda and why they don't and what I can do to move them from not donating to donating.

The first book I read about "giving" was Peter Singer's book, The Life You Can Save.  In a nutshell Singer speaks to the morality of giving.  If you have enough for your basic necessities, food, clothing, shelter and taking care of family obligations, it then becomes your moral duty to give the remainder.  As you can imagine, for most people, in our very self absorbed American bubble, that sounds simply off the deep end radical.  The book keeps upping the ante on your basic giving to or saving others.   In the end, it returns to a more palatable, for most of us, level of giving based on Biblical teaching....the tithe.  10% of what you earn.  Not 10% after taxes, 10%.  If you make $50,000 you give $5,000.  

"But I can't give $5,000, I barely make ends meet."  

Making ends meet is a choice to a large extent.  None of us NEED $300 phones and $75/month service plans.  No one needs cable, a new car, a new couch, a remodel.  Those are needs not wants.  I know, tough to stomach.

I make significantly less than $50,000 a year.  I have a 16 year old Nissan Xterra with 270,000 miles, no debt, a pay as you go phone, and everything I own fits in 5 bins in a closet.  I donate 10%.  I am not poor.  I fully fund my IRA, save additional emergency cash, a must while living in a third world African country, and my splurges consist of upgrading to business when I fly.  I can do more.

The second book by Singer, The Most Good You Can Do, focuses on being most effective with the money you donate.....if you donate.  This one is more difficult to grasp for me because I am in the trenches daily with the team.  It does cost considerably more to bring a young cyclist up through the system and hopefully land them a professional contract than it does to give a kid deworming medication.  

The statistics for deworming are powerful:  increase in nutrition absorption, better school attendance, increase in school performance which all lead to potentially a brighter future.  In Rwanda you can carry them around in a PEZ dispenser and distribute all day long.  You get a lot of bang for your buck with deworming.  But I see another type of change which is not easily quantified when it comes to Team Rwanda.

How do you measure the impact of a cyclist coming onto Team Rwanda?  They represent a country still primarily thought of as the country where people killed each other in a horrific genocide in 1994.  They represent a new Rwanda, a Rwanda committed to the rise of the sport of cycling as a tool for reconciliation and peace.  They put brothers and sisters and children through school, they make money, build houses, support families and exemplify the payoff of hard work, discipline and determination.  Does it save more lives?  I honestly cannot answer that question.  As I see more and more young boys and girls coming to the center, soaking up the atmosphere, hoping the power and strength of Team Rwanda rubs off on them and they race for their nation someday.  What is the price tag?

2015 was a struggle.  Although our budget grew and we had a couple of large supporters behind us, the average Joe, gave less and gave less often.  I am fanatical about answering emails from people asking how they can help.  I send personal thank you's to many smaller donors because, I too, in the grand scheme of things, am a small donor.  

Why?  I want to know why?  What are we doing or not doing?  Why do people close to me, who really know me, know my commitment and passion for helping these young Rwandan cyclists, why do they not give?  Giving a used kit is not giving, it's giving me something you don't want anyway.  At one point you had $300 for the kit.  

One of my theories is...we're too pretty!

After winning the Tour of Rwanda in 2014, President Kagame personally pledged his support by giving us a 4,000 Euro budget per bike to purchase much needed race bikes.  Thanks to our dear friends in the industry (Reynolds Wheels, Pinarello, LOOK, Vittoria, Campagnolo, Selle Italia, Cateye), who believed in us day 1 and supported us when they knew they would get very little exposure, we were able to get a 10,000 Euro bike for 4,000.

"You have 10,000Euro bikes, you're doing just fine, are you kidding me?  I ride a $3,000USD bike."

Here's the deal....those bikes don't feed families, pay stipends, buy glasses, pay hospital bills, and generally look after the day to day well being of the 30 riders and 15 Rwandan staff under our direct care.

That takes money...lots of it.

As I watch our staff move around the compound every day, it's like watching a family all committed to helping the young achieve their dreams.  I have moments of incredible peace as I watch the care in which the day guards trim trees, bushes and pull weeds.  Not in their job description, but they do it out of care.  They feel ownership in the success of all of these young men and women.  What is the price for that?  Is there a rate of return on investment you can quantify?

Many days when it all gets too much, wondering how I will keep the money flowing when so little of it seems to trickle through these days, I realize how invested I have become.  Those of you with children would do anything to help them realize their dreams.  Try feeling that level of responsibility with a family of 45.  If I cannot make a compelling enough case for why people should donate to or invest in this team, they lose.  Have you ever been poor?  Really poor?  Living in a mud house with dirt floors and no water or electricity poor?  

A few months ago, Strangers Drowning, by Larissa MacFarquhar was published.  It highlights several cases of people who give to the extreme.  How much is too much?  Is it immoral to give so much to others and then neglect your own family?  It is a remarkable study into the lives of extreme "do gooders".  I am a moderately extreme "do gooder" who splurges on business class because it keeps me sane enough to keep doing what I do here.  Strangers Drowning is an intriguing read which will stimulate your thoughts about where you fall on the spectrum of giving.

In the last week I gave Little E's mother about $40 for food for the month for his family.  The husband/father is AWOL.  His mother packs towers of carrots for transport to the market making $1 a day.  His mother and I are only separated by the luck of the birth lottery.  Another rider had all his clothes stolen by a jealous neighbor,  and yet another rider had his clothes stolen by the young man he employs to wash his clothes.  Another rider needs glasses.  The oldest rider's oldest son we help put through school.  Jonathan's education is our responsibility. I sobbed on my yoga mat while doing child's pose. This is an average week in my world.  I give 10% and I am not poor yet.  

The other day a big safari land cruiser showed up at our gates with two guests from the US.  They were here to visit the gorillas as they were finishing up their East African safari swing.  They said they were big fans of Team Rwanda and had seen the film, Rising From Ashes.  Our compound is along the road to the Volcanoes National Park where you launch from to see the gorillas.  A gorilla trek is $750....per person...1 hour with the gorillas.  This couple saw the gorillas twice each.  $3,000.  Lord Almighty, what I could do on this compound or with these riders for $3,000.  But, that's not my deal.  This was their trip, they came to visit.  The woman goes to her suitcase and says, "We have a little something for you."  Of course I'm hoping it's money to pay for today's $250 food bill.  

She hands me a used cap...

"Give it to one of your riders."

A cap...I looked at Mr. AM and he read my mind.  We continued our little dog and pony show, they got in their $250/day land cruiser and went on their merry way.

I'm walking back to the house and I couldn't hold back, "A F&*ing CAP!!!!"

Yes...I said "f&*king" really loudly.  I have never been so angry and frustrated to the point of tears.  All that money, yes, enjoy your once in a lifetime trip, but all you could muster is your used cap?  What is wrong with the world?  Where has our sense of responsibility, duty and care for others gone?  Are we so consumed with our own wants that we cannot see the needs of others?  

And then I open my email and there's a hundred dollars from this guy in Michigan who gives every month pretty much.  He pays for a rider's monthly stipend.

I believe we can do better for each other?  Stop drinking Starbucks and you could pay a rider's monthly stipend, send his two siblings to school and help him or her build a house.  $5/day...that is it.

Why don't you give? Why do you give?  Where do you give?  What prompts you to give?  

I need to know because obviously, I've been selling this all wrong because I refuse to believe the world has gone so far south we've stopped caring.  Or maybe, it's so far gone, we're simply in denial of the sadness and tragedy around us.  Then, it's too late.