Our work, as Franciscan missionaries, is to help the poorest of the poor around the world, and our mission in the village of Kivumu, Rwanda is among these places. I can only admire these people. They struggle so hard, and against great odds, to build a better future for themselves and their children.

We hope to change the lives of the children here with our new Padri Vjeko Kindergarten. It is so heartwarming to see their happy faces as they line up early in the morning in front of the door to the school. They show great excitement as they wait expectantly to enter their classroom and to begin their lessons for the day. It is not all dreary, repetitive work for them like it is in so many kindergarten classes in Rwanda. We have been working hard to bring fun activities into the classroom. Armed with supplies like wax crayons, modeling clay, colored paper, paints and puzzles, we give the children a chance to explore their creativity and acquire skills in math and literacy.

It is fun to watch the children play outdoors. One day I watched them use a long stick and, point to the letters and numbers that have been painted on the walls of the school.  They carefully proclaimed each one as they tapped it with the stick.

And they are also learning to care for the environment. Every Thursday is local market day here in Kivumu. People come from near and far to sell their produce to others. At the end of the day, there are lots and lots of litter, in the form of papers and rubbish, on the market grounds. Our little kindergarteners go out every Friday morning and carefully pick up all the litter and deposit it, in containers, to be burned later. In this way, they are learning that the world around them is their world and that they must respect it and care for it – so that it will be there, for them, in the future.

We are very proud of our children and how they are obedient and excited to come to Padri Vjeko Kindergarten. As a reward, and to encourage them to learn English (which is an official language here in Rwanda), they get to see a children’s movie three afternoons a week. They gleefully enter the Padri Vjeko School compound, where we have designated one classroom for watching movies. The children rush in and sit eagerly on the edges of their chairs to wait for a Disney movie or another movie to start. You can hear their laughter and excitement, even though they have not mastered the English language!

So, life here in Kivumu goes on. We continue our missionary work in the community by helping people to help themselves. And, as these young children will become the future of Rwanda, we are very happy to be a part of their lives.

Fr. Ivica Peric OFM