Mar. 29, 2013
The Ubumwe Center Preschool Project is a multifaceted and multilayered project with a focus on two main goals: education and global justice.
Community Contact Information:
Congregation B'nai B'rith
Santa Barbara, CA
- Provide a safe and nurturing preschool environment for the children of Gisenyi, Rwanda while their parents work in the village.
- Educate our temple community and other Santa Barbara/Central Coast organizations about Rwanda's history.
- Inspire and motivate our temple community and other Santa Barbara community groups, schools and religious organizations.
The Ubumwe Center Preschool Project is a multifaceted and multilayered project with a focus on two main goals: education and global justice. Congregation B'nai B'rith's original goal of providing an education to the young children of Gisenyi also educates the Santa Barbara community and supporters from across the United States about the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
The committee began a community center that had been built in Rwanda investigating the genocide and started communicating with partners on the ground to learn more about the preschool project. Monthly meetings began with Global Justice Committee members and it was determined that educating our Temple community about the Rwandan genocide should be our first task. We were able to obtain some beautiful crafts that were made by the disabled workers at the Ubumwe Community Center. We began using these handcrafted items to educate our Temple members about the Community Center and the future preschool. We worked closely with our partners who survived the genocide, learning the details of the project, including time frames, costs, what the preschool's goals were, who would run it, how many children would benefit, who would build it, etc.
We arranged for one of our Rwandan partners, Frederick, to meet our Temple community while he was in the country, share his story and connect with adults and children here. We began extensive preparation for his visit, determining what outside groups he should visit, who he would stay with and what activities he could participate in. We were holding our annual Mitzvah Day event which became a great starting point to educate our community about our Frederick's story and the mitzvah we wanted the Temple to engage in.
Frederick's story became the foundation of our Temple's education, global justice and fundraising efforts. We arranged for Frederick to visit children, teens and adults in Santa Barbara and surrounding areas.
Frederick was able to tell in person his amazing story of survival. He now lives a life committed to forgiveness and education. Frederick's focus is to help others in Rwanda with a disability like himself as well as giving the children in his village a chance at a better life. Our Congregation is supporting Frederick by giving him opportunities to share his story and help fundraise for the preschool. Many of our 850 temple family members have been a part of the project from the beginning. We have organized all of Frederick's Santa Barbara visits to schools and other community groups, produced material/brochures/donation cards for him to handout that explains the history of Rwanda and highlights his life story. We provided a place for him to stay with our Temple members, had him meet with our preschool children and religious school students and speak at Friday night services. Also we've hosted several receptions in his honor and arranged transportation to all of his engagements while in Santa Barbara. Most significantly, we spent time getting to know Frederick while giving him the opportunity to have an impact on everyone he meets.
This program provided a focused global justice project for our Temple community. It motivated our members to think and act globally. Our goal was to ensure that the children of our community learn about the world around them by performing acts of loving kindness, Tikkun Olam. The adults in our Temple community met Frederick and became involved in the preschool project and our religious school children, teen groups and even our Temple preschoolers took action. The preschoolers made a connection with Frederick that was amazing to watch. Many of our young children also had a new appreciation of accepting those who are different. The impact on the adults in our community is visible as well. Many families are planning a visit to Gisenyi to see the completed 5 phase preschool project and meet the children in the village.
Phase I included securing the land by building a stone fence to surround the property. Phase II was laying the foundation. Phase III included putting up the cement walls. Phase IV was installing the roof, doors and windows. Phase V, the final phase, included all of the finishing details such as floors, ceilings and painting. During the construction process, we received weekly e-mail updates and photographs of the progress.