Monday, July 29, 2013

"One Week Left in the States" Fundraising Challenge

A friend of mine has a challenge for my other friends and family.  He noticed that I still have a ways to go with my fundraising (although I just heard I'm up to $5000 in received and pledged donations!!!) so he is offering a matching gift incentive.  I leave a week from tomorrow and if I can raise $500 before I leave, he will contribute an extra $500 as a matched gift, which is super generous.  So get your checks (with my name in the memo line) sent into:
Fidesco USA
PO Box 68
East Texas, PA 18046
or make a one-time or monthly donation at
Many thanks to all those who donate or pray for me during the year.  We are together in this project of educating and mentoring girls in southern Rwanda.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

More details clarifying the project, departure dates, sponsorship update

 Hi all,

I've learned a lot more about the mission ahead of me and I wanted to share that.  Before I do, though, here are some important departure dates, in case you're curious:
  • August 6 - Fly from California (I'm currently visiting my family) to France for Fidesco training in Paray-le-Monial, the city of Jesus' Sacred Heart
  • August 8-14 - Fidesco training with all the other new volunteers who are being sent this fall
  • August 17 -  Fly to Rwanda!!!
  • ~ August 20 - Travel from the capital, Kigali, to Butare.  I will stay in the capital for a few days to present my work papers and get my visa processed
Now here are the details.  The school where I will be working actually has 600 girls, 100 more than I was originally told.  They are 11-19 years old and it's a boarding school.  The staff is excited to have my help as an English teacher since it became one of the two official languages of Rwanda in 2007 and is still new in the country.  From what I've been told, English is the teaching language at the school, but most of the adults in the country will speak French and Kinyarwanda predominately, and perhaps no English.  It looks like I will pick up a working knowledge of one or two languages while I'm there.  At least I hope so.

My other job at the school has me really excited.  I've never been an English teacher so I will be clueless in the beginning with that role, but the other role is something I've done before.  I am going to be an adult mentor/campus minister to the girls.  As you can imagine, a bunch of girls ages 11-19 have a lot of life-themed questions that they are wrestling with and they seek out the teachers to talk about their questions. The current teachers didn't have enough time to address all the questions so they recommended getting another Fidesco volunteer who can have more time to be with the girls and talk about their questions with them.  That person is me!  I'm super excited because this position fits my gifts.  I would rather spend time with people than finish a spreadsheet or make phone calls and that is what this position asks of me.  I imagine taking a group of girls on short hikes through the forest that is on the school property and engaging them on life issues, just like Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) did when he was a college chaplain and professor.  I plan to join the girls when they play basketball, soccer, and volleyball and become a friend they can confide in.  I plan to try my hand, or rather, my body, at the native dance practices.  It is probably idealistic and naive, but I plan to be with the girls and love them in the things they love.  As a dear friend of mine once quoted, "If you love what they love, they will love what you love."  I want to love what they love so they can love who I love, JESUS!  And even if they don't get there, at least I will have done good by loving them and learning to love.

Lastly, I just got my sponsorship update from the USA director and it's lower than I had hoped.  Sad.  I have about 30% of my fundraising goal either raised or pledged so I still have a long way to go.  That means I'm still looking for partners to cover $7000.  To those of you have donated already, MANY THANKS!  To those of you who are contemplating partnership, DO IT!  I know from experience that it feels so good to be generous, even when you make pennies. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Some give by going and some go by giving

Just a heads up, this post is the partnership/sponsorship appeal and what it basically comes down to is that Fidesco and I need your help to support my mission.  It costs Fidesco about $20,000 per year to support a volunteer (airline tickets, health insurance, stipend).  Yes, you will be covering my living expenses, but more importantly than supporting me, your contribution will help educate 500 girls at the Ecole Notre Dame de la Providence (Our Lady of Providence School).  Isn't that the real reason to donate? 
The only expense the school has when I teach there is providing my accomodations. Everything else is provided by Fidesco.  To make ends meet within the organization, Fidesco raises $10,000/volunteer/year and I am in charge of fundraising the other $10,000.  This is why I suggest you share this adventure with me through a sponsorship during this mission year.
Please support me with a donation of $20 per month (or the equivalent in a single donation) and you will receive my mission reports every three months so you can live the mission with me.  If you can support me with a donation of another amount, that would be wonderful!  No donation is too small and your help is invaluable.  Whatever you can give is tax-deductible.
The two easiest ways to donate are listed below.  If you'd like to do a wire transfer, please post a comment and I'll send you the info.
1. Donate online at  You can submit a one-time or monthly payment.
2. Send a check, written out to "Fidesco USA" with my name "Heather Quinlan" in the memo line, to Fidesco U.S.A.; PO Box 68; East Texas, PA 18046-0068; USA.  Along with the check, please include a sheet of paper with your name, address, telephone, email, your pledge amount and whether it is a monthly or one-time contribution, and whether you'd like to receive the mission reports by mail or email.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Why Fidesco? Why Rwanda?

Mother Teresa once composed a prayer that basically said, "May I love Jesus as Mary loved him and serve him as she served him in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor."  Mary had Jesus right in front of her so she could love and serve him in the flesh, but we and Mother Teresa don't get to see him as clearly as Mary did.  Instead, Mother Teresa recognized that whenever she saw a person dying in the street near her, someone starving for food or attention, someone covered with maggot-filled sores, that person was Jesus in front of her.  She couldn't see the carpenter with a beard and Arab features who walked the earth 2000 years ago, but she could see Jesus hiding "in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor."

Ever since high school when I learned of the Peace Corps, I've had the desire to live in a third-world country and do whatever I can to better the lives of the people living there.  And by betting their lives, I don't mean coming in with my grand ideas of how they should live to be like us in the U.S., but that I wanted to do my part to educate the people, to provide the tools they need to start private enterprises, farm more productively, improve health care, etc.  

In 2005, I learned of a humanitarian organization called Fidesco, which stands for Fides (Faith) and Co (Cooperation).  It's basically a Catholic version of the Peace Corps where people use their professional skills  to develop a country and also live as good Christian witnesses among the people.  I was sold on going with the organization, but I was waiting until I had a husband to share the experience with.  Well, I don't have a husband, but the timing with my jobs and my life points to now being a great time to go.

A lot of the motivation to serve right now, even without a husband, came from a book I read seven months ago titled, Kisses from Katie.  It's written by Katie Davis, who is a young woman who took a gap year before college to teach Ugandan children.  While she was teaching, she met children who weren't in school because their families couldn't afford the tuition, who were being raised by grandparents or older siblings because their parents had died from AIDS, and who walked around with distended bellies, open wounds, and rashes.  Those who were in class couldn't concentrate because they were so hungry.  Little by little, Katie started providing for the needs of these children.  She would find sponsors in the States to pay for the children's tuition.  She started cooking a vat of beans after school so the kids could be fed.  She eventually took 13+ orphaned or neglected girls into her home and continues to live in Uganda as their mother.  I was so inspired by her story, and heartbroken for the children who carry burdens heavier than any child should have to face, that I found myself wanting to go over there.  I wanted to go to a country where people are literally starving to death and do what I can to alleviate their distress.  

Yes, there are people in the United States who are homeless, orphaned, or food insecure and I applaud the people who work with those communities.  I need to do more of that myself (I've always been interested in a Big Brother/Big Sister type of program, but I've never been rooted long enough to enter into such a relationship).  But for me, when I read Katie's book, I thought, "Jesus is literally starving to death in other countries.  He's not able to get an education because his family is too poor.  He doesn't have a parent to care for him," and I want to feed him, educate him, and love him in the distressing disguise of the poor.  So I'm going.

I'm psyched to get to go to Rwanda and work with children in a school.  Ever since reading that book, I've been drawn to Africa.  I can't help but see how my path is mirroring Katie's, with the one difference being that I'm not fresh out of high school.  And while I know Africa has a lot of diseases and bugs that can harm me, I'm taking the necessary precautions and then entrusting my life to the Lord's care.  He's in control of it anyway, even when I'm seemingly safe and secure in the States.  

I look forward to sharing this journey with you.