Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We All Need a Little Help Sometimes...

Have you met our son Nate?  Nate is 7 years old and I'm quite sure you would find him irresistible.
He is loving, clever, funny, active, friendly, and empathetic.  Nate also has what is called "developmental delays".  I don't like to use labels or to place him in a box, but for some people this helps them understand why Nate has some troubles.  Learning is not easy for him.  His speech can be unclear & hard to understand at times.  Sometimes he doesn't fully process what is said to him (he says, "what?"  many times a day, even when he heard you).  He also can have a hard time focusing on things or not being distracted.  School is very challenging for Nate.
The school year before we came to Rwanda full time, 2009/2010, Nate was in kindergarten.  He was placed in a specialized classroom where there were 10 students, one teacher, and 2 helpers.  The other children had autism or other similar things that required extra classroom help.  Nate acclimated to this classroom and learned to function within the parameters the teacher set.

When we knew we were coming to Rwanda full time I hoped & prayed that Nate would be able to attend a regular first grade classroom within the private Christian missionary school here.  The school allowed us to try, but after two weeks it became clear that it was not going to work.  The requirements of the classroom (sitting still, paperwork, managing yourself) were beyond what Nate and one teacher for 20 kids, could handle.  I accepted the fact that I would need to home school Nate, and with the help of other moms here in Rwanda who gave me curriculum, and teams who brought some things I ordered, we gave it a go.

Homeschooling Nate turned out to be a huge disaster.  I could not get him to sit down & do schoolwork with me.  He hated it.  He would complain and cry and lay his head on the table.  We got some things done, but as the year wore on it became more & more difficult to the point where we gave up.  Thankfully, the private school allowed Nate to come one day a week for a few hours, that way he participated with his former class in art, carpet time, lunch, recess, and PE.  That was good for him.
Nate with our former neighbor (left) and an AGCI team member last year.

As we looked at this school year, I knew my options were not many.  Not only does Nate still have his issues that make a typical classroom difficult for him, but because of our struggles with homeschooling last year he is now even farther behind his peers in his academic skills.  Technically he should be in 2nd grade this year, but he is not ready to do 2nd grade work.  There was no school that I was aware of where Nate could fit in.  My only thought was to try to find a tutor for him.  Someone who would come in each day & hopefully find a way to motivate him to do the school work.  I wasn't sure if it would work, but it was all I could think of.

After we arrived here a few weeks ago I heard of a couple of new schools opening up.  I thought, well, why not check them out & see if it might be something Nate could do?  I don't know why, considering our past experience, but desperate times...  Nate is a friendly social guy, and in our new house we don't know of any neighbors that he can play with.  It's really hard for him to be here at home all day, with no playmates.  I contacted one school I had heard about to find out if they had resources to help children with special needs.  The director told me that Nate's age group is full for this year, but that she would like to meet with me and see if they could help me.  I was encouraged by the fact that she wanted to see if there was someway they could help us, even though she certainly didn't have to.
After this initial contact I went to the school's website.  It was then that I realized this school is meant for people who have a lot of money to spend on their child's schooling.  (There are a lot of people with money in Rwanda, usually foreigners working here as ambassadors or for high profile foreign organizations.)  When I saw how much the tuition is for the school I couldn't believe it, but I figured I could still go to the meeting & see what she had to say about options for Nate.

This school is a Montessori school being opened by a mom who has run preschools for 12 years in the US and has much experience beyond that.  When we met together she explained to me about their school and how it is child driven, hands on learning, and experiential.  The things she was telling me sounded like something Nate could function in.  She told me that they would like to help us, and even though his age group is full, he could come in for the time when children are moving around from station to station.  Start with a few hours a day and move up to half days.  Then, if she got more children in the younger age group she would split the class and if Nate seemed ready he could attend full time.

The director asked me to bring Nate in to see the school and to meet her.  When we did that, I was really amazed at how well Nate behaved while we were there.  He listened to the directions the teacher gave him, participated with her in some activities, and he was very polite.  By the way, the morning of the meeting, when I told Nate we were going to go look at a school, he was so excited to see a school that could be for him that he made my bed for me!

Now comes the hard part.  I had hoped that the part time tuition would be half of what the full time tuition is (full time tuition is $8,000 US dollars).  Half of that, $4,000, would still have been a lot of money.  However, the half day tuition is $4,950; plus a $500 registration fee.  When she told me that I wanted to cry right there in her office.  But, I know that if this is the solution that God has for Nate, that he will provide.

School for our kids has been one of the biggest struggles for us here in Rwanda.  Already, we have to use a private online American school to educate our Rwandan daughter and son, Kelly Christine & Michael, because there are not options that fit what they need here in Rwanda.  KaLia is attending the private missionary school here.  As Mike said this morning, it's absurd that we send 105 children (through the TTI sponsorship program) to school, but we can't send our own kids to school.

Would you like to help send Nate to school?  Can you donate towards Nate's school fees?  The Earth School begins on September 7th.  Nate is already counting down the "sleeps" until he gets to go to school.  Going to school will be a big help to both Nate and his mommy.  It will help my heart to be at ease to know that he is receiving an education and getting the social connections he needs as well as further developing him in all areas.  I believe it will also help Nate with his homesickness.

For Nate, the Rwandan "honeymoon" is already over.  Two weeks, and he's already starting to talk about how he misses America.  When he got up this morning I told him that he had slept a long time.  He said, "Yea, I was dreaming about going back to America," and he got teary eyed.  I hope that having some activity and friends in his day will help Nate to feel better about being here.

Everybody needs a little help sometimes, and for our family, we really could use your help right now.  The school will allow us to pay the tuition in two installments, but that still requires us coming up with at least $2,500 right now.

Please be praying for us, and if you can help, in any way, please visit our website where you can make a donation for the McColm family & put "Nate" in your memo.  Or you can mail a donation to our office at this address:  Ten Talents International, PO Box 873685, Vancouver, WA 98687. 

It's not easy to have to ask for help, but maybe you can be a part of our miracle!

God Bless You,
(Your donations made to Ten Talents International are eligible for tax deduction.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

We Have Arrived

We made it!  For Christine and I, it was not such an easy trip.  You see, because our tickets were purchased separately (we purchased round trip tickets for me & Christine when the adoption was finalized) we had a slightly different schedule.  We were flying through Toronto, then to Belgium, then Kigali.  Mike, KaLia, & Nate were flying through New Jersey, meeting us in Belgium and then we would fly together from Belgium to Kigali.

HOWEVER, for Christine and I our flight was delayed 1 1/2 hours from leaving Portland (due to mechanical difficulties) and then once we reached Toronto they made us get our luggage to go through Canadian customs (such a ridiculous thing).  The baggage was delayed another 30 minutes before it started coming out, so when they finally did come out we grabbed all 4 of our bags and ran for our next flight-- only to find out we were a few minutes past what is considered "minimum" transfer time.  They wouldn't let us continue.

They tried to reschedule us, but the Belgium/Kigali flight doesn't operate every day.  We were going to have to stay in Toronto for 2 additional days!  Finally they found they could fly us through London, Nairobi, and then to Kigali.  With the additional flights and layovers it ended up adding 18 hours to our travel time, for a grand total of 45 hours of traveling!  Ew!

But we made it.  There was even an empty seat next to me on the last two flights so I was able to curl up and lay down on those two seats for some much needed sleep.  Mike, KaLia, & Nate came into Kigali Tuesday evening at 7pm and we arrived Wednesday afternoon at 1pm.  Now we have been working on getting over some serious jet lag, which we should finally get into a good rhythm in another day or two.  KaLia had her first day of 7th grade on Friday.  She seemed to have a pretty good time, and almost all of her friends from last year were there.

All of us are very glad to be reunited again with our son Michael.  He had a very boring and long break from us, so I think he's glad to have a full house again.  Christine is enjoying seeing her friends and catching up with people.  Nate is doing fine and keeping himself busy with the Wii and his movies.

Mike and I are getting ourselves back into the work of the ministry here.  Mike has some new plans for the Home of Innocence and other projects.  We thank you for your continued prayers for our effectiveness and for us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit so we can draw from his strength, power, and wisdom.

God Bless You,

Friday, August 12, 2011


Very early on Monday the 15th we leave to return to Rwanda.  We will be there for another 9 1/2 months, same as last time.  The school the girls are supposed to be attending starts Tuesday (yeah, they'll start a couple days late).  We would appreciate your prayers during this time.  Pray for us to get everything we need packed.  We have so much "stuff" to bring for 9 months + ministry supplies, etc.  Pray for all of our luggage to arrive with us- no lost bags!  Pray also for the kids especially as they were just getting used to being back in the US and are having a hard time with leaving now.  All of us are feeling sorrow at having to leave our friends, family, and church again.  Pray for us to have peace.  Please also pray for our 27 or so hours of travel time- it's not easy!

We want to get back into the ministry in Rwanda and for our time there to be effective in ways that God already knows.  We want to give this time to Him for His will and His glory.  We know God hears and answers prayers, so we thank you for praying for us.

I have much to do so that is all I can post for now!