This week ...

The rain today is absolutely unmistakable! It's very dark, and here at the refugee center, children's laugther is filling all the rooms of this house. This week is the last week of our after school program before the Christmas festivities start. The children are out of school next Wednesday for Christmas break and most of our students volunteers are preparing their end of semester exams. SO NO TUTORING NEXT WEEK, TUES 12/15th THROUGH MON 01/04th.

This semester has been amazing, not only have we had a great success with the refugee children's school success, our volunteers have been great anchors for this program and they are absolutely the reason for the success of this program, we definitely couldn't have done it without you. We are looking forward to having you again next semester, there will be a lot of many exciting opportunities for you to keep providing for the communities that we serve.

On the more exciting note, this year's Christmas' Eve Santa is paying a visit to the refugee children in Richland Hills. Look forward to seeing pictures from this awaited event.



We hope that each and everyone of you is enjoying this holidays season regardless the harshness of these cold days. We also hope that everyone enjoyed a great thanksgiving with their families and friends. On Sunday, November 22nd, 2009. Our friends from Midtown Church, made it a special day by sharing the joys of thanksgiving with the refugee community here in Nashville. There were plenty of Turkey to the point where families got to enjoy them later on during the week in their homes. We are very thankful to West End Community Church for letting us use their facilities. It was an afternoon of great celebration with 150 African refugees in attendance from all different countries of Africa; Burundi, Congo, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

In this Holiday season, we would like to take a moment and be thankful to our good God for everything that he has done for this ministry. We'll be celebrating our 10th Year of serving African Refugees here in Nashville this coming spring, another great reminder of what God has done for us and how good he's been to us.

For everyone that dedicated their time and talent to this ministry, we are forever grateful, you have impacted so many different lives even though they might not be able to tell you so themselves. You have been a light in to so many African immigrants and refugees here in Middle TN, we are very thankful for your help and we hope that we'll continue working with you in serving this population.




This week ...

It's been a great weekend and I hope that everyone got a chance to enjoy it as it seems like the next few days are not going to be as beautiful. I also hope that everyone is in great health as it seems like the flu is going around, so please take care of yourself.

I want to touch base on what's going on this week and the next few weeks as we are approaching the holidays.

This week, here at African Leadership, we have our Annual banquet, on Thursday November 12th at Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood located on 1210 Franklin Rd. Come hear our National Director from Malawi, T.K Llesanmi and many other great speakers of what God is doing on the lovely continent of Africa and here in Nashville.
There will be no tutoring at Richland Hills on this day, Thursday, November 12th. You are all welcome to come and join us at the banquet. If you would love to come please call our office (615-595-8238) and let them know.

This month of November, the after school program will not meet on the week of November 23rd-28th.

You are all invited to our Thanksgiving outreach on Sunday, November 22nd, at West End Community Church. Please come and share the joys of Thanksgiving with the refugee families here in Nashville. If interested in joining us please email aimee@africanleadership.org



Once upon a Saturday, the high school students in our youth program took a day trip to the adventure science museum. It was a day to remember, the sun was shining, the skies were as blue as they could be and the weather was just perfect, at least for those of us that come from the tropical area.
This year, all the high school students involved in our Afterschool Program are in a science class, and as much as they are having a hard time with those classes and growing not to like science, I wanted them to have fun with science, even if it meant for a few hours. So we piled up in a van at 10am on a Saturday morning with a few volunteers eager to help and make the trip memorable and off we went. The experiences were absolutely memorable; the planetarium was in every sense the coolest thing and the most unexpected experience for the children. As the show was about astronauts and what it takes to be one, the audience was transported into space. Afterward, the children got a chance to experience walking on the moon.

Our trip didn't just end up with the education part only, we also got to feed ourselves thanks to Cici's Pizza buffet. I don't think that I have ever been entertained by watching people eat, except on this day:) I was afraid that they would put Cici's out of business for the day! But all in all it was great fun.

All in all, I can't think of a better way to make science more enjoyable and fun!

We would like to be able to take more roadtrips in the future, i.e. we would love for the children to experience the downtown Nashville Library, the Zoo, visit local colleges etc. If you feel called to sponsor or volunteer for one of these educational trips, please do not hesitate to email me at aimee@africanleadership.org

All for the kingdom!



This fall African Leadership Refugee Ministry welcomed 46 new refugees to Nashville from Elitrea, Somalia and Ethiopia. These families have come to us through many years of suffering. They have lived in Kakuma refugee camps located in the Northern part of Kenya. It's a very dry area, almost a desert. Most of these families are very big in terms of numbers, even as I write this update, there are a few mothers expecting and there is one that just delivered a healthy baby girl in the last two weeks. These families are going to need a crowd of witnesses to surround them and shower them with love as they are still getting used to the new ways of their new surroundings.

If you would like to know how you can assist the new families, please contact William Mwizerwa at william@africanleadership.org for details.


The fall semester has been in session for a while now, the first set of report cards came home last week and we are very happy to report that the children involved in our after school program started the year off on a good note. Of course there is always room for improvement, but they have made incredible improvements through our summer academy. This semester we also gained new students; those that started school this year and others from the community around us. We would like to thank our Volunteers for donating their time and talent to come out and work with these children. This fall semester our volunteers come to us from different churches and different schools around Nashville. If you would like to get involved in our after school program, please email our volunteer coordinator Aimee Abizera at aimee@africanleadership.org. You can also stop by our training center in West Nashville where most of our activities are held and say hello to those that we serve, we are located at: 5800 Maudina Avenue, Apt J3, Nashville 37209
You are more than welcome to bring a friend or bring your family.
Our schedule is: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 3:30pm-5:30pm
Special events on Friday or Saturday will be announced soon.


Captured Moments!

On Saturday, August 15th, 2009 five Burundi refugee couples decided to legalize and bless their unions at First Presbyterian Church. Great thanks to Sandra Randleman who performed the ceremony for these couples.

For those reading this update my wonder what's going on! Here is a little background to help you ... most people in refugee camps do not get a church wedding. Two parties come together and agree to live together, of course they do what is traditionally acceptable between the two families but not everyone gets a chance to have a proper wedding ceremony or even a marriage certificate. So in the spring, one couple approached William and asked him if there is a way for them to have a proper wedding ceremony! From just one couple the number grew into five couples. They all decided that they can do this on one day and have a big celebration. It was a grand celebration, the Burundi community celebrated together even those in other states joined them for the great event.

However, this day would not have been possible without the great help of many individuals that felt compelled to help these couples create lasting memories of their wedding. We are very grateful to the women of 4th Avenue Church of Christ for everything they did to make this day the most memorable to these couples. We very thankful to FPC for letting these couples use their facility but most of all for the great witnesses they have been to this community. Thanks to the sunday schools at FPC that helped with the organization of this day. Many thanks to Sandra Randleman for taking time on a Saturday afternoon to perform the ceremony.

This was absolutely a day to remember and thanks to everyone who made it possible.


Summer 2009 Recap!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made this summer one of the most memorable summers for those that we serve. It has been a summer of perfect weather to begin with, a summer filled with love and joy to the communities that we serve.

This summer we had several activities take place, none of these activities would have been possible without the help of several individuals and several different churches that supported our programs.

We would love to give special thanks to Annie and Rachel for their undying contribution and organization of the VBS this summer. Our summer VBS was attended by 45 African refugee children. It was a great joy! We are very thankful to Dave Barnes who led the music potion of our VBS. We would also like to thank Josephine and John who attributed to the unforgettable memories by organizing a swimming party for the African refugee kids. It was definitely an afternoon to remember.
We would also love to thank for following churches for their support and willingness to serve those in their backyard.

New Wilmington Presbyterian Church of PA
:Mission trips don't always have to be across the oceans or across the boarders, sometimes they can just be in your backyard! This is what the youth group of Wilmington Presbyterian Church did. They came and spent a week serving the African refugees in our midst. They helped with the VBS and the summer camp.

Covenant Presbyterian Church: The youth at Covenant Presbyterian church have been volunteering with our ministry since last spring. This summer they sponsored the summer camp and even took three of our high schoolers to their youth retreat in Florida. The African Youth rejoiced over the opportunity of being able to travel but most of all, the opportunity of seeing an ocean for the first time in their lives. It was an unforgettable experience for them.

First Presbyterian Church Shakopee of MN
: This was the second mission group this summer, our third group this year. It was a great pleasure to have them with us as they helped launch the Summer academy. Their youth group did other projects in the mornings but spent the afternoons tutoring the Burundi refugees in West Nashville. Their last day of the trip, they made dinner for all the children and had a communion time of sharing a meal together.

Cumberland Church: Cumberland Church joined us this summer for the first time. They provided the African refugee school age children with school materials at the beginning of this school year.

First Presbyterian Church of Nashville
: Our long time friends have been a great anchor for this ministry. FPC have supported this ministry from the very beginning and they are still supporting us and we couldn't be more thankful. Some of the FPC youth group joined us and volunteered to help with the VBS this summer.

Grace Presbyterian Church
: Grace Presbyterian church sponsored and provided volunteers for our VBS this summer.

West End Community Church - TN
Park Avenue Baptist Church - TN
Cross Point Church - TN


May He rest in Peace!

For those that have been following the news on Phineas Nyabyenda, I would like to let you know that He is home with our heavenly father as of early Thursday morning around 1am. Phineas has been a part of our family and our community since August 2007, when his family was settled here in Nashville to start over their lives. A year later, He was diagnosed with cancer and he had been fighting that battle since the summer of 2008.

Please keep his family in your prayers as they go through these hard times. If you would like to know how you can help the family, do not hesitate. Email the director of the African Leadership Refugee Ministry; William Mwizerwa and he would let you know the best way you can help: william@africanleadership.org

Thank you so much for your support and prayers to Phineas and his family!


Refugee VBS 2009

This summer, our VBS served about 45 refugee children. It was great fun and the children enjoyed it greatly. Thanks to Rachel Ward and Annie Barnes who organized everything and helped us get the materials for us.

The summer is here...come join us!

The summer is here and there is a lot going on, so come and join us, make this summer as memorable as we can. Here is our summer calendar, if you are interested in joining us at any point please let us know by emailing our volunteer coordinator Marie-Aimee Abizera We are always in need of volunteers.
VBS: June 15th-18th 1pm-4pm (Ages 3+)
Swimming party: June 20th
Summer Camp: June 22nd-July 3rd Mon-Thurs 10:30am-1:00pm
Richland Summer Academy: July 13th-31st 1pm-3pm


Hear From Our Lovely Volunteers2

My Experiences with the Burundians
By Rob Higham (HS Student)

I can still remember the very first day I went over to Richland Hills to work with the refugees. My mom had begun volunteering with refugees earlier that year and had been wanting me to come help out in the pre-school with her. I had heard many of her stories about how fun and loving the kids were, so I was quite excited to finally meet the kids and work with them. I figured that this would be the type of thing where I would work with the kids a little bit here and a little bit there- something I would enjoy but by no means grow to love. After that first day, however, I realized I was completely wrong.
Since then, I have continued my work with the refugees. I have helped out in the pre-school, an elementary school reading program in the summer, and in an after-school homework/tutoring program. I have come to work with most of the kids here, and I love each and every one of them. I enjoy and appreciate every second I spend with them. Aside from mentoring them, I have learned so much about them, their past lives, and their culture. In working with them, I have made countless friends. In doing so, the barriers that inevitably exist where they view me as their “tutor” and I view them as “the kids I’m working with” have been broken. In its place stands a mutual friendship that will last longer than I ever thought possible. 
I have been working with the Burundians for the past eleven months now. Even though I have been helping them, they have been helping and teaching me, as well. In mentoring them, I have learned countless lessons. I have come to see that no act of kindness, however small, goes unappreciated. The kids will love you no matter what, and they genuinely appreciate everything you do for them. Whether you are helping someone with their math homework or playing soccer with a group of kids, the kids will appreciate it. I have also seen firsthand just how far the small things go. 
I cannot imagine where I would be without my new friends. I feel I have grown as a person through my work with them. What began for me as a small opportunity has become something much more than that. I cannot describe how it became such a big part of me, but one thing is for sure- deciding to go help out with the kids on that early June morning was the best decision of my life. 

Summer 2009 Calendar!

Join us this summer for a chance to serve the kingdom and the African community here in Nashville. Here is our calendar of events. If you would like more details please email our volunteer coordinator Aimee Abizera at aimee@africanleadership.org
We are looking forward to having you with us this summer.

May 2009:
*May 14th, 2009 > Aimee on Vacation for two weeks
*May 15th, 2009 > End of after school tutoring.

June 2009:
*June 8th-11th, 2009 > VBS preparation week with Volunteer meeting. Specific date to be announced.
*June 15th-19th, 2009 > VBS for Refugee Children 1:00pm-4:00pm (If you wish to volunteer, you can just do one day or the whole week depending on your availability)
*June 20th, 2009 > Pool Party for refugee children (date subject to change)
*June 22nd -July 3rd, 2009 > Summer camp for Refugee Children 

July 2009:
*July 5th - 10th > A little break
*July 13th - July 31st > Summer Academy ( to help children prepare for the fall start)

August 2009:
*August 1st, 2009 > Volunteer Luncheon
* August 8th, 2009 > Back to school Picnic (If you would love to donate school materials it will be appreciated)
*August 14th, 2009 > First day of school for Davidson County Metro schools
* August 17th, 2009 > Fall semester After school program starts (Daily schedule to be announced)


Hear From Our Lovely Volunteers!

Refuge on the Horizon

Annie Hallquist

 The Oxford American Dictionary defines a refugee as someone who “has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.” On the surface, that is exactly what a refugee is, and yet it is hardly a complete picture. Defining refugees this way is like observing a painting of a sunset. It may be an accurate representation, but it only shows a small representation of a greater truth. A painting with all its color and emotion pales in comparison to the ribbons of magentas,  alizarins, tangerines, cornflower blues and all the colors in between that expand in a moment of mayhem over the placid horizon. It will always fail to express the moments that leave us grasping at glimpses of heaven. 

Refugees are no more defined by their displacement anymore than the house in which I live defines me. Living circumstances are situational, they are not who we are. The identity of people, displaced or not, goes much more to the core of being than to what one does or a place where one resides.

My name is Annie. I grew up in small town Minnesota. I have never endured a civil war, never been persecuted for my beliefs or my heritage, never had to leave my home in the middle of the night. No one would ever tag me a “refugee.” So what do I have to say on this topic? What authority do I have, if any? Maybe none at all, these are just thoughts on a page about what refugees have meant to me.

My first significant encounter with a person labeled as a refugee was during college. I lived in Boston in a house with a group of Liberians displaced after the civil war conflicts and the reign of dictator Charles Taylor. When I first moved in, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after many late nights filled with good food, hearty laughter and passionate discourse I learned things that forever changed my working definition of the word refugee. Nasche taught me to cook, Bonah, about the perils of politics and greed. One housemate, Torli Krua, once taught me that to extend your hand to a refugee is to hold hands with the whole world. Another man I lived with, Taiwan Gongloe, has since returned to Liberia and is now acting Solicitor General. He was quoted as saying, I always say that I have a responsibility to make Liberia right.  I don't say that 'others' have, I don't say 'we' have. I say "I" have.  I always ask what I am doing to fix this situation, to change this situation.” They all taught me so much about what it means to be responsible with the short time we have in this world. Years have past since I lived on Drayton Ave, but the relationships I gained still hold firm today.

My first set of experiences in Boston were educational and eye opening, but my journey had just begun. In 2005 I met a young Rwandan woman named Marie-Aimee Abizera. We met at a bonfire in Nashville, but it wasn’t until 2007 that my life would change forever. Aimee and I met for coffee one day and the rest is history. Aimee is the kind of woman I hope to be; passionate, driven, accepting, loving, forgiving, hard working, kind, bold, compassionate, the list could fill this page time and again. I laugh the hardest when I am with her and miss her when life takes us apart. She is a sister to me. Her family, immediate and extended has taken me in and I am grateful everyday for it. We have traveled as far as East Africa and Nashville coffee shops together. We share our dreams, our hopes, fears and frustrations. We share life. Our pasts are a part of us, but in this present moment, we are learning the fine art of living together.

When the press reports on refugees, it sends this air that we should take care of them because we are from Western societies and it is our duty. We have SO much to give them. We could help these “poor unfortunate people.” While there is some truth to this, it is so very egotistical. We present ourselves as the so very important “saviors” of the world. If this is so, we have failed horribly, yet we also fail to see that refugees have so much to teach us. They have seen the very definition of hell on earth, and lived to tell the tale. Their lives are living testimonies that there is much pain and heartbreak in this world, but also there is much to rejoice and much to love as well.

Where I have the ability to help people that have come into my life by way of displacement, there is so much to learn as well. I can offer help in learning my native language, help finding employment or housing or the grocery. I have found though it is often in the words or deeds of my friends who have come from the other side of the world the help to learn the language of the heart. They have taught me the steps to the dance that we call life.

The word refugee’s origin comes from the French word refugie meaning “gone in search of refuge.” I know that I seek refuge often. Aimee often acts as my shelter from life’s hurricanes. My friends from my Boston home have acted as my protection from ignorance about the plight of refugees. I could never thank them all enough.

So what to do with all of this? Open our arms to the world, our hearts to our neighbors and our eyes to the sunset. Beauty is all around. Pay attention. We have much left to learn.


Spring Break at the RTC!

I hope that the first day of spring finds you in good health.  I am very ready for the weather to start warming up and to see the flowers blooming and the harshness of winter fading day by day.

This past week, we had the privilege of having a mission team of young adults from Mississippi join us for spring break. The team drove in Thursday night and left on Tuesday afternoon, it was a few days of great fun and great fellowship with the refugee families in West Nashville. Several projects were accomplished by this group of 17 young adults, we cleaned and painted a few houses for the refugee families, they prayed with the families and got to hear their stories as well. And of course we had to curve in time for arts and crafts with the children, who enjoyed working alongside the team. It was a very fascinating week, most of the children saw people painting for the first time, of course they had to join in and let's just say that some of their clothes and body parts were a little bit stained with paint! 
On Saturday evening, each member of the team spent time with a refugee family and had dinner with them and it was an amazing experience for both sides, and the team members have amazing stories to tell ... Katie Kyle wins the award of the most amazing dinner story. (You'll get to ready these stories soon). The team also got a chance to pray with Phineas and his family the whole day on saturday, it was an amazing experience.

For the rest of the spring break, we are taking it slow, just spending time with the children and trying to get them ready for the next half of the semester.

Keep Phinias and his family in your prayers.