Ryan and Kara Higgins of Council Bluffs, Iowa are plenty busy raising five
kids in their home. But there is much more to their story.
"We actually have 206 kids," said Kara. "The rest are in Rwanda."
That is double the number of orphans that they embraced when I first reported on their non-profit Imana Kids ministry in 2015. That original Knicely Done story is included at the end of this article.
The major update to that story concerns the orphanage where those kids were living. It was shut down by Rwandan government officials and Ryan and Kara just happened to be there to see it happening.
"When we came down the mountain on our last day of the trip we saw some non-placed cars," recalled Ryan. "Men in suits were there to shut that place down. These are all kids that nobody knew about and they were very thankful that Kara was very consistent with her emails. I think the email they received was went in April and this was August! So that's about four months and we were there for six or seven days. Not great odds that we would be there but we don't really believe in coincidence."
The Higgins are now spearheading a new school for the kids that will have ten classrooms in phase one.
"We're at fifty-thousand so we would love fifty-thousand more before the end of the year," said Kara. "That would pay for phase one. We don't know when it will happen but we will know it will happen when it's supposed to."
A network of sponsors has joined in the effort in thirty states to support the children financially and with cards and letters.
Ishmail Ntakirutimana was on the receiving end of letters from his sponsor while he lived in the orphanage. He is now a student at Creighton University with a double major thanks to a generous four year scholarship through the University paid for by an out-of-state donor.
"I still have the cards and letters," he told me. "I believe that showed how they love me. That's why I kept them and they are really special for me."
"They've got hopes and dreams now," said Ryan. "One of the saddest things was to ask them what do you want to do when you grow up? They didn't know next week let alone a future and that was a reality that hit us really hard. Now it's so much fun to see the kids and they all have big dreams of the things they want to do and accomplish and it's 180-degree turn from where they were."
"I hope someday to write a book about it or a movie because it's kind of unbelievable what things happened in order to be a part of shutting that orphanage down," said Kara. "It's amazing and the kids are thriving now. We've got to be front row on a lot of miracles happening in the last six years and that was the big one."
For more information on Imana Kids:
Previous story February 12, 2015
Ryan and Kara Higgins had one thing in mind when they first traveled to Rwanda. They were there with their two children to adopt two young boys who had lost their parents.
Whey left the country to return to their home in Council Bluffs, their hearts ached for other Rwandan children who were left behind without hope.
It was after a return trip in 2013 with other mission volunteers when a vision was cast.
The group visited a remote orphanage near Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and found about a hundred kids living in deplorable conditions.
"They rarely got two meals a day," said Ryan in an interview with WOWT 6 News. "The water was terrible, a dirt floor, just absolutely horrible conditions."
The group decided during the trip home to organize an effort to find a sponsor for each child and and a better place for the children to live.
In the short time since "Imana Kids" was founded, the orphans have been moved to a much larger, clean facility that is located across from a primary school, and 90 sponsors have signed on to support the children.
"We've got a sponsor in Europe, a sponsor in Hawaii, in New York and pretty much across the country," said Kara.
"They're kids, just like any other kids," said Ryan. "They have needs like any other kid, and meeting their needs is what we aim to do."
During a recent trip to visit the kids, Ryan found a nearby athletic field with artificial turf. He arranged for all of the more than one hundred kids to leave their orphanage and play on the field.
"They took off their shoes and felt their toes in the turf, put their face on it, just jubilation!" said Ryan. "It was really something special that Kara and I got to share, it's one of the most memorable moments in our lives."
Kara added, "I wasn't trained to do this, Ryan and I didn't go to school for this. God's just blessed us, this is his plan for us."
For more information and how to help or serve as a sponsor, click on the link included with this story.
Seats are also available for the Imana Kids Gala which is set for this Sunday February 15 at Cascio's Steakhouse in Omaha. Genocide survivor James Odongo who directs the ministry in Rwanda will be the featured speaker.