Smile Rwanda!

Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
Trip End Apr 29, 2012

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Flag of Rwanda  , Kigali City,
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Today we allowed ourselves a later start and a slower morning. We had breakfast at 08:00 and then worked for a hour or so. At 10:00 we took a taxi into Kigali to the Centre Hospitalier de Kigali (Kigali Hospital Center) to see where Church elder Greg Swartz has been working for several years. Dr. Swartz, a dentist by profession came to Rwanda with his wife in 2004 in order to visit the church members here and get to know them first-hand. He fell in love with the country and has come back many times. When Dr. Swartz learned that there were only 11 dentists in the whole nation of Rwanda, and that they were always short of essential supplies, he decided to do something about it. He now comes at least once each year, sometimes several times, providing essential dental care to our church members here but also helping to update the skills of local dentists and to help provide dental supplies of which there is a chronic shortage. I've had the privilege of working with Dr. Swartz during several of his working visits, which eventually led to his forming an NGO named Smile Rwanda (do have a look at the website: to help provide vital services.

Church of God members have helped provide funding for some of Dr. Swartz’s work in the past, so I wanted our Church president to see where so much good has been done.

We left out taxi outside the gates of the Hospital complex and made our way to the dental department, where I was happy to meet Dr. Alphonsine Mukandoli who serves on the board of directors of Smile Rwanda. She greeted us warmly and expressed heartfelt thanks on behalf of the dental staff and on behalf of the nation for the help Smile Rwanda has supplied. She showed us three new dental chairs that had been shipped in via the NGO. When Dr. Swartz and first visited the dentistry department several years ago, the best equipment they had was an incomplete, used chair. Drills were in short supply. The lack of anesthetic was evident from the cries and screams we heard as patients were treated without effective doses of painkillers.

Dr. Mukandoli told us how much better they were able to function now, they have more supplies and the new chairs allow them to work in much better conditions. She showed Mr. Franks one of the new chairs, and again expressed her thanks for the support they have received from Smile Rwanda and the church members who have supported its work. Greg Swartz is regarded as a hero and a much beloved benefactor. When staff at the hospital talks about "the American dentist" it always means Greg Swartz.

After the encouraging visit to the hospital we stopped briefly at a craft complex to see if Mr. Franks might find something he’s like to take back home either for his family or for his office, but we didn’t find anything that seemed to fill the bill.

We each worked through most of the afternoon. I spent several hours with Mr. Mundeli, taking care of accounting and bookkeeping and discussing the remaining items on our agenda for this visit. Since I’m only able to come twice a year, we always have many items to discuss and plans to refine for the work of the Church of God here in this small, but quickly developing nation.

We had dinner at a local expat hang-out called Republica, with a nice view of Kigali and simple but tasty meals.

We need to try to get to sleep early, because tomorrow will require a very early start for our trip to the neighboring nation of Burundi. The alarms will go off at 3:00 am! 
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Linda Morgan on

It is very nice that Mr. Franks got to walk around and see the Smile Rwanda project. Excellent blog on it, Joel! :)

Judy Dane on

I can't thank you enough for letting us 'go' with you on your trips, knowing that you have to put in extra effort at a time when it is most difficult. It is so pleasing to meet the brethren through your eyes and blogs. My heartfelt thanks to you and your family.

Tesd Washington on

Wonderful! It is good to see physical evidence of the work being done to help others especially in that part of the done because someone has the compassion to see the need of others! It is something we can all emulate and practice!

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