Kara Higgins

karaKara considers herself to be a woman of God, a wife and a mama, in that order. Married to Ryan for 12 years, they are parents to four children (two the old fashioned way, two through adoption). In 2009, after adopting her sons, she fell in love with Rwanda and it’s people.

Since then, she has become an advocate to orphans and adoptive families through blogging and volunteer work. Currently, she works as a CNM at a community health center in Omaha and as a Team Leader for Visiting Orphans.

Visit her blog: http://www.higginsadoptions.blogspot.com.

Ryan Higgins

10329130_10202187146909191_9039131245338108678_nRyan has his master's degree in education and works as the director of Project Lead the Way in Council Bluffs Community Schools. Besides teaching Project Lead the Way, he has also introduced robotics in the high schools. Engineering courses have allowed him  to bridge students with leaders in the community.

After the adoption of two of his sons, in 2009, he also felt led to return to Rwanda. His gift for using education to encourage teenagers is one of the many reasons he has launched Imana Kids. He leads teams through Visiting Orphans, with his wife, Kara.

James Odongo

james1James Odongo had a vision many years ago of himself working alongside others in caring for the orphans of Rwanda. Retired from the military, James was workng as a pastor at New Covenant Church in Kigali as well as taking interpreting jobs for various NGOs and ministry programs all over the country of Rwanda. Accepting the role as in country director for Imana Kids has given him the opportunity to see his dream of working in orphan care fullfllled. James' role has many hats: accountant, chaperone, "Uncle", counselor/mentor, disciplinarian, nurturuer, pastor, friend. Currently, James lives at Sparrow's Nest in Kigali and is legal guardian to one former orphan of Noel in Gisenyi. He has also adopted nieces and nephews and is father to two biological children. All the Imana Kids consider James to be their family.

Michaella Barsell

Michaella has always had a special place in her heart for children and from early on knew that is what she would dedicate her life to. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska but traveld to Lincoln, NE to earn a degree in Elementary and Special Education and then back home to earn her master's degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Michaella has been teaching elementary students in Council Bluffs since 2008. Going to Africa and working with the "least of these" has always been something Michaella enviosned herself doing. It wasn't until the last year that she realized that it was God calling her to be a part of His plan to serve and love all of his chidlren. With God, the dream of  serving Africa and orphans became a reality and a must.

Shane Barsell

Shane was born and raised in Omaha, Ne. He always had a feeling he was meant to be involved in something bigger then himself. God laid the scripture on his heart from Matthew 28:19, The Great Commision, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Shane recognizes the importance of this commission and dying to himself. He believes his life is not his own and we are put on this earth to love God and others. To carry out this commission, Shane has dedicated his life to service.

Manya Schmidt

manya“… and I sat where they sat, and remained astonished among them for seven days.”

This verse from  Ezekiel 3:15 fully describes Manya’s experience at Kimisagara Orphanage. Manya served as part of the Higgins Mission Team and knew upon her return home she had experienced something much greater than herself -- she was being called to join this pioneering effort to help the orphans and widows of Rwanda. The trip to Rwanda was not the first of Manya’s pioneering life experiences. She began her nursing career in one of the first nursing classes at Washburn University in her hometown of Topeka, Kansas. As a nurse midwife for more than 20 years, Manya has a passion for the wellbeing of women and children – now, with the grace of God, that passion turns to Africa. Manya has three children and two grandchildren. Her youngest son, Peter, joined her on the trip and joins her on this shared mission of faith.

Alison McLennan

alison1Alison fell in love with Rwanda in 2011, when she and her husband traveled there to adopt their youngest daughter. Since that trip, she has continued to study, write about, and pine for the Land of a Thousand Hills. She has deep appreciation for the people and culture that teach her much of beauty, brokenness, forgiveness, and redemption. Being part of Imana Kids is one way she can serve those who have so enriched her life. Rwanda and her people have deepened Alison's faith in a restorative God, proving again and again that there is nothing so broken God cannot redeem it. She often writes about Rwanda and other passions on her blog, alisonmclennan.com.

Erick Whigham