And, we’re off at the start of the second trimester in schools here in Rwanda. The students were able to have about a two-week break from their studies and spend some time at home with their families. Those who are enrolled in boarding schools traveled back to their schools during the early part of last week. Classes should be back in full-swing now! We met each of the students just before they were heading back to school to give them their bank slips (to show we had paid their school fees), some transport money, and a bag of personal items to keep them smelling clean and fresh at school! :)
While a break from the rigors of studying is always nice, part of the reason for the timing of this school break is to coincide with a week of remembrance that begins on April 7. This week is a somber time where Rwandans remember the genocide against the Tutsi that occurred here in 1994, spanning one hundred days and killing over one million men, women, and children. All were affected by these horrific events whether directly or indirectly and it is something that has shaped the past, present, and future of this country and its people. Over the past 23 years, there has been an incredible amount of healing and reconciliation amongst the people as they focus on being unified in hoping for a better future. During this week of remembrance, there are many gatherings, often by small villages. The people assemble together to share testimonies and parts of their stories and the local leaders share messages of how the community can and should be working together towards peace. Sadly, there are some who still maintain the genocide ideologies, which are also addressed during these gatherings with the hope they will be rejected and unity can be promoted among all Rwandan people. May it be so!
The Easter holiday also fell during this break, so the students were able to be with their families for this special time. I joined a few friends in going to a Rwandan church (instead of the church I usually attend with English services) to experience the way that they celebrate this holiday. In some ways, the Easter message can be associated with that of this time of remembrance of the genocide—that darkness and evil had some time of reigning yet through much sacrifice comes a new day full of hope.
During this break, we also arranged a special time to celebrate our recent graduates. We had five students who finished traditional secondary school at the end of 2016 and four students who completed vocational training by February of this year. It is so exciting to see their journey so far and the efforts that they have made! We will continue to encourage and guide them as we can and have great hope that they will soon be able to secure employment that helps them to continue moving forward in independence and self-sustainability.
At the graduation ceremony, Yvonne shared a special message for both the graduates and our other current Global Capacity students who were also in attendance. She has a gift for speaking words that are encouraging and challenging and even convicting…to really help our students understand the gift that they are given in pursuing an education and that it also requires their best efforts and follow-through on their responsibilities. We also had a few local government officials in attendance and several of them were able to address the students. After these speeches, we handed out certificates to each of the graduates and offered Fanta (soda) and amandazi (little donuts) for everyone! The final portion of the celebration was taking the graduates and their parents or other family/friends out to lunch to share a special time with just the graduates. It was a fun day!
And, personally, this graduation celebration allowed me to host my first overnight guests: Yvonne [our prior Program Director] and five of her kids! It was quite a bit of chaos but SO fun to have some extra activity in the house and share some fun meals together.
Thanks for partnering with us to make a difference in the lives of these students and their families.