Wednesday, December 9, 2009

October 24, 2009: The final day in Gashora continued!

After teaching the Internet to the teachers at the school we quickly biked up the hill to the basketball court for the ceremony opening up the basketball court to the community. When I arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes, there were hundreds of people gathered at the courts and the media was present (Rwanda television). We spent the first hour or so teaching the residents how to play certain sports that are popular in North America. We played American football, baseball, and of course basketball! I’m always amazed at how playing a sport with someone can build a stronger friendship, even with a language barrier. A DJ showed up and the locals sung a welcome song to the Softchoice team. When the Mayor and other guests of honor arrived the ceremony began.
Ryan Douglas had opened up the Softchoice speech by speaking a few lines in Kinyarwandan to the crowd and they were thoroughly impressed by the fact he had taken the time to learn their language. I followed with the remaining speech in English which was translated into Kinyarwanda by Lama. We thanked them for their kindness in welcoming us and praised them for their hard work and great sense of community. We hoped that we had made a lasting impression and laid down a foundation for future opportunities with the sports facitlities, innovation center and computer lab. We also told them that they will always have a place in our hearts. I chocked up on that last part.
The community leaders rose o ne by one and made speeches as well. The Covago cooperative thanked Softchoice for all of our hard work and gave us each a hand woven basket as a going away gift. The gift was hard for us to accept. How could we accept a gift from these people when they have so little and we have so much? The gesture truly speaks to the kind of people that they were and we were in awe. I will cherish that basket forever.
Last but not least the Mayor spoke. She was a very well spoken women who carried herself with grace. After saying the necessary pleasantries about the new facilities and what they meant to the community she turned to her people and said that the Softchoice team has set an example that they should all learn from. She said she was amazed by our work ethic and our selflessness by coming all the way over to Gashora to help their community. She hopes that everyyone in the crowd can show the same qualities in the building up of their community. I don’t think I have ever fealt so proud to be a Softchoice employee as I did at that moment. The mayor then proceeded to shoot the first basket on the new court. She missed a few times but eventually got it in!
We quickly had to go to the school to perfrom the opening of the computer lab since Rwanda television was on a tight schedule. The teachers had set the room up beautifully and it was decorated with Softchoice signs everywhere. This may be my second proudest moment as a Softchoice employee. Soon enough the classroom was filled with local residents and many more crowded around the windows from the outside. Nick Foster started this ceremony with a speech about the Softchoice dream of bridging the digital divide. His words beamed with pride and he also chocked up near the end as our long journey had finally been completed. Janvier (the principal) cut the ribbon and then he began a speech in English. I was amazed that he took the time to write the speech in English and thought about how much he must have practiced the night before. This moment meant a lot to him. He ended his speech with giving Softchoice a gift as well, a very large basket that will be displayed in our office. Another gift hard to accept but that would be the trend with these incredible people.
We left the school courtyard for the last time with hundreds of kids screaming our names and running behind us trying to jump on our bikes. With the chaos ensuing I rode off quickly to escape all of the children jumping on my bike, potentially resulting in an accident, until I heard a familiar voice yell “Pita” (that’s how they pronounced Peter) I turned around and it was my favourite child Omar who I had given a ride home on the back of my back that whole week. I stopped my bike and told him to jump on, I owed him one more ride home. I pulled up to his little shack of a house that was barely big enough for him although it housed his family of 6. I gave him a big hug and thought to myself that this smart little guy has a bright future ahead of him. I just hope that I was right. A tear went down my face as I pulled away on my way back to the hotel.
We left Gashora that afternoon on a bus and we were singing our reincarnation of John Denver’s classic “West Virgina” which we turned into “Gashora, Gashora”. The people all waved at us as we road by. There were no words after the song, we couldn’t find them.

- Peter Cibula
DWC Volunteer Participant

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