Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22: The GGAST School

The GGAST is a school that was brought into concept about 6 years ago by the owner of Costco and his daughter. The story we heard was that this family is really into philanthropy and had a vision of helping to advance the educational needs of girls in third world countries. We were told that their search for a worthy location was throughout the world and they ended picking Rwanda with the current site of the GGAST in Gashora.

The school has a yearly intake of 90 girls for the final three years of high school. A total of 270 students for grades 10, 11 and 12. It draws students from all over Africa and is considered after only three years of existence as one of the best preparatory schools on the continent. Last year one of their students was ranked number one in Africa and two others were in the top ten. This include boys and girls from all over Africa. So it is a very well respected institution in both Rwanda and Africa. That is amazing for such a new school. The campus is amazing to see considering the state of construction in the rest of Gashora (including the Covaga Center). There are classrooms, dormitories, lunch rooms and vegetable gardens that are first class. All students live on campus as do most of the teachers.

We were treated to lunch at the Academy which was very good. The students we talked to all had great things to say about their school. After lunch we returned to work at the Covaga site until around 3:00pm when we held an baseball clinic for the young children that have been hanging out around the work site. None of them had ever seen baseball before so it was fun teaching them to hold a bat and hit a ball. They had surprisingly good hand-eye coordination. We played for about 1/2 hour until our prearranged
visit to the Gashora Genocide Memorial.

The District of Bugesera, in which Gashora is located was severely affected by the Genocide. Having a population of only 20,000 at the start of the Genocide, their were 5,180 reported deaths during the Genocide. The loss of over 1/4 of the population of the region was initially devastating but the government has put appropriate building blocks in place that over time will assist the people of Bugesera to experience better socioeconomic conditions than they had previous to the genocide. The Memorial is very somber as one might expect. There are mass Burial sites which hold the majority of the bones of the victims found in Bugesera. The most memorable items at the Memorial, however, were the piles of old clothes that were placed on benches in the entrance way. They were some if the clothes that the dead victims were found wearing. Seeing the brown crusted clothing was emotionally numbing as it brought home the gravity of the situation faced by the victims at that time.

After viewing the Memorial we returned to the worksite as we had arranged for a basketball game between a group of local youth players and some members of the DWC group. Needless to say the Gashora youth led by Steven (one the assistants working with Lama of Building Bridges Rwanda - "BBR", and a former player with the Rwandan junior national basketball team) defeated us old white people 11 - 7 in a game of half court.

We calculated that the average age of our team was was more than double the average age of the Gashoran team. It was a very good opportunity for us to reach out to another sector of the community with which we would not otherwise have had any contact.
After such a busy day there were not many people who stay up late after dinner.

Today was likely the most diverse day that we have experienced in all the trips that we have been on with DWC. The morning started like most with Dougie organizing our work detail. We were finalizing the install of the windows and doors and continuing with the exterior parging. We worked extremely hard that morning and stopped at 11 am in order for us to take a side trip to the Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology (GGAST). The trip to the school was an adventure in itself. We were all transported the 2 km by bicycles that had been outfitted with an extra padded seat over the rear tire.

Rick Henery
DWC Volunteer Participant
Rwanda, October 2013

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