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Saturday, 30 June 2007 Written by fra Ivica Perić

tribal danceSaturday, 23rd of June 2007, was a big day for both our school and the parish of Kivumu. It was the day of the school! Thursday was Vjeko’s Name day and we chose the following Saturday as a celebration.  Everyone preferred this instead of the anniversary of Vjeko’s death which still brings feelings of sadness and regret.

Preparations lasted for weeks since everybody wanted to present something of importance and something which would demonstrate the variety of skills which the students have learnt. Masons worked hard to build a little house with a lovely environment. Carpenters made a lot of furniture. Tailors sewed beautiful clothes for the modelling show that would follow. I was presented with a traditional African shirt and trousers, and everybody said I looked just fine wearing them. As this was a change from my usual T-shirts and jeans I suppose they were right.

studentsIt was so thrilling to observe the preparation, the excitement, the commitment.  Whether sewing or sawing, dancing or drumming everywhere there was the buzz of preparation and nothing is so special in rural Africa as this excitement before a feast. Hearts were beating faster and happier.  When we killed a cow on Friday this was a kind of highlight. Many of these children cannot afford to eat meat in their homes, so meat is associated with a really special time. Some were so excited they could not sleep the night before the party.  Many of you might remember such sleepless nights when waiting for Santa Claus or before a wedding!!!  Such is the anticipation that the thoughts of good food, good time and happy celebrations birthed in these young Rwandans. Shocking as it may seem in this era of the 21st century the fact is that many of the families in our parish do not eat every day.  Some eat once or twice a week.

studentsNow that we have started serving lunch in our school everyday there is a “rumour” that our children are the best fed in the area. They actually eat every day.  One can feel very ashamed talking or writing such facts when one has been accustomed to eating every day for the whole of a life time as it is not just or right that we should be part of such inequality and injustice. As a result of the daily food our children are also turning up to school more regularly.  Formerly they often used to get sick from the weakness caused by hunger which in its turn also caused low resistance to illness. “Why do you go to school every day?” “ Because we eat lunch!”  Is this not unbelievable in our day and age.

To get back to our feast day! The official beginning was at 9a.m when we celebrated Holy Mass.  However, many hours before that the children got up to prepare the meat, rice, potatoes, carrots, beans, salad. What a DAY. Mass was celebrated by a Rwandese diocesan priest. Students prepared all the songs in Kinyarwanda, French and English. Rwandan and most African children whom I know speak and sing in many languages and they love to show their knowledge - like the rest of us!

In his sermon the priest spoke about Vjeko and listed many of the deeds and sacrifices which Vjeko carried out for this country of Rwanda. The preacher laid special emphasis on the example of Vjeko’s life and death both of which witnessed to perfect love and to the ultimate gift of self to others. He invited the students to take Vjeko as a model of  service, of love, of self sacrifice and made a connection between this life of Vjeko and the need to study well, in order to serve family and nation in the future. It was an inspiring talk and I hope and believe the students were moved. Like St. Francis Vjeko moves in mysterious and great ways since his death as well as during his life.

After Mass there was an official tour of the Centre for our guests. They were able to see for themselves the many activities that go on. They also saw all of our machines being operated as our students were working on them showing what can be done. We had a really large number of guests, over 400 invited and then the numbers of people who turn up anyway just to see and enjoy.

german AmbassadorWhen the tour was over we continued with the programme of singing and dancing. In addition we had acrobats and clowns from Danko’s school. When such performances are going on the participation of the audience is so active, so loud, so full of laughter and joining in that it is quite special. Amongst our special guests we were very happy to welcome the German Ambassador, his Croatian wife (from Sarajevo) and their five year old son Jakov. Jakov was quite a star. A little white kid he was of special interest to our children who wanted to touch him and see him up close! At one point as Jakov got a bit scared I had to chase other kids away with a stick!!!!

Now the multitude had to be fed and there were no miracles! We fed the 400 invited and all the students and still some observers went without food and these were sad. Everybody who entered had a ticket. This was well organised. We really could do nothing about all the people from all around the parish who were simply coming to look but who were not part of our celebration. When the long awaited lunch had been served and people were “satisfied”, there were more games, competitions, and “prizes” of notebooks, address books, pencils, crosses, rosaries and such like. Whether winning a match box or a gold cup the smile of happiness seems the same the world over. It was so lovely watching our children enjoy themselves and at the end of the day they said “We hope we shall enjoy next year as much”.

Father Vjeko Center

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