Thoughts from Africa
My mother used to use the statement, “there are starving children in Africa” to punctuate the importance of me eating my vegetables. I now understand these words very differently after visiting this most extraordinary place.
When Wally decided to attempt summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro I just couldn’t get excited about the adventure (cold, altitude, food—all concerned me). Connecting the trip to a fundraiser for the St. Ignatius School that was being rebuilt in Rwanda gave me my passion for a trip of a lifetime. It turned out to be more than I expected in so many ways!!
Following is the first installment of learnings written after my first day…
Lesson One–It is most remarkable what a committed community can achieve together!
I am overwhelmed!
With joy and gratitude for the smiling faces and warmth I experienced at the St Ignatius School today…with sadness and pain for the story of horror I experienced at the Genocide Museum in Kigali. I am overwhelmed with the emotion of the opposite--the hopefulness and positive energy, learning and growth, faith and hope at the school; the confusion and pain, horror and amazement at evil that has happened in our world.
It was delight and wonder and amazement. I witnessed and experienced them all in the faces who welcomed me today. The children were playing as they celebrated the end of exams and prepared for their celebration of St. Ignatius Day. The secondary students had just finished exams and some were serious, most were playing basketball, volleyball and generally looking happy as students do when they are done with exams.
The elementary students were completely darling and curious and so interested. They were practicing dances and singing. The most charming were the youngest who immediately welcomed me when we entered the classroom and were thrilled to surround and hug me as I was leaving. The school just won a big award for being "the best" in an all-around assessment measuring academics, environment and outcomes. It was most impressive to see what has been built in the short time since 2008.
It is so hard to believe that all was destroyed only 21 years ago in 1994. Visiting the museum this afternoon was most sobering. I have been to the 911 Memorial and to the Oklahoma City Memorial and read and heard stories of the Holocaust in Germany. The history of genocide and the story of how atrocity is born and executed is profoundly sad beyond anything else I have experienced. It is so very hard to take in and believe.
The school is a miracle built out of the indomitable spirit of a community and dedicated individuals--just an idea in 2005, elementary started in 2008 ( now 500+ students), secondary built in 2012 with faith and vision to be sending graduates to college in a couple of years.
Thank you again to each of you who have contributed. As I sit here under the full moon in Kigali I am filled with gratitude for the abundant blessings in my life.