A few weekends ago, we celebrated the new grade at the Enrichment Year picnic at the nearby lake. Lake Mugesera is a stunning lake that we can see in the distance between the hills from many places on ASYV’s campus. We began the 7 kilometer (4.3 mile) walk at 7:00am following breakfast at the dining hall.
I brought my portable speakers to energize the kids (thanks for sending them to me, Mom!), listening to a mix of King James (the most popular Rwandan pop artist) and American pop music they were familiar with – dancing, singing, and chatting for the two hour walk. It was really unifying and motivating to walk together as a family, dancing as the time passed quickly as we walked through small villages and made our way to the lake.
The lake was beautiful. A few girls in my family had been to a lake before – mostly those who live in the western province near Lake Kivu – but most had never seen a large body of water, and almost none had ever been on a boat before.
We were greeted by local children (who began following us roughly halfway through our walk). These children were so joyful, and loved being photographed (then giggled and smiled so big when they saw their picture on a camera), and were AWESOME dancers, and yet it was striking how visible their extreme poverty was. They were getting water from the dirty lake for drinking, their clothes were torn and dirty, they had obvious signs of major medical problems (malnutrition, eye issues, chronic respiratory distress), and yet the just wanted to share their happiness.
The most difficult part of the day was when the children had to stand nearby behind the fence while we ate. We were not allowed to give our food to the local kids, despite their desperate looks of hunger. Once we all had finished our food, they were given our leftovers. While this is likely far more food than they were used to, it was heartbreaking to watch (it is difficult to even put into words). Not just for me, but for my girls as well. At Monday night’s family time, each girl in my family shared a little about her experience at the lake. While they all talked about what a wonderful time they had, but how hard it was to see how poor the local kids were. One of my girls said, “The local kids, seeing how little they have, it makes me want to work hard and then help people who need it.” Healing the heart and healing the world, that is the goal of ASYV. transforming the most vulnerable into socially responsible citizens. And here it is at work.
One of my unofficial roles here at the village is to help with photography when Bruce – a recent ASYV grad who is the photography/videography intern – is not around. In order to capture the experience, I was on all of the boat rides with the families – 9 boat rides to be exact. So except for the period of torrential downpour, and lunch and dancing with the local kids, I was on the boat for most of the day.
While I missed spending the day with my girls, it was a really special experience to get a snapshot of each family (both literally and metaphorically) during their 20 minute boat ride.
Some were much more talkative than others, some sang songs the whole ride, others enjoyed their surroundings and feeling the water. Regardless of whether they sang gospel songs, Rollin’ on the River (Alan), Waka Waka, or Ludacris (Max, obviously), one thing was universal – all of children in the 8 families are filled with so much happiness and joy.
We returned back to the village at 6:30pm, so after a full day picnic (definitely the longest picnic I have ever attended lasting over 11 hours), we celebrated Shelby’s birthday with banana bread, Milano cookies, and a celebration in Rubona (the local village a 20-minute walk away).
Check out the beautiful pictures from Lake Mugesera and the joy from the kids – both ASYV and local below: