The annual picnic for the Enrichment Year (1st year) students is an event that everyone at Agahozo-Shalom looks forward to throughout the entire first term. It turned out to be the perfect way to observe the end of grading week and commemorate all of the achievements of the students, faculty and staff.  When the day finally arrived, students were beyond thrilled to finally have the opportunity to retreat away from the Village for the day and head down to one of the local lakes.  Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills, but many locals consider it to be the land of a thousand hills and lakes. 

The day began around 7:45am, after a slight delay due to the sporadic torrential downpours – it is rainy season after all. The entire Ishema grade gathered at the gate to the Village with their family mamas, Rwandan big brothers and sisters, long-term volunteer cousins, representatives from the kitchen staff, informal education, and other Village members. Together the group began trekking toward their destination - Lake Mugesera, which is easily seen from every part of the Village.  The walk took nearly two hours and was long and meandering, down muddy, rutted dirt roads, past the nearby town of Rubona, through fields of banana trees and maize, past innumerable cows and chickens.  Students greeted the local residents as we walked, saying good morning and walking hand-in-hand with young children who were eager to practice their English, and join the group on the excursion.  When the group arrived at the bank of Lake Mugesera, the cousins led everyone in a series of interactive games. The students laughed and played on the banks of the lake, enjoying one another’s company, throwing soccer balls around and engaging the local kids who eagerly participated alongside the Agahozo-Shalom students. 

While the students played, the kitchen staff lit a fire and put a pot of special occasion meat stew on to simmer. All into the morning the students played, relaxed on the grass, and took boat rides across the lake, which for many was their first time ever in a boat. One student admitted in a proud whisper that she managed to take the boat ride three times and that this was her first opportunity to have such an experience.  Everyone feasted on rice, beans, fried potatoes, the meat stew, homemade juice, and candies for lunch.

Students expressed that the picnic, “was very, very nice … the best day.” On the walk back to the Village, students conversed at length with each other and with the staff. Many taught the cousins traditional songs in Kinyarwanda, and the melody of Michael Jackson songs, “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias and “Lean on Me” could be heard echoing along the long line of Agahozo-Shalom trekkers.  The day as a whole was a wonderful success. Students arrived back at the Village tired and happy, feeling appreciated and special for having been treated to such a unique experience, given such attention from so many members of staff and being the recipients of such a festive day and celebratory meal.  After a successful first term at Agahozo-Shalom, everyone deserved to rejoice and commemorate all that had been achieved.  

Submitted by long-term volunteer Shira Liff-Grief, edited by NY staff