It was a warm, sunny, Sunday morning last weekend with not a cloud in the sky, and dozens of Agahozo-Shalom students were gathered in anticipation for a short bus ride to nearby Rwamagana. The buses were running every 15 minutes, beginning at 8am, shuttling students, their sack lunches, water, and hats, proudly wearing their uniforms to the local district championship sports competition. Wishes of good luck and expressions of excitement were voiced to athletes who piled onto the buses alongside their fans as they made the journey together singing and chanting a medley of much loved American and Kinyarwanda pop songs. 

The first game of the day began promptly at 10:30am with the Agahozo-Shalom girls’ basketball team playing against the Rwamagana home team. Our small band of supporters from Agahozo-Shalom were vastly outnumbered by the home team supporters, but the ASYV cheers, singing and enthusiastic dancing on the sidelines drew attention and stirred excitement among all ASYV students and athletes in attendance. 

It was a close game, with mere incremental differences in points between the teams at any given point throughout the competition. Finally, as the game drew to a close in the fourth quarter, our Agahozo-Shalom girls drew a lead and with the final blow of the whistle, WON. The final score was ASVY 30 - Rwamagana 21. The Agahozo-Shalom girls’ basketball had won its first ever district championship!

The day continued with our boys’ basketball and boys’ volleyball teams competing in side-by-side competitions, each vying for a district championship cup of their own. The boys’ basketball game ensued much like the girls with the teams struggling for points, remaining neck in neck for much of the game. As the fourth quarter drew to a close, the chanting from the crowd became increasingly deafening. Our Agahozo-Shalom boys held their own but were slowly overtaken by the local Rwamagana team. At the final whistle, the score was ASYV 58 - Rwamagana 62. Our three-year run as district champions in boys’ basketball had, to the deep disappointment of players, coaches and students alike, unfortunately come to an end.  

With the loss in boys’ basketball weighing heavily on all Agahozo-Shalom attendees, the attention turned to the boys volleyball, which was deep into its fourth set. Both hope and excitement were in the air. Having lost two sets, the pressure was on! Without a win, all would be lost. The boys’ volleyball team delivered a swift win in their fourth set, only to begin a high pressure fifth for the final victory. With the score standing at 2-2, the game could have gone either way. Having won one other district championship in previous years, our boys were eager to earn this title again. As the set progressed the score remained extremely close. In the end, they were victorious and Agahozo-Shalom took home two district championships including the first ever in Agahozo-Shalom history for a female team!

In the coming weeks, our district champions will continue and compete in the championship round for the entire Eastern province. As the competitions get more advanced, the teams they meet will be increasingly tough. We wish them all the best and look forward to supporting them in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for an update!

Submitted by long-term volunteer Shira Liff-Grieff