Graduation Day at ASYV was a huge success. This was the first graduating class from ASYV and one of the biggest events ever planned at the village. A huge tent was erected on the soccer field to protect guests from rain or sun and 500 chairs were delivered.
I helped with leading the graduates in their procession from the mango tree down to the soccer field. We had two different rehearsals, one with 7 different attempts to get everyone seated in the right place in the right order. I also helped with the unloading, arranging, re-arranging and re-re-arranging of said chairs.
The event, which was held Thursday January 10th, was a big production, but everything came off well. The students performed during the ceremony: singing, acting out a sketch, reading a poem, and even real-time live painting a picture. ASYV students were the MCs for the event. They all excelled, demonstrating how talented they all are and everyone was very proud.
There were speeches from the village director, the village founder (Anne Heyman), the national Minister of Education, and... President Kagame.
President Kagame's presence was a major honor. Of course, the attendance of a head of state introduces some additional security concerns. Kagame's security detail was here three days before the event, searching with what I assume are bomb-sniffing dogs, but are maybe just menacing looking German Shepherds. The security team set up a satellite dish and requested some buildings be cleared out for their operations. A new road was cleared just for the presidential motorcade. A new covered parking bay was made with a concrete foundation just one day before graduation. All of the staff here at ASYV worked pretty much around the clock for the entire week and must have been exhausted at the event.
The entire ceremony was nationally televised live, and then replayed several times. I went to Rubona, the small town about 1.3 miles away from the village (according to my Nike+) on Saturday to get some pants hemmed and buy some toilet paper (and sip a warm coke) and the small shops that had TVs were all showing the ceremony. It was an honor throughout the area to have the President in the region.
President Kagame spoke to the graduates about hearing good things about ASYV from a number of avenues, including his wife who visited in 2010 (? maybe 2009?). He congratulated them on their studies and encouraged them to use their talents to enhance the future of Rwanda.
After the event there was a 'cocktail' (which is the Rwandan word for a take-away meal, I surmise), that was 1000 cardboard boxes of food, each including samosas, fried fish, pizza slices and a meatball. All of that was prepared by the kitchen staff at ASYV, over the previous 30 hours, all while still making meals for 500 kids and all the staff 3 times a day. I'm not sure how they did it, but the effort must have been herculean. There was also warm Coca-Cola and Fanta which signifies a real event here and something I am taking quite a shine to.
Here's the graduates lined up in their nice green robes:
And heres the inaugural ASYV class of 2012 with founder Anne Heyman and President Kagame:
even more great photos of the event.
There were a few hectic moments, like when the director was signing all of the certificates for distribution to the graduates at 9:10 AM. I thought that the graduation procession started at 9, but it turned out that the event was condensed to better suit President Kagame's schedule and the procession didn't begin until 10:00 AM, so plenty of time to sign 118 documents and get them back in the correct order. Easy-peasy.
Every detail of the event worked out smoothly. The staff really thought of everything. They even rented Mushananas, traditional Rwandan formal wear, for the female 'cousins' so we'd feel more included. Here's how I looked:
After the huge graduation, anyone would think that had been enough and call it a successful day, but that was only the beginning. Since they had already rented a huge sound system, and because they wanted to congratulate the graduates, the village also hosted a concert in the amphitheater.
There were four different hip-hop acts that performed. I had an amazing time. My girls danced the entire time. It reminded me of going to a Def-Jux concert in that all the acts had the same DJ and producer and great beats laid down. Of course, I couldn't tell you how they perform as lyricists as, they all rap in Kinyarwanda, but I can say they had flow. Jay Polly and Riderman were probably the ones that drove the kids the most wild, but honestly the kids knew the words to every single song at the show and rapped along the entire time. There was so much energy in that amphitheater. I know the kids were blown away. I can't remember what my high school (R. L. Turner) did to celebrate my graduation, but I don't think they had the 4 biggest rap acts in the country come perform in the auditorium. I think I would remember that.
Here's a picture from the concert. I was pretty impressed with these Alife kicks:
So all in all, it was a great day, and a lot better than this Graduation Day.
Miss you all. More soon about running and about a little phenomenon I call 'spider bed'.