The Day I met the President….

On the 2nd of November 2013, when a good group of jolly good fellows gathered in Kigali’s main Park to board their ‘jet’ to the Pearl of Africa which hosted the Rotary International Presidential African conference (RIPAY 2013) themed ‘Taking Charge of the future’. The group had a well representation of the entire New Generations’ family in the Rwandan Rotary family with 3 Interactors, and 8 Rotaractors from the various Rotaract and Interact Clubs in Rwanda. Represented were, the Rotaract Clubs of Kigali City, KIE(Kigali Institute of Education), and SFB(School of Finance and Banking)-Kigali as well as the Interact Clubs of FAWE, Kagarama, and the newly chartered club of King David.

Team Rwanda
Team Rwanda with friends of Rwanda

It was an exciting journey as the group used a joint passport that could not allow any of them to wander off alone. On arrival, a wholesome group of Rotaractors, Rotarians and other youth (whom I prefer to call the ‘friends of Rotary’) gathered in the Ugandan capital Kampala, to honor the presence of the Rotary International President, Ron D. Burton in the hood.  It was such an amazing experience as the guests from different countries were treated to a beautiful evening at Ndere centre, a cultural centre in Kampala. Delegates were from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, United States, Burundi and our dear host country, Uganda.

The beautiful scene was crowned by different cultural performances which left the whole crowd lit up with cheerful faces and screams as the guests enjoyed their dinner.  The Master of Ceremony had rehearsed enough to leave the crowd nursing their ribs as he focused on what he does best.

The following day, being a Monday, we all assembled at Kiwuliriza Primary School, in Namuwongo, one of the suburbs of Kampala City, to kick-start the projects of the day. Shortly after we had all arrived, the Presidential convoy touched down with  President Ron and his dear wife, Jetta Burton who immediately participated in all the four  projects  of the day; Tree Planting, Malaria testing and distribution of mosquito nets and reproductive health kits by the Rotaract Club of IHSU,  Cancer screening by the Rotary Club of Kiwatule and its sponsored Rotaract clubs,  Blood donation by the Uganda Blood bank, supported by the Rotaract Clubs in Kampala,  as well as hand washing along soap-making, supported by various Rotaract Clubs in Kampala. Locals benefited from  free HIV/AIDS testing and counseling services, malaria and cancer screening for women, free family planning services and health education on hand-washing. President Burton praised the Ugandan Rotarians and Rotary actors for supporting various underprivileged groups in Uganda.

You realize it was a bunch of projects all done at the same time, so you can imagine the look of some people’s faces by the end of these projects.  By the time I realized, some jolly good fellows had started rocking the neighborhood for all sorts of snacks, water and the newest brands of juice on the Ugandan market.  Clearly, they had run out of patience as the President proceeded with his tours of the various projects.  The good news only came around when a lunch announcement was made, and the different delegates from the Rotary fraternity treated themselves to the Ugandan delicacies. Unfortunately for some of fellows who have not been so familiar with the custom lately, the long queues deterred them from reaching to the serving delicacies and they walked away on empty stomachs yet singing ‘for we are jolly good fellows .  But there was at least enough for everyone that was willing.

Immediately after the meal, we all left the project scene and headed to ‘Kati-Kati’ restaurant where we had a joint Rotaract fellowship with the Rotary International President, where we had Rtn Charity Githiji, as a Guest Speaker, under the theme, ‘Taking charge of the future personal branding’. This was  yet another experience of being a part of a crowd of Rotaractors.  And after a long debate, it was agreed that the ‘after-fellowship’ be held at ‘The Red House’, a well renowned fellowship venue for the Rotaract Club of Kyambogo.  At this house, we rocked only until 1 am when the sad news were announced that there were no more drinks left in the house. Most of the jolly good faces at the scene here suddenly turned into gloomy ones as they were given a forceful send off to their empty beds- for those who went straight to bed- we ain’t Rotarians!

On Tuesday, by 8:00 am, all delegates were assembled at Hotel Africana. The conference was graced by the presence of many dignitaries, among whom the Rotary International President, Ron. D. Burton, RI Director, RI Trustee, District Governor D9122, Emmanuel Katongore, IPDG, Geeta Manek, to mention but a few. At the end of the day is when we had a mass dinner, hosted at the D9122 District Governor, Emmanuel Katongore’s residence in honor of the President Ron D. Burton. Here, we were treated to a fun-filled evening by the Jazzing and dancing Rotarians with Her Royal Highness, the Queen of Buganda Kingdom, Her Royal Highness, Nabagereka Sylvia Nagginda  , as the Chief Guest at the dinner.

Again, many of us could not do much to avoid hitting the Kampala nightlife, despite the cold chills. So, we all hit the Amnesia night club in town. Trust me this worked out a good revenge as we only retired at the mercy of the early morning cleaners who had to start their day’s work. While some of us enjoyed the rhythms of the Kampala nightlife, some of us could not keep away from the comfort of the self-founded beds at the nightclub, even despite the thrilling loud music.  Thank God there was no work the following day, otherwise, as you read this many of us would be jobless because just like everything comes to an end, the end of the conference to many meant the beginning of a sleeping episode…The early birds only woke up at 11 am and started packing their bags for yet the journey back home and by 7:00am, they were on the bus back to the country of 100 hills. As for me and my International Service Director, we had unfinished business to settle. .Don’t shoot! It was all at Rotary grounds.

The following day, some of us had the honor of attending a fellowship chaired by the President Ron. D Burton himself at the Rotary Club of Muyenga, Kampala, a club that boasts the biggest membership in Africa. It’s a true story, these good fellows barely know each other, despite the fact that they meet every other Wednesday of the week and it was indeed a great crowd for just the membership of the club.  This was one of the very last of President Burton’s activities in the Pearl of Africa, before he departed.

And at the end of it all, I for one i must admit that this was a dream come true for me. Courtesy to the selfless men and women of big hearts in the Rotary family of Rwanda.

Proudly belonging!

With President Ron. D. Burton
With President Ron. D. Burton,(at the Rotary Club – Muyenga)