On Thursday June 16 2022, at its premises Jesuit Urumuri Centre hosted an event to celebrate the International Day of the African Child, the 500th anniversary of Ignatius of Loyola’s conversion and the 20th anniversary of African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN). It was in collaboration with AJAN that JUC invited members of AHAPPY Generation clubs in 12 partner schools to exhibit the knowledge they have gained from learning from the program’s manual through plays, songs or poems. At the conclusion of their exhibitions 3 of the most impressive displays were given awards.
Present at this event were the regional superior of Jesuit Rwanda Burundi Fr. Fabien Gasigwa, SJ, JUC director Fr. Ernest Ngiyembere, SJ, President of the JUC board of directors (BOD) Fr.Augustin Karekezi, SJ, member of JUC BOD Fr. Innocent Rugaragu, SJ, Fr. Celestin Pierre Musoni, SJ, as well as 2 mentors and 5 students each from Groupe Scolaire Kabuga Catholique, GS Kinyinya, GS Karembure, GS Remera Catholique, GS EPA St. Michel, GS Kagugu Catholique, GS Nduba Catholique, GS St.Vincent Pallotti Gikondo, GS St. Famille, GS Gahanga 1, GS Gihogwe Catholique and GS Kabuye Catholique.
As he gave opening remarks of the celebration, Fr. Ernest spoke to beneficiaries of the AHAPPY generation program about the Ignatian conversion and founding of the Society of Jesus. After this he told them about how AJAN came about: “I am not sure if you are aware but in the late 90s, many people lost their lives to HIV/ AIDS pandemic. This was very concerning for the Society of Jesus, and African Jesuits came together to form what they named African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN). Since then, the organization has advocated and supported those infected and affected by the disease while at the same time teaching its prevention to others through projects such as the AHAPPY Generation Program”.
Fr. Ernest went on to wish the students a happy Day of the African Child urging them to strive for the protection of their futures. He told them that they all have a right to live and anyone that would jeopardize this right does not love them; “Please stay away from anyone that would send you into pre-marital sexual relations, into abusing drugs and into anything that would lead to HIV infections. Take charge of your futures. Fight temptations. Be witnesses to others. Teach your peers the good that you have gained from being in AHAPPY clubs. Like Ignatius of Loyola, be encouraged to be friends of Jesus, for the greater glory of God.”
Students then showcased their different talents in-front of their peers and the judging panel which included JUC assistant director Mr. Pierre Nyandwi, SJ, JUC Communications Officer Ms Henriette Mushimiyimana and JUC Front desk officer Ms Ghilaine Ursulle Kirabirwa. Students incorporated topics in the AHAPPY manual displaying the consequences of making poor decisions at a young age.
The awarding ceremony of the event soon followed where Fr. Fabien awarded the 3 winning schools of the day as well the 3 winning essay writers from AJAN essay competitions run in March 2022. After this Fr. Fabien delivered his speech during which he mentioned 3 things that students need to ponder on. The first is that God is the reason everyone had made it to the event. He is the reason one wakes up in the morning, why one gets nourishment for the body and why one has a shelter above their head and clothing on their body. He followed this by asking for anyone to lead a thanksgiving song, which all attendees then sang along to.
The second thing he shared was that love is the power that connects everyone to everyone; “Love is very essential for any kind of joy and progress in our lives. I pray that you will grow older loving one another and as St. Augustine once said ‘love one another and then do anything else that you like’” In concluding his speech, the 3rd thing that Fr. Fabien said was that he called on them to practice selflessness and help each other. He spoke of Klepper Ivan Mugisha, the winner of the essay competitions, as an example of selflessness saying that if he hadn’t had his peers to encourage and compete with him, he would not have won.
Reactions from mentors and student beneficiaries towards the program were very positive. Here is what they had to share;
“The AHAPPY program has helped us to parent these children. Topics like “I am a beloved creature of God” are so essential as they remind our children to honor their bodies and to not be distracted by anything in their quest to build successful futures.” ~ Mrs Claudine Mbazumutima, mentor GS St. Famille.
“There is no way to measure the impact of the program because it is great. Our school is situated next to a building notoriously known as a hang out spot for drug addicts and we were slowly losing our students to this group of people. Thankfully AHAPPY was the tool we needed to pull them back to us and save their lives”. ~ Mr. Valens Habimana, mentor, GS Nduba Catholique.
“The AHAPPY club taught us that our bodies are the temple of God. Personally I drank a lot of alcohol and even almost tried heroine in the past. Since joining, I don’t even want to set my eyes on those substances” ~ Christian Manzi, student, GS St. Famille.
“The AHAPPY club helped to gain confidence in public. In the past I could not share my opinions with my peers due to shyness, today the same people commend me for my public speaking skills.” ~ Rachael Usanase, student, GS Kagugu Catholique.
“The AHAPPY club has made me aware of my capabilities in life. It has boosted my confidence in a major way. Additionally, winning the essay competition has been the greatest encouragement.” Ivan Klepper Mugisha, student. GS St. Vincent Pallotti Gikondo.
This celebration brings to a close the initial phase of the implementation of the program in schools, as all activities planned have been successfully carried out.
Watch the winning performance of the day below;
Special thanks to Mrs Marie Ange Nsabimana and Mr. Victor Manirakiza, SJ, from the Jesuit Rwanda-Burundi regional offices for their tremendous help in seeing the success of this event.
JUC Communication Officer