On the 2nd of November 2013, a good group of jolly good fellows gathered in Kigali’s Nyabugogo International Airport (don’t Google that) to board their ‘jet’ to the Uganda which hosted the Rotary International Presidential African conference (RIPAY), themed ‘Taking Charge of the future’.
The group had a representation of the New generations’ family in Rwanda with 3 Interactors, and 8 Rotaractors from the various Rotaract and Interact Clubs in Rwanda. Represented were, the Rotaract Clubs of Kigali City, KIE, and SFB-Kigali as well as the Interact Clubs of FAWE, Kagarama, and the newly chartered club of King David. It was an exciting journey as the group used a joint passport that could not allow any of them to wander off alone leaving the others behind.
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, Benin 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 Rotaract Club of Kiwatule and its sponsored Rotaract clubs, Blood donation by the Uganda Blood bank (this one we successfully missed), 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 under privileged groups in Uganda.
You realize it was a bunch of projects all done at the same time, so you can imagine the look on some people’s faces by the end of these projects. 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 tables 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 RI 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 known fellowship venue for the Rotaract Club of Kyambogo. At this house, we rocked only until 1 am when the sad news was announced that there were no more drinks left in the house. Most of the jolly good faces 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 RI President, Ron. D. Burton, RI Director, RI Trustee Sam Owor, District Governor D9211, Emanuel Katongole, IPDG, Geeta Manek, to mention but a few. At the end of the day is when we had a mass dinner, hosted at the D9211 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 night life, despite the cold chills. So, we all hit the Galaxy 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. They sent us out into the morning rain. While some of us enjoyed the rhythms of the Kampala night life, others could not keep away from the comfort of the self-made beds at the night club (pool tables, bar counter and DJ’s turn table) 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 7:00pm, they were on the bus back to the country of 1000 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.
All in all, its an occasion that seems to only come once in a long time, if not in a lifetime, and it was an honor to be part of it this year. Cheers to the Rotary family in Rwanda, the jolly good fellows that made it the dream to many a reality to a few.
The RCKC exchange banner that some of you call pendant now proudly sits somewhere at Rotary International Headquarters. Beat that- aah!