Uganda – Graduation

3 12 2013

Friday was graduation day! A ridiculously early start as the ceremony started at 9 and there was lots of security to get through first – by this point we were aware of the terror alert and so I think all the bag searches, armed guards and metal detectors actually made us feel safer.

We got in the room the ceremony was to be held in, and it was beautiful! It was decorated like a wedding reception, chair covers, centrepieces, everything!

What was weird was how the seating was organised. The room was in approximately 4 sections, front right – graduates, front left – sponsors (and us), back left – project works, other representatives (even DHL were there for all their work in delivering letters between children and supporters!), and back right, caregivers. The word “parent” wasn’t heard the whole day, there are so many different family combinations and dynamics, these students were brought up by all sorts of relatives, so the word for the whole day was “caregiver”.

It was ridiculous that we should have better seats than the graduates own families. But I guess that’s the way the whole week went, white people get treated like celebrities – kinda hard to handle occasionally.

The ceremony started with the graduates processing in while a group of kids from a Compassion project played To God be the Glory. There was also a group of kids from another Compassion project who did a dance as part of the entertainment – it was great to see how Compassion involved these kids, hopefully it’ll inspire them to work hard so that one day they can attend the ceremony as graduates themselves!

I scribbled down a few key quotes from the different talks again:

  • “Not everyone who is in a leadership position is leading” – Herbert
  • “Leadership is not about serving oneself, leadership is about serving others” – Herbert
  • “Leadership is an important combination of strategy and character, but if you must be without one, be without strategy”
  • “I believe that one day a formerly sponsored child will lead his or her nation” – Herbert
  • “Once Compassion, always Compassion” – Herbert
  • “Hope is rooted in faith”
  • “Our potential is God’s gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to Him”
  • HHH Leadership
    • Head (not empty headed)
    • Heart (Psalms, David led with his)
    • Hands (use the skills you have)

We heard from the Pastor of a church in Florida who sponsored over 2000 children, 700 of which were in the US, and also sponsored 7 LDP students, some of which were in that graduation ceremony.

As the students were called up in groups to receive their graduation certificates, they were also presented with a towel with the Compassion logo embroidered on it. This was to remind them that whilst they are leaders, they are servant leaders.

Also in the entertainment were an acapella group called Canaan Gents. These guys were phenomenal. Beautiful five part harmonies. They were even pulled up at the end of the ceremony to sing again even though they were on their way out of the building! Following the ceremony we all had lunch at our tables, chicken and rice for me, and then there was a cake buffet – what a great idea!

Of the 123 graduates, 10 were presented with awards for being “outstanding” – one of these was Edith, who I’d met on Wednesday, although her university graduation was on the same day, and so she wasn’t there. Another was Justina, who was also sponsored by someone in the UK. I found her afterwards and asked her to write a message in one of the programmes and I’d try to get it to her sponsor. A few of the other UK sponsored graduates gave me letters for their sponsors.

Later, we were sitting on the minibus in crazy heat waiting to go, no one really knew why we hadn’t left, just that we were boiling. Some people got a bit restless, and then, just when it was getting unbearable, Janat, who I’d met on Thursday, appeared at the minibus window and gave me a photo of herself for her sponsor, and gave me a bracelet as a souvenir and thank you. Ridiculously touching and humbling.

When we got back to the hotel we had a couple of hours to ourselves before dinner, so I put a pair of trousers on having worn skirts all week, and went for a walk around the hotel grounds. It contained a marina, and sat on the edge of Lake Victoria, so there was plenty to see. And to be honest, I could have just sat looking at those palm trees for hours and been happy!

We had our meal at the hotel restaurant again and then had a briefing ready for the next day when the sponsors would meet their kids! There were an awful lot of questions, they were all clearly excited and nervous, and wanting to do everything absolutely correctly!

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