Posted: 31 August 2023
We all woke up eager to make the most of the last full day in Rwanda. There was one agenda for the morning: attending harvest day parties! To look the part, Daisy attempted to style the team with some African jewellery.
Harvest day is a yearly celebration where Rwandans get together in their villages to celebrate the first harvest of the year, by sharing the seeds of this harvest with everyone in the village, so that those who may not have harvested any grains may still have food for the season. One of the Lawyers of Hope (LOH) paralegals - Caliste invited us to the Harvest day celebrations in his village in Jabana, Kigali. The army representative for the district also attended the celebration as a distinguished guest.
As soon as we arrived, we were welcomed with singing, dance and ululation. We were entertained with song and dance for a few minutes, until Daisy had a wild idea, which she quickly whispered to the team - "let's join the dancers in their dance!" The team contemplated this for a minute and then leapt to their feet; and we danced with the dancers until everyone left the stage about ten minutes later. This was a modest gesture of appreciation to the villagers for so warmly inviting us to their celebrations; and a much needed workout after sitting in car rides all week.
We then heard speeches from various officials, including Caliste, reporting on the village's goals and performance in environmental cleanliness, security, development and agriculture. It was announced that based on these factors, the village had been voted by officials as the best village in Kigali this year.
Village representatives then presented some food items to a new refugee family from Congo who had arrived in their community a couple of months ago. The villagers had contributed the food items which included: three sacks of rice, each weighing 25 kilograms and about 12 litres of long life milk. It is customary for villagers to contribute some food items to present to a vulnerable family in their community on each Harvest day.
The children then performed a skit depicting a man in their community struggling to find some food to eat, and the children coming up with a clever idea of how to feed the man.
The ceremony ended with a shared meal - boiled maize (corn on the cob) grown in the villager's gardens and soft drinks. The villagers then continued the celebrations within their families for the rest of the day.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a nearby village to meet another member of the community and we ended up being invited to the Harvest day celebration of that village. Again, we were ushered in with song and dance, and we watched another beautiful dance performance before leaving.
In the afternoon, we attended a meeting with at least 20 LOH lawyers, where they shared some highlights and reflections of their work. Michael shared a word of encouragement, urging us all to remain committed to fighting for justice for the vulnerable in our society.
Juves - the LOH director and founder then gave a vote of thanks to each lawyer, highlighting their specific contributions to case victories. He mentioned a muslim lawyer in attendance who once learnt that LOH needed urgent help with their case load and he simply responded, "I'm a muslim, but I am willing to help". The lawyer was also serving as the photographer in our meeting.
We then had dinner with Juves and shared some reflections from our week in Rwanda before retiring to bed.