Field dairy: What I did on World Humanitarian Day
by Lele Balde
Tuesday 21 August 2012 - To celebrate World Humanitarian Day, the One UN in Rwanda had organised a football game at Gihembe refugee camp. Today was the day of the big match and as a UNICEF intern I was asked to participate on behalf of UNICEF.
Unaware of what to expect I put on my UNICEF shirt and hat and got into the car for what was to be a one hour car ride to the camp. As our car pulled into the camp children were running behind the car in excitement, all I could see were bright smiles all around me. We stepped out of the vehicle and we were joined by staff from UNHCR, WFP and the South African High Commission. Following a brief introduction, we loaded a 24 seater, bus and rode 5 minutes through the camp to reach the football field. As we rode through the camp, refugees of all ages were smiling and waving at us.
When we arrived to the football field there were 12 Gihembe resident football players wearing bright red and yellow getting ready to face 12 U.N football players dressed in bright blue and white. The general excitement for the game to begin was palpable and the Gihembe residents were cheering loudly for their team. Moments after the whistle was blown it was evident that the Gihembe team had been anticipating this match and had practiced very hard. Although the U.N team tried their very best, it was clear that the U.N team was no match for the Gihembe team.
Close to 2,500 Gihembe residents were in the crowds, toddlers, children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens were clapping, cheering, dancing to support their team. This evident support from the crowd was effective, as the Gihembe team beat the UN team by 10 – 2. I must say I was thoroughly impressed by the level of fitness, sportsmanship, dedication and talent that the Gihembe team possessed. I heard whispers in the crowds that with proper training and help one of these boys could be the next Didier Drogba. Overall, it was so pleasant to see two groups of people from different walks of life brought together by a common game of football.
After the football match I met two girls called Bonita and Joyeuse, both 12 years old, who told me that they loved to go to school because they were improving their English and learning new things. We had a conversation about my life in Canada and they told me they would like to go there for school someday, and i told them that “with hard work anything is possible.”
After we said out goodbyes we headed to a meeting room and gathered for a quick lunch with all the U.N staff, volunteers and interns that had participated in today’s event. World Humanitarian Day is a day people around the world are asked to perform a humanitarian action however big or small in the spirit of people helping others and doing something good, somewhere, for someone else.
My experience at Gihembe was a bitter sweet one, because as much as it pained me to see people living in unfavourable conditions, I was given hope when I saw the residents smiling and happy. It reinforced the notion that we are all the same, but we are unfortunately not all given the same opportunities, and the ones that are lucky enough in life to be given a head start in life should use their knowledge to help those that were not as fortunate as them. Interning for UNICEF has been a rewarding experience both on a personal and professional level.