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|The school is finally completed, but this is not the end – We hoping to start the construction of a sports arena!|
Impressions haven’t settled yet. So it is not easy for me to translate feelings into text. But I will give it a try because a truly joyful month is behind us!
On Saturday, September 24th, we marked the completion of the construction of the second building of our Technical School in Kivumu, Rwanda. The Archbishop of Sarajevo Cardinal Vinko Puljić himself attended the blessing of the new building and was welcomed with great joy in our mountainous African village.
Besides the Cardinal, many other guests were present. The following people also came for the event: fra Nikica Vujica, the economo of the Bosnian Franciscan Province, acting as the representative of the Bosnian Provincial; Bojan Ivezić, the Cardinal’s secretary; Rev. Marinko Filipović, the parish priest of Kopanice; Sister Miroslava Klarić, a Franciscan nun from Zagreb; Sisters Mirabilis and Samuela, Franciscan nuns from Congo; Sisters Marta and Bogdana, Daughters of Divine Charity from Uganda; Sister Agneza, a Daughter of Charity from Butare; as well as Višnja Kljajić, an architect from Belišće, living in Zagreb, who had volunteered to design the entire school compound project.
We organized a big party in the village. Cardinal Puljić celebrated the Mass and blessed our school together with the Rwandan bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege. Numerous other Franciscans and Nuns, the mayor of the nearby town of Gitarama and representatives of the Rwandan Ministry of Education were among those present.
During the mass Cardinal Puljić sent a message to the young people that this school had been built for them and that they should use it in the best possible way, which is to do their best because education and schooling would bring them a better tomorrow.
He asked them to respect every person regardless of their racial, tribal or religious background.
He expressed his pride in the fact that the people of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have demonstrated their willingness to help people in faraway Rwanda because it is Christian to spread love and help others in need.
Smaragde, the local bishop of Gitarama, expressed his gratitude for everything that has been done for his people by the missionaries, and all the people who have been with us and helping us, and he remembered the dedication and love shown by late fra Vjeko Ćurić. He was deeply moved by the fact that during the past four years we had managed to build a beautiful school that spreads over two large buildings, to furnish it and to make it into one of the most modern schools in Rwanda.
A lot of work and effort is behind us, which is even more significant when you consider that parallel with this we continued to run our programs at our other location. Meanwhile, we also built numerous auxiliary buildings and prepared warm noonday meals each day for all our staff and students. Up until now, we have had the capacity for as many as 650 students. With the construction of this new addition to the technical school, we will be able to enroll as many as 1,000 students!
Due to all this construction, during the past four years I have been not just enjoyed being director of Padri Vjeko Centre, but I have also enjoyed overseeing masonry, carpentry, plumbing, and electricity at the building site.
Everything began in late 2011 with the publication of “Our Man in Africa”, a book written by Željko Garmaz and Maja Sajler Garmaz, which tells a story of my life and missionary journey. To our great excitement, the book was received enthusiastically by the public and is being read in all parts of the world: in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Austria, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, the United States, and even Australia. In almost 6,000 homes!
All proceedings from the book’s sales were donated for the construction of the technical school by Željko and Maja. At the same time they founded the Heart for Africa Charity and started fundraising with the help of our many friends. There was an ocean of wonderful examples – donations came in from kindergartens, primary schools, high schools and university students; numerous masses were celebrated; people organized photograph exhibitions,. There were all sorts of festivities with Zumba dances and drumming performances. Cookies were baked, souvenirs from Rwanda and donated jewelry were auctioned, promotional videos were made. A retiree donated her savings. Some families, instead of buying Christmas presents, donated the money for the construction of the school. The project gave birth to so many positive stories. Thank you, everyone, for getting involved!
It was in April of 2012 that we started the construction of the first phase of the new school. By the end of that year the building was already roofed. This first phase of building spread over 800 square meters, had eleven classrooms, a computer room and a spacious yard. Since the local village doesn’t have water supply system, we also had to build huge underground and surface water tanks to be able to collect enough rainwater for our sanitary facilities.
In February of 2013 Željko, Maja and I were honoured to recieve the Pride of Croatia award for humanitarian work. Then in April of 2013 the first building of our Technical Secondary School was opened. It is one of the most modern schools in Rwanda and we started accepting students right away.
During 2015 we started the construction of the second phase of the technical school. This new addition was completed and furnished, and was officially opened on Saturday, September 24th, 2016. It spreads over 1,000 square meters, with seven additional classrooms, teacher’s offices, a library with over 12,000 books, a reading room and a big event hall, which will one day – when we get enough machines – be turned into a workshop for designers and tailors.
Here I want to acknowledge one particularly valuable donation made by an American couple, Agatha and Stephen Luczo. Thanks to them, we were able to build the second phase of our building in a very short time. As well, thanks to donations from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States, Canada, numerous European countries, and Australia, we managed to build a house for our teachers and to renovate our boarding area, which will be able to house 150 students. Students who come from places as far as 15 kilometers away live there. Many young persons, despite being eager to learn, are unable to attend our school because it is simply not possible for them to walk the many kilometers every day to get to school and to pay for transportation is financially impossible. So the dormitories are being provided for this reason.
Next to the dormitories we have also built bathrooms with a washing area and toilets. For our water supply, we dug a ditch to connect the water tanks from the new Technical Secondary School to the boarding buildings.
We also managed to build a completely new kitchen with a dining hall, where all our students will be able to eat at the same time. The existing dining hall had become too small for the current number of students, so they had to eat in shifts, which interfered with the school schedule.
The work on the designs for the school and all the accompanying buildings were donated by Višnja Kljajić, an architect from Croatia. So many other people took part in the project by helping in their own ways. It would be hard to list all their names, because this article would never end. We are eternally grateful to all of them!
You think that is all? Well, no! We will not stop now. We still need your help!
Starting from today, with your donations you will be helping us to maintain Padri Vjeko Center with its many students. You will help us to provide a warm meal for our students every day, but also to continue building – building because we hope to construct more workshops for practical lessons for our future electricians, tailors, welders, carpenters, plumbers and builders. And we hope to build basketball and volleyball playgrounds, as well as a sports arena, which would, in fact, be the second sports arena in all of Rwanda.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Edited by Valerie Kae Ken