With all the preparations leading up to the handover ceremony, there was a lot at stake and a lot of nerves. While Emma and Patrick had done a handful of latrine handover ceremonies over the years and were comfortable speaking to large crowds, this would be my first time delivering a speech to an audience of over one hundred adults.
Upon arrival to Awach P7, we immediately noticed that the teachers had organized all the students outside to take part in the speech ceremony. While we were not opposed to the idea, we (myself and the GDPU team) did not inform the head teacher to remove the students from their classes. While we attempted to make the event inclusive to the students, microphone troubles prevented us; as a result, the students were sent back to their classrooms and the parents and guests took their seats.
The handover ceremony began with the recital of the national anthem of Uganda. With over 100 guests in attendance and a speech panel of over a dozen, we were able to proceed. Emma led the introduction, delivering a beautiful speech on behalf of GDPU as well as a speech written by Iain on behalf of Advocacy Project. Speeches were then delivered by guests including the head of the DEO who happens to be from Awach as well as many members of the GDPU board. Joyce, the head teacher, gave a heart-warming speech, thanking all involved who were able to make her dream a reality possible. I followed Joyce’s speech, giving thanks to the contractor and builders, faculty at Awach P7, Joyce, and the GDPU, and an overall appreciation of gratitude to the parents and all those involved for allowing me to be a part of this latrine project and for welcoming me with kindness and open arms.
After the speech ceremony, it was time to visit the latrines. We all made our way from our seats down the newly cemented path which lead to the girl’s new latrine to the ribbon cutting. Two members from Gulu’s District Education Office and myself cut the ribbon, which was followed by cheering and a rush to get a first glance at the latrines and the changing room. Parents and guests were ecstatic, thanking Emma, Patrick, and myself for a job well done. After the ribbon cutting ceremony, we made our way back to our seats for a special surprise.
Joyce and the faculty at Awach P7 had arranged a cultural dancing show for all the guests as a sign of gratitude. For the next thirty means leading up to lunch, we were presented with beautiful dancing, singing, and even a Boy Scout and Girl Scout presentation. As I sat in amazement and admiration of the performances, I came to see how incredibly vital not only the latrines were, but the involvement of the parents were, truly bringing together the community for a day I will never forget.
After the cultural dancing show, it was time to indulge in our delicious lunch. For the first time in WASH project history, it was not just the guests who were treated to meat, but all the students as well! Beef, posho, beans, and soda were served to over 1,500 people, a feat that was not easy to pull off, but we were able to make it happen! The meat was a very special treat for the students, especially considering the fact they are only served beans, posho, and porridge everyday at school and meat is expensive and often served only for special occasions.
After lunch, I connected my phone to the speaker and put on some local Acholi music. Everyone got up off their chairs and started singing and dancing, it was a sight to be seen. While my dancing skills are fair to say the least, I got up, tried to copy the moves, and got everyone clapping and laughing. During the dancing, Joyce made an announcement that there were some gifts for me. I was gifted not one, but two cakes, a beautiful chicken, and a bag full of delicious mangoes. Saying farewell to the faculty, students, and parents of Awach P7 was incredibly difficult, but I hope to return next year as well as keep in touch with Joyce to get updates on how the latrines are functioning.
I will always value my time with GDPU and Awach P7. Thank you Advocacy Project for making this all possible.
Posted By Kyle Aloof
Posted Aug 7th, 2022