87.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Monday, August 8, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesBig Welcome at Airport Greets Rwanda Adventurers

Big Welcome at Airport Greets Rwanda Adventurers

Aug. 5, 2008 — Cyril King airport Tuesday afternoon was filled with bright balloons, even brighter "welcome home" signs and, brightest of all, nine students bursting with love and energy brought back home direct from Rwanda.
As they bounded into the terminal flying into the arms of waiting moms and dads, friends and siblings, they looked for all the world like the breath of spring — not like kids who had spent the last 36 or so hours cooped up in a metal fuselage.
They couldn't wait to tell everyone about everything. As the voices raised one over the other, the same sentiment was echoed: "The children, the orphans, they loved us! We loved them!"
First lady Cecile deJongh and Source publisher Shaun Pennington, who accompanied the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School students on the trip, didn't look any the worse for wear, either. They were both spiffily attired, overflowing with the same energy that filled the youngsters.
As for the trip in a few words: "Amazing," deJongh said with her wide smile. Pennington agreed: "Life-changing," she began to say, before the two of them and the kids were besieged with an onslaught of media, microphones and cameras at the ready.
Before the flight landed, the students' parents waited anxiously at the entrance to the airport's terminal. Some wore T-shirts bearing the logo "Rwanda Project 2008." All wore bright smiles as they craned their heads to get a first glimpse of the delegation walking through the gate.
"This isn't the longest my son's been away from me, but it's furthest he's ever gone," said Winifred Powell, whose son J'moi came bounding through the gate and into her arms a few minutes later. "It's always been our dream to go to Africa — when he came home a few weeks ago with his letter, I said, 'My God, you have to go.' Even though I know they were having the time of their life over there, we still missed him — when he called us from Dubai yesterday, I was screaming. I couldn't wait to see him again and really hear about the trip."
It was clear that the students had bonded over the past two weeks: after getting off the plane and greeting their family members, they all continued to huddle together and embrace one another until it was time for them to pull away from the airport.
"We all clicked easily right from the start," said Rene deJongh, Cecile's daughter. "It was like we were all brothers and sisters."
The bond between the students came in handy throughout the trip, where there was no access to television or video games, Cecile deJongh said: "The kids made up all these elaborate games that they would play together well into the night."
When asked to describe the trip, everyone said the time spent in Rwanda was "inspirational."
"I think we all brought Rwanda back with us," Pennington said. "We went to a beautiful church service on Sunday morning and we were saying that we fell in love with the community, the people — especially the children — and the food. It was wonderful."
Pennington has been documenting group's every move from the beginning of the project, and has shared their experiences with the V.I. community in her "Rwanda Journal," which has been posted on the Source over the past two weeks. In it, she details the group's work with children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, encounters with gorillas and the group's long-awaited meeting with Victoria Umuhoza, a nine-year-old Rwandan student for whom the group raised funds last December. (See "Rwanda Journal: Dreams Do Come True.")
"It was just amazing — at the orphanages the kids were so nice, and they just came up and hugged you even though they didn't even know our names," said 17-year-old Twanna Hodge.
Sterilina Warner said the experience was full of surprises: "I was amazed at the development. It was supposed to be Third World. And it was cold."
The most important thing for everybody was the Rwanda children.
"You would expect to be sympathetic to them, but they didn't want sympathy," Warner said. "They are all happy, not what you'd expect. They were so happy to see us, and they want you to be happy, too."
J'Moi Powell, a tall 16-year-old with a huge smile, said, "It was truly amazing." He continued, "It's not often you see how working together you can accomplish so much. We did our best and I feel we accomplished a lot. I am thinking about going back. There's lots of entrepreneur opportunities there now."
Asked about visiting the famed silver-backed gorillas, Powell paused. He was silent. Then he took a deep breath.
"I don't know if I can tell you," he said. "They were right close to us, like you are from me. About two feet. I felt comfortable with them, very comfortable."
Artist and June graduate Sharee Miller got to paint the mural she had planned.
"I just did what I felt, I painted the animals, the gorillas," she said. "The children were so happy to see us. We were all happy."
Miller's mural can be seen on the Source's Rwanda journal.
Just when the excitement had abated a bit, Gov. John deJongh Jr. arrived to greet his immediate family, Rene and Cecile, and their colleagues.
"In terms of education, I think you all came back with an experience that will be part of your life," the governor said.
The biggest challenge was leaving their new friends after working with them for two weeks, Cecile said, and Rene agreed: "There were definitely some kids we wanted to take home with us."
Pennington noted the similarities between Rwanda and her homeland.
"We have a lot to learn from Rwanda," she said. "They have the same kind of straightforward government that we have. It was the most incredible experience I've ever had. I think we feel a part of Rwanda."
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
Aug. 5, 2008 -- Cyril King airport Tuesday afternoon was filled with bright balloons, even brighter "welcome home" signs and, brightest of all, nine students bursting with love and energy brought back home direct from Rwanda.
As they bounded into the terminal flying into the arms of waiting moms and dads, friends and siblings, they looked for all the world like the breath of spring -- not like kids who had spent the last 36 or so hours cooped up in a metal fuselage.
They couldn't wait to tell everyone about everything. As the voices raised one over the other, the same sentiment was echoed: "The children, the orphans, they loved us! We loved them!"
First lady Cecile deJongh and Source publisher Shaun Pennington, who accompanied the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School students on the trip, didn't look any the worse for wear, either. They were both spiffily attired, overflowing with the same energy that filled the youngsters.
As for the trip in a few words: "Amazing," deJongh said with her wide smile. Pennington agreed: "Life-changing," she began to say, before the two of them and the kids were besieged with an onslaught of media, microphones and cameras at the ready.
Before the flight landed, the students' parents waited anxiously at the entrance to the airport's terminal. Some wore T-shirts bearing the logo "Rwanda Project 2008." All wore bright smiles as they craned their heads to get a first glimpse of the delegation walking through the gate.
"This isn't the longest my son's been away from me, but it's furthest he's ever gone," said Winifred Powell, whose son J'moi came bounding through the gate and into her arms a few minutes later. "It's always been our dream to go to Africa -- when he came home a few weeks ago with his letter, I said, 'My God, you have to go.' Even though I know they were having the time of their life over there, we still missed him -- when he called us from Dubai yesterday, I was screaming. I couldn't wait to see him again and really hear about the trip."
It was clear that the students had bonded over the past two weeks: after getting off the plane and greeting their family members, they all continued to huddle together and embrace one another until it was time for them to pull away from the airport.
"We all clicked easily right from the start," said Rene deJongh, Cecile's daughter. "It was like we were all brothers and sisters."
The bond between the students came in handy throughout the trip, where there was no access to television or video games, Cecile deJongh said: "The kids made up all these elaborate games that they would play together well into the night."
When asked to describe the trip, everyone said the time spent in Rwanda was "inspirational."
"I think we all brought Rwanda back with us," Pennington said. "We went to a beautiful church service on Sunday morning and we were saying that we fell in love with the community, the people -- especially the children -- and the food. It was wonderful."
Pennington has been documenting group's every move from the beginning of the project, and has shared their experiences with the V.I. community in her "Rwanda Journal," which has been posted on the Source over the past two weeks. In it, she details the group's work with children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, encounters with gorillas and the group's long-awaited meeting with Victoria Umuhoza, a nine-year-old Rwandan student for whom the group raised funds last December. (See "Rwanda Journal: Dreams Do Come True.")
"It was just amazing -- at the orphanages the kids were so nice, and they just came up and hugged you even though they didn't even know our names," said 17-year-old Twanna Hodge.
Sterilina Warner said the experience was full of surprises: "I was amazed at the development. It was supposed to be Third World. And it was cold."
The most important thing for everybody was the Rwanda children.
"You would expect to be sympathetic to them, but they didn't want sympathy," Warner said. "They are all happy, not what you'd expect. They were so happy to see us, and they want you to be happy, too."
J'Moi Powell, a tall 16-year-old with a huge smile, said, "It was truly amazing." He continued, "It's not often you see how working together you can accomplish so much. We did our best and I feel we accomplished a lot. I am thinking about going back. There's lots of entrepreneur opportunities there now."
Asked about visiting the famed silver-backed gorillas, Powell paused. He was silent. Then he took a deep breath.
"I don't know if I can tell you," he said. "They were right close to us, like you are from me. About two feet. I felt comfortable with them, very comfortable."
Artist and June graduate Sharee Miller got to paint the mural she had planned.
"I just did what I felt, I painted the animals, the gorillas," she said. "The children were so happy to see us. We were all happy."
Miller's mural can be seen on the Source's Rwanda journal.
Just when the excitement had abated a bit, Gov. John deJongh Jr. arrived to greet his immediate family, Rene and Cecile, and their colleagues.
"In terms of education, I think you all came back with an experience that will be part of your life," the governor said.
The biggest challenge was leaving their new friends after working with them for two weeks, Cecile said, and Rene agreed: "There were definitely some kids we wanted to take home with us."
Pennington noted the similarities between Rwanda and her homeland.
"We have a lot to learn from Rwanda," she said. "They have the same kind of straightforward government that we have. It was the most incredible experience I've ever had. I think we feel a part of Rwanda."
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.