Sunday, February 13, 2011
Today, in a small town in South Africa outside of Capetown, Adrien Niyonshuti a young Rwandan man became the first Rwandan ever to secure an Olympic bid in cycling. Adrien is one of the original members of Team Rwanda . Just under five years ago, Adrien was a teenager doing what most Rwandans do, hauling food. Adrien is a genocide survivor, losing six of his brothers and over 60 extended family members in the 1994 genocide. Today he stands proudly for his own personal triumph over tragedy and he stands as a light of hope for all the young men and women in Rwanda. Adrien is the quietest of heroes.
I woke up this morning at 6:00am to follow the race via Skype and email. Jock Boyer, Adrien's coach on Team Rwanda and Aimable Bayingana, the Rwandan Cycling Federation President were there to support Adrien in his race so far from his home country. Every 15 minutes I would call Jock for an update. We knew South Africa was already exempt. Adrien simply had to place in the top two of countries outside of the South African participants. Today, Adrien was second behind Namibia, today he won the chance to represent Rwanda in London in 2012.
I had sent Jock an email yesterday saying I had been praying all day and "wouldn't it be nice to have a 'bone'?" The last year has been difficult, really difficult. As with all ventures such as this we battle money, time, manpower, resources and we do it all in Africa which I believe has a multiplying factor of 40 to the difficulties. There have been times of serious frustration. The Team has struck out on its own, out from the umbrella of the founding organization, Project Rwanda. This was a mutual decision for both organizations. However, it has come with uncertainty and a bit of instability. Jock has been in Rwanda for over four years and there are days Rwanda can simply wear you down, chew you up and spit you out. There have been days, almost too many in the past month or two where we have looked at each other, seen the wear on Max and wondered in those really dark moments, is this worth it?
Today....every bit was worth it for Max and I. I can't even begin to imagine how worth it, it was for Jock who has been with Adrien since day one.
The Minister of Sport in Rwanda cried on the phone when Jock delivered the news.
This is so much bigger than any of us....this is about the hope of an entire country a country with such a hopeless past.
As I stood in the book store this afternoon looking at books in the African history section and eyeing all the books on Rwanda's catastrophic past, I started to cry. All the frustration, fear and anticipation of today just rushed to the surface and I couldn't stop crying. I am not sure why at that moment all the emotions hit like an oncoming freight train. Perhaps it's because I know how much work we have ahead of us, how much money we need to raise to give other kids in Rwanda, kids like Adrien, a shot. Adrien is a hero to the country and to the people of Rwanda and there are so many more young men and hopefully, some day women, who need to the same shot at greatness as Adrien. There's a lot of responsibility to making sure these kids get the same shot as Adrien. This is really just the beginning.
After Adrien's race I got an opportunity to talk to him. Just hearing his voice made me smile....we got our bone....God does answer prayers.