My name is Odonie, but my family and friends call me Lina. I am 9 years old and live in Gisagara District in the Southern Province of Rwanda.
The birthday celebrations in my area depend on what day it is and what your family can afford. Some people can cook and invite everyone to come share a meal, others cannot really throw a big party. My family has always showed me love and made me feel special. It’s the day I eat a lot of food. I enjoy beef, rice, chips and sauce which I share with friends. Sometimes, they offer me biscuits, lollipops and other candy.
Overall my birthday is the highlight of the entire year. When it happens during school days, I receive beautiful birthday notes from my classmates, they write a big Happy Birthday Lina on the blackboard, draw flowers and candies. I smile the whole day.
It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen on my birthday this year because most of the time it’s a surprise. But I know for sure I will have a cake – my grandmother promised to buy one for me. As it will be school day, my classmates will sing me Happy Birthday and my parents will prepare a special dinner for me and friends.
Rwanda has endured horrors of genocide. Most of my friends don’t have grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles as a result. It makes me sad. I am lucky I was born after this and come from a community where people love each other.
Gisagara is a beautiful place; it’s green and hilly. People are mostly farmers. They cultivate peanuts, beans, maize, sorghum and rice. They also farm pigs known as “akabenzi”, a name which comes from Mercedes Benz, as it was very expensive in the past. Our neighbors are mostly Catholics, so you will see everyone going to church on Sundays.
Growing up as a girl is normal in my family. At school, sometimes boys say we are weak - but this is not true. We do sports and perform well in class. Our headmaster and teachers punish anyone who says bad things to girls. I have heard in the past some girls didn’t go to school and had to perform household chores. I am glad I don’t know any girl who are not allowed to go to school. School is free, although some people cannot afford stationary and uniforms.
I love being a Girl Guide. It’s been a year and half since I joined my troop Leopard Amusante. Our group is made up of 25 girls from the same school. I love my troop. They are my friends, I love being with them and doing activities together. My favorite part is the weekly meeting where we sing and dance for an hour. We learn new things; like recently started knitting scarves and gloves.
World Thinking Day is a big celebration for Girl Guides across the world. It is an anniversary which connects all of us - even if we don’t see each other. This year, we are collecting money to restore the roof of a widow. We are making scarves and gloves to sell.
Girl Guiding contributes a lot to my community. We don’t just have fun; we seek solutions to problems. For example, we help each other at school, rehabilitate houses, clean and fetch water for vulnerable people. I was attracted initially by the fun of guiding, as troops are always smiling and doing activities. But after I joined I learnt so many things about my health, how to save money and stay safe from harm. I also did some charity work and I am happy when I see people we have helped smile.
Girls should join Girl Guiding because when they do they have a space for themselves. We love each other and we change the world.