Holiday Spirit

Written By: ‘Biz’ Alexis Deeb

Whoever said it was hard to get into the holiday spirit with 80 plus degree weather was surely wrong. I had been advised by previous Minerva Fellow, Brendan Kinnane, that the annual Engeye Scholars Christmas Party is “the best day ever.” Having lived through this experience I learned that truer words have never been spoken. A party solely dedicated to the children of Ddegeya: What on earth could be better?

The rains on the morning of December 14th did not slow the preparations for the big day. Seven mothers of Engeye Scholars arrived at the clinic around 6 AM to begin cooking for the huge feast. Mothers had prepared the day before, cutting matoke, slicing tomatoes, peeling potatoes, prepping the rice, peeling cassava, slicing eggplant, and shredding cabbage.  With this culinary foundation in place all that needed to be done on the day of, was prepare the 10 chickens and 50 kilos of beef. Six enormous basins were neatly spread out across the backfield of the clinic ground with a fire burning ever so beautifully beneath each one. I have never seen such a large basin before, and I was so impressed with these women and their ability to cook for a large crowd. I had always thought that prepping a Thanksgiving meal for 35 was a big deal- but cooking a meal for 400 plus kids? Whew, what a sight!

We had anticipated around 400 guests, so when 700 excited children arrived from neighboring villages, a few jaws dropped. Their chitter chatter, singing, and screaming filled the air and immediately warmed everyone’s hearts. These kids were ecstatic! How does one instill order to these joyous and enthused children? Kabaka (King) John Kalule had that all under control. John explained the rules of the day to the vast amount of children, after which they all began lining up to receive their candy and a biscuit, followed by their meal. This was about a three-hour process. Somewhere in the middle of that process, dancers and drummers arrived to entertain the crowd. The children raced over to watch as they ate their food. I followed a few of the kids over to the dancers and was blinded by flashes of bright white smiles. They were so intrigued by the dancing, watching so intently and applauding constantly.

Some of you may be wondering if we ran out of food. Unfortunately this was the case and some kids were only able to have rice on their plate. They did not go home empty handed, though! The children were presented with a solar light donated to Engeye by generous sponsors in the US. It was a gift in and of itself to see these kids so enthused over something as simple as the gift of light. I speak on behalf of all the Engeye staff and children of Ddegeya when I say, thank you to our donors for making this day possible! Happy holidays to all of you!