“Ntabwo njya numva agaciro k’izo za debate wirirwa undatira; ntacyo zikumariye” (I don’t see the impact of those debates you always brag about; they are just useless). One of the most special people in my life told me that. Yes, you probably guessed right, my mother!!!!!! You can imagine the reaction on my face when she told me those words. I searched for words to say to her but I couldn’t find any. Only tears welled up in my eyes and I just walked away.
When I joined debate 5 years ago I was just trying a new option of what to do with my life because I wasn’t into anything interesting in school or at home. I had started singing which I liked but wasn’t good at, so when I found out about debate I said “Why the hell not?”. Eventually though, I came to like it more than any other thing I had ever done. I remember my classmates always made fun of me about how talkative I was, which I enjoyed actually. But debate is something that needs work and a lot of time, so I had to attend trainings more often which my mother didn’t like at all, she didn’t get along so fine with this new thing in my life called iDebate, and when I went for trainings, honestly I thought myself to be the dumbest in the class. I didn’t talk because I would listen to other people’s arguments, and I would think in my mind that my opinion was really not helping anyone. So when I went back home and mom told me how debate wasn’t really a necessity, I would sometimes believe her. Maybe you are asking yourself why I’m saying all this.
There came this one day that I went to these same trainings, and the most generous person I have ever met started talking. I didn’t know him at the time, I had not met him before. But everything he said was so important to me that it still helps me today. He talked about how debate had made his life a success story. That is when I had my wish; that I would one day tell my personal story of how debate can make you who you really didn’t believe you could be, that I would talk to someone’s heart like Jean Michel talked to mine that day. That mom would come to appreciate debate for the change it was sowing in me, her dumb daughter on her way to becoming a smart one. I think you already know what I have to say next but I will say it anyway.
On January 31st 2016 when I was told I was to be part of Team Rwanda bound for the WSDC I couldn’t help it, I cried so much but these were joyful tears. I can’t tell you which emotion was stronger, the shock or the happiness. This is what I love about debate, the multitude of opportunities it provides and the way it helps one to grow into someone they never realized they would become.
And there are those small beautiful moments too, that just encrust themselves in your heart, like that beautiful woman who asked me about the preparations for the WSDC a few days ago. I launched into details about how we started an online fundraising campaign to get the money to help the team attend this global competition, and that we have started the trainings for the team and are working on the visa applications too……… She didn’t say anything to me afterwards, she just walked away. But later that day she called and said that all she wanted to tell me was to never let go of my passion for debate, and that she was happy for me. After that call I looked back on my first days in debate and how far I’d come, from Kitoko the dumbest student in trainings to the coach of Team Rwanda in WSDC. Is it a wish anymore???? Of course not.
I’m telling this story about my life changing decision to become a debater in the hopes that it touches a heart that needs help like I did 5 years ago.
#TeamRwanda we can do this: Bryan, Kassy, Stella, Emma, Kitoko .