A Tribute to Gashora

By Celine Estrada, WiSci STEAM Camp participant

Entrance to the Gashora Girls Academy

Three weeks.

Three weeks without the comfort of my family and friends. Three weeks without consistent Wi-Fi and late night movies. Three weeks without the endless options of American, Asian, Italian, Hispanic, or Indian cuisine. Three weeks without spotless toilets, private warm showers, laundry machines, and dishwashers.

The person who I was before this trip would have hesitated to give up all these tangible luxuries. But now, I'm wishing I could trade them for just one more day of dance parties, leadership activities, cohort bonding, and secret snack gatherings. Maybe it sounds like the camp was three long weeks of ceaseless difficulties. But I say it was three weeks too short.

I am grateful that WiSci has shaped me to be competitive, resilient, passionate about what I believe in, but most importantly, to be more open minded about trying new things. I am not afraid to step out of my comfort zone and I welcome challenge with open arms, from talking to new people to using a shared shower. When I discovered that a talent show was being hosted, I knew I wanted to participate. Too shy to do a standalone, I joined Acapella Club, something I have never been involved with before. We rushed to learn two songs: a simple yet beautiful Swahili song called Agecko and Lean On Me by Bill Withers. I had trouble memorizing Lean On Me so instead of keeping quiet for the parts that I didn't know, I mouthed "Wa-ter-mel-lon, Wa-ter-mel-lon, Wa-ter-mel-lon". It was mesmerizing to hear the stronger vocalists symphonize and I was very pleased that nobody could pin out my voice. At the beginning of the graduation ceremony, I was surprised to find out that Acapella Club was unexpectedly performing. Our performance was surreal. All eyes trained on us, camera lenses zoomed in on our faces. I couldn't take my eyes off the First Lady of Rwanda. She smiled at the sound of harmonization and beatboxing. Had I not joined Acapella Club I would have never had the opportunity to sing for the FLOR, Jeannette Kagame.

One thing that I will miss most from camp is the stunning view. Every evening, the sun, which rises above Lake Miravi, casts an orange glow in the sky and its light reflects off the sparkling water dotted with canoes. I'm in love with the outdoors lifestyle. In America, I'm usually stuck inside only being exposed to the sun during short dog walks. During camp, we spent a third of our time outdoors. It's common to see students chatting by wooden benches overlooking the lake, sitting on the walkway trying to use the Wi-Fi, or resting on the grass.

Sunset at the Gashora Girls Academy

My departure was heartbreaking. Saying goodbye to these beautiful people and this beautiful country was almost impossible. My journey, mission, experience of a lifetime, call it what you will, but there is no word to describe this camp, only precious memories and overwhelming feelings.

Celine Estrada is a junior at John Champe High in Loudoun County, Virginia. She is a Student Board Member supporting the Gum Spring Library and her favorite activities include playing soccer, experimenting with robotics, and watching Arrow.