By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
Clare Effiong, Founder and the International Director of Esther’s Aid has announced plans to expand the existing Culinary school to the University level in Rwanda which will be an excellent educational Institution that will help the growing Tourism and Hospitality Industry in Rwanda.
Clare announced the plan during an Interview with TOP AFRICA NEWS shortly after the graduation for 1,146 students from Esther’s Aid Programs -Class of 2019 to 2022.
On Thursday, November 17, 2022, at Kigali the Serena Hotel, a graduation ceremony was held for 1,146 students who have completed their studies for the period of 2019 to 2022.
The ceremony brought together parents, graduates, members of the diplomatic corps, and various leaders in the public and private sectors.
It was held for the graduates of the last three years especially due to the fact that in the last three years the COVID 19 Pandemic has led to the postponement of the ceremony following the Government’s directives that were put in place to stop the spreading of the pandemic.
The official numbers indicate that for the class of 2019-2022 the total graduates in all Eshter’s Aid Programs include 701 trainees of the Empowerment Skill Training Program, 326 graduates of Culinary Program and 119 graduates of Tailoring Programs. Some students have pursued a 15 months program while others completed a 6 months program.
The event was marked by joy for everyone who attended due mainly to the steps made by the graduates given that most of them are young people from low-income families who were able to study thanks to the support of Esther’s Aid and various partners including the Government of Rwanda and the people of America.
During his introduction remarks, as a Master of Ceremony, Mr. Phocas Ngendahayo who is the Country Director of Kurumbuka Leadership Solutions expressed special gratitude to Ms. Clare Effiong who have pioneered and founded Esther’s Aid to enable vulnerable young people and adults to have a chance to the Education since many of the people who have passed through the school had no means to complete their studies due to poverty while many others were orphaned by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.
He said that “Clare Effiong is a God given Gift. She, came from the US with a heart to contribute to the reconstruction of Rwanda, which was destroyed by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.”
Mr. Ngendahayo added that “the Lord gave her a big heart to come and take care of all of us but mostly those who are the vulnerable young community, those who are among the poor, and who could not afford school, and yet they have their heads which function very well, they have a heart which is passionate, and also about doing something. But they didn’t have the skill, they didn’t know how to come out of poverty, to defeat all the odds against them.”
However, Mr. Ngendahayo adds, “After Clare came and started this organisation, in partnership with some friends from New York, and other parts of the world, it’s a great joy to see how the Lord has guided her to understand that we have young people who can offer their heart, their mind and also their strength towards the reconstruction of this nation.”
“It’s beautiful, to see how the last 22 years, she’s been contributing towards culinary arts which is now offering chefs who can help to grow our touristic and Culinary industry, and also to make sure that your young people can also contribute to fashion design, so that you can be beautifully dressed and also, as you know, good life goes also with good food and shelter to that.”
He said that “Young people need to be empowered towards making quality food, healthy food that our society needs, so that we can all grow healthy and prosperous.”
“After the COVID-19 we are having 1146 graduates. This is on top of what has been done in the previous years. So let us celebrate both graduates but also Claire and Esther’s Aid as an organization.” He added.
In an Interview with Ms. Clare Effiong said that whatever she has been doing for Rwandan children was originating from the passion to see young people growing and able to do something for themselves.
She noted that in the last two decades, Esther’s Aid has graduated over 12,000 people including many others who have been doing their practical works on a regular basis so that they get required skills to keep their jobs.
“Right now we have grown to the level of having a campus.” She said,
“We are building a campus now. We want to have a three year university. That’s our goal, that we will graduate students only in culinary.” she explained
“And then we have to have it because people are interested now. We have the infrastructure in place. We have the land, we have started building, but with the economic situation that followed the COVID 19, we stopped a little bit and we are now looking forward to it.” Ms. Clare explained.
“So when that is done, and infrastructure is completed, we will have a full culinary University. And that will be a three year University. That’s our goal.” Said Ms. Clare Effiong.
Former Students speak out
According to testimonies given by former students, Esther’s Aid has been very important to many people and to the country as whole.
Mr. Pheneas Karegesa, a Representative of Esther’s Aid Alumni and employee of Rwanda based One & Only Hotel Resorts said that a big number of Esther’s Aid beneficiaries were almost all people who would have not been able to complete their studies because of various reasons.
He said that the Culinary Program at Esther’s Aid has been very beneficial not only for the past students but also the current and future generations.
He said “ When you study the Culinary Art you have shaped the future life in the industry.”
“We go to the different departments where we are getting employed, for example, in Rwanda, Rwanda is becoming a Tourism Destination country. So, we can have many hotels, many lodges and many restaurants, where graduates can get jobs.” Mr. Karegesa said.
“Once you complete your courses, you can get into housekeeping, you can be a chef as you progress. So, I always advise people who want to do Culinary to enroll in Esther’s Aid school.” He added.
According to Ms. Munyaneza Yvette, Alumni, “former students are also involved in many activities including helping the needy persons who have no shelter or chance to the Education.”
She said “Currently I am working as a casual staff at Kigali Radisson Blu Hotel. What we’re doing as former students, we are helping others like those who don’t have where to sleep, I mean, even those who don’t have hope for tomorrow.”
“We visit them and sit together, we share what we have and we hope that we can get through helping them if we are employed. We do that because we have that ability and the opportunity.” Ms. Munyanze said.
During this ceremony, all those who took the floor praised the quality of education that is being offered at Esther’s Aid and believe that it gives hope to the future of the Hotels and Culinary Industry in Rwanda. Some of the graduates of Esther’s Aid are currently in different jobs and others are self-employed as it has been highlighted in the testimony.
In his speech, Mr. Eugene Uwimana, the Skills Development Fund Program Manager at the Rwanda TVET Board said that “ It is an honor and a pleasure to be here today on this important event to celebrate with Esther’s Aid an important milestone that has been made.”
He reminded that “Rwanda’s transformative vision aims to secure high standards of living for all Rwandans,” adding that “to achieve this goal Rwanda must be a dynamic and capable workforce meeting the rising demand for high skilled jobs.”
“This explains why we are here today celebrating this milestone of having young and professional graduates in the hospitality sector.” Mr. Uwimana said.
He noted that the government of Rwanda is putting much effort in expanding skills and TVET development as one of the strategies to ensure the increase of skilled labor force and the job creation for the current and the future generation.
“And now we are having graduates which we will now consider as the future of the hospitality sector.” Mr. Uwimana said before concluding his remarks.
“Let me assure you that Rwanda TVET Board will continue to cooperate with you and provide support when needed as the purpose is to provide quality education to Rwandan youth and linking them with the labor market.” He said.