The Awards that were

The writer with other winners of the service excellence awards. Net photo

I havenever been so thrilled about an award nomination, in fact, in the past, I would learn from a friend that I had been nominated and some awards would find me at work. There was something special about the Smart Excellence Award, it was my first nomination in my new home of Rwanda, and it coming after just seven months of my being around, was very humbling. I had heard a lot of negative things about the awards but I chose to give them the benefit of the doubt.

As in any competition, there are winners and losers, if we were going to lose at least we would say we enjoyed the race - and what a race it was. As soon as I mentioned to any of my friends they would ask for the link, vote, share with friends and send a screenshot. I have a group of friends from school, all of whom had important agendas last week, but the girls said: “Nope, there’s nothing as important as voting for Jackie.” Betty appointed herself the one that mans the ‘server’-she failed;  Millie and Anne would wake us up with messages and update throughout the day; Isabella in Myanmar got all her friends to vote, her children and their classmates; my family WhatsApp group was hilarious, my parents would not go to bed without asking how far we had gone, dad said it was the first time he realized his phone had ‘Google’, up until then he would use it only for WhatsApp; my siblings worked over and above to get votes.  To my friends, who took care of twitter, The Eves, my Royal FM family and many others that took part, I am forever indebted. 

At the point of being nominated my name was misspelt, I wondered why they would do that when the twitter handle for which they were nominating me had the name correctly spelt. The other major hurdle was the website going on and off - this worsened the day before voting closed, the website went off completely.

Three days to the event I received my invitation as a nominee with a letter communicating that online voting would account for 60% of total votes and the other 40% was for the jury. The day before the website went off completely I was ahead of my friend Fiona by over 400 votes. By the way, the two of us have had a laugh over these awards.

On the day the website went off, the organisers tweeted an ‘apology’ and there was a new development: Online voting would account for 40% of the total votes and the jury 60%! Ours was the most competitive category, there were two or three others where one person was receiving all the votes as the rest watched. I guess to justify the awarding of nominees that did not get many votes online it was necessary to alter the previous rule, because then if you demanded an explanation there was the convenient excuse of the jury vote.

A lot of disorganization was witnessed on D-day such as certificates being handwritten in a corner during the ceremony. I actually walked in as they were calling ‘Jack Lumbasi’ to pick ‘his’ certificate of recognition. Coincidentally, most of the award winners also happened to be sponsors and at some point an organization that was not on the nomination list won an award.

Overall, it was a total disaster but for all it is worth, my people and I had an exciting time voting. Now I know why people kept dissing the awards. They didn’t learn the first, second and third time, we hope the fourth time will be the charm.

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