Rwandans had the chance to meet Joan Laporta, the FC Barcelona president when he visited the country.
He was on a mission to support and see firsthand the reality of living in Kiziba Refugee Camp, in the Western Province.
“It is my first time to see or hear about Laporta but he was talking to me like we have been together for a very long time. He is down to earth. He likes poor people,” Manuel Nyirumugisha, one of the refugees said.
Another refugee described him as a very kind man with a generous heart whose club was devoted to doing a lot towards giving and supporting the lives of the disadvantaged and vulnerable people.
The Barcelona Foundation supports infrastructural and educational projects in two other Rwandan refugee camps; Nyabiheke in Gatsibo district and Gihembe camp in the Northern Province.
Currently, over 52,000 refugees in Rwanda get Barcelona’s support through this Foundation.
Despite the heat from the scorching sun which marked that memorable day, Laporta looked eager to take a tour and see for himself the homes, roads and understand the way of life in Karongi district—he wanted to know how the people ate, washed their dishes and took care of their personal hygiene.
He mingled with them, played football, toured the primary school in Kiziba Refugee Camp and while in the classrooms he didn’t hesitate to sit with the students on their short benches. On one occasion, he went on and tried to use a local mortar in one of the refugee’s kitchen.
His presence attracted a lot of acknowledgment and from the faces of the local population who chanted songs of praise to Barcelona Club; one could easily tell that his visit spoke volumes.
“His visit has inspired us as refugees and the assistance we get from the club is of significant value. It’s another opportunity for us to learn more things,” Francois Gikumba, the leader of the Kiziba refugees said.
And as if to confirm all previous expectations, after getting a firsthand view of the way of life at Kiziba refugee camp, Laporta told the refugees that, “you are stronger than the Barça players, the first team players are very proud that the Foundation is working for refugees.”
After commissioning a multi-purpose education centre, during his speech, Laporta explained why FC Barcelona is more than just a club with projects that go beyond football.
He encouraged the whole community to embrace the new educational project.
“Thank you everybody for putting your hearts into this. The best sporting decision I have ever made was to develop the Barcelona Foundation to help people like you,” Laporta said.
While, touring the refugee camp, Laporta and his visiting crew were followed by a group of happy people, the majority of whom were children chanting out, “Barça! Barça!”
At the end of the day, the refugees showed their gratitude by presenting the Barça president with the Club’s Crest carved out of local wood.
The day ended with celebration; Laporta together with the Kiziba refugees danced to local Kinyarwanda songs and no more evidence was needed to confirm that day, that action speak louder than words.