UNMISS Juba celebrates Christmas at St. Thomas Primary School with “special guest from the East”
Students from Juba’s St. Thomas Primary School, boys and girls from the South Sudan Scout Association (SSSA), the local Sultan, UNMISS staff and Rwandese troops on Saturday 24 December celebrated the arrival of Christmas in Gudele West in Juba. There was just one glitch: a “special guest from the East” had to be brought in to replace Santa Claus from the far North.
Peak seasonal workloads can be challenging at the best of times, but the short and intense Christmas celebrations must surely top the list of conundrums faced by logistics people. With the far North-based (Greenland, Finland, Sweden – pick your choice) original Santa presumably busy handing out iPads elsewhere, the UNMISS Communications and Public Information Section solved the problem by looking in an unexpected direction: east.
And fear not, Christmas traditionalists: Santa Claus apparel is apparently universal. The highly capable replacement, consistently referred to by the MCs of the event as “the special guest from the East”, did not only sport the red outfit one has come to expect from his generous kind, he also, judging from the heaps of presents he brought, must have footed a stratospheric bill for excessive flight luggage (as neither a sledge, nor reindeer were to be seen).
So, the scene was set for a memorable celebration, with St. Thomas Primary School the blessed venue. A natural and deserved choice, as explained by John Ugolo, Head of the UNMISS Juba Field Office.
“We, UNMISS and St. Thomas Primary School, have been partners for peace throughout the year, and the same goes for the South Sudan Scout Association, also consistent champions of messages of peace and present here today as well”, Mr. Ugolo explained, and listed a number of UNMISS celebrations where these pacific partners made lasting impressions: the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, UN Day and the International Day of the African Child amongst them.
Ms. Asha Judith, Headmistress of St. Thomas Primary School, expressed her mutual satisfaction with the peace partnership.
“The fact that you are here today shows the spirit of togetherness between us”, Ms. Judith said, and praised the growing recognition and popularity of her school (expanded to include secondary schooling), and the performance of her teachers and students (none of whom has failed the Primary Leaving Exam).
“Whenever and wherever you (UNMISS) go to spread your message of peace, remember us. We pledge our support”, she added.
An event in Gudele West would of course not be complete without a few words delivered by its Sultan and Paramount Chief, Tomas Bakiri Tambura.
“This is the first time the Mission comes to celebrate with us. Everybody here is very happy with your engagement with our community, long may it continue”, the great man said.
Now, a Christmas celebration is not made up of speeches alone. In a joint effort, a tree was duly decorated before the Eastern Santa Claus sent the heart rates of young and old children racing by beginning the gift-giving. Hardly an eye, nor an armpit, was dry, and no child left without a rather fancy backpack.
Students from St. Thomas Primary School, boy scouts and girl guides and the UNMISS choir composed of Rwandan troops entertained the crowd by singing carols and dancing. Needless to say, there was much rejoicing, but not a single “Ho, ho, ho!” Blessings need not be big to count.