Ephraim Rwamwenge was a different kind of winner at the Bank of Kigali's cocktail event to mark the climax of the bank's MyWishAt50 campaign.
Rwamwenge was the only winner to walk away with a non-cash prize, on a night when all other beneficiaries walked away with cash prizes worth millions of francs.
MyWishAt50 is a social media hash tag that the bank launched in February as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations. To participate in the campaign, members of the public had to send a tweet under the hash tag #MyWishAt50 stating what business or project they wanted the bank to finance.
The wishes with the most retweets and Facebook likes would be chosen for funding.
At the event at Ubumwe Hotel on Friday evening, the bank sought to end the long wait and speculation by unveiling the 'most compassionate wishes' picked out of over 4,000 entries.
With the exception of Ephraim Rwamwenge, a young entrepreneur, all the other winners of the night walked away with dummy cheques worth millions of francs.
The dummy cheques came customized with each of the beneficiaries' wishes as stated in the social media campaign, complete with the amount of cash they had won.
"#MyWishAt50 is to become a honorary board member. I'll do the work for free, to bring a perspective on youth-led businesses," read Rwamwenge's wish.
His winner's dummy cheque came not with a cash prize, but rather the simple inscription - 'Granted'.
With it, he effectively became a board member of the Bank of Kigali Tech House, one of the bank's new innovations. He explained that he was inspired to make the wish because of his burning desire to bridge the gap between the banking sector and young entrepreneurs/the youth.
In all, wishes fell under three categories; Corporate Social Responsibility, business, and fun wishes. In attendance were some of the bank's top honchos like the Chief Executive Officer Diane Karusisi, Chief Commercial Officer Vincent Gatete, Chief Finance Officer Nathalie Mpaka, the Chief Operations Officer Desire Rumanyika, and Thierry Nshuti, the Head of Product Development and Marketing.
Karusisi amused the gathering when she revealed that one of the wishes they received was for the bank to find a wife for someone. She amused the crowd further when she pledged that the bank's staff would 'pray for the wish to come true'.
Yet the bank sunk enough money into the campaign to see other wishes come true.
A cancer survivor, Bugingo Karen walked away with a dummy cheque worth Rw f 2 million as fulfillment of her wish for the bank to bankroll her upcoming book about cancer:
"#MyWishAt50 is a cancer free Rwanda through raising awareness in my new upcoming book, "My name is life @BankofKigali make my book a reality," read her wish.
"I've been writing this book for the last year and a half and finally thanks to Bank of Kigali and so many more people the book will become a reality soon. The book is basically me telling the story about my journey as a cancer victim and survivor -the challenges that I faced in life. I was inspired to write the book to bring about cancer awareness to Rwanda and East Africa so I'm very glad that my wish is finally coming true and from this point forward Rwandans will be aware of cancer and the prevention and everything that has to do with cancer," she remarked while receiving her prize.
A wheelchair-bound Meshak Rwampungu was one of the night's biggest winners, walking away with a dummy cheque worth Rwf10 million. His was one of the shining examples of how much can be achieved through Corporate Social Responsibility.
A former basketball player with the Kigali Basketball Club, Rwampungu almost lost his life in a fatal road accident involving the team in Kamonyi District in 2015.
A young female German on internship in Rwanda had earlier tweeted asking the bank to help construct a barrier-free house for Rwampungu.
Another wish that was fulfilled was that of a young man, an only son who simply wanted the bank to fund re-roofing of his elderly mother's asbestos roof.
"One of the reasons why I wanted a new roof for my mother's house is because the asbestos roof is hazardous to people's lives and it becomes even more risky when it is ageing. That's why I wanted a new roof for my mother who is also ageing with grace," he explained while hugging his mother.
"I went through a whole long process of explaining to her what Twitter has done and the whole process of how people engaged with it because she's not a Twitter user. There is nothing else I've ever wished for my mum other than doing everything within my capability to satisfy what she wants and I did just that and even hoping to do more to be the best son that she singlehandedly raised," he added. His mother received a dummy cheque worth Rw f 2 million.
Also to win big was the Marembo Center which works with street girls who are victims of domestic and sexual violence. The center's wish was for the Bank of Kigali to sponsor a decent house for its beneficiaries. It received Rw f 5 million.
There was one wish that has been fulfilled event before the Friday event -that of Jabo, a person with disability who the bank recently flew to Italy for prostheses (artificial limbs). To receive his cheque from the bank was his father and a sister who had earlier tweeted the wish. The bank provided €10 million towards the cause.
The sister later read an emotional letter written by Jabo from his hospital bed in Italy:
"I can't have the words to express my gratitude towards everyone at the Bank of Kigali. It still feels like a dream to me, but I never doubted your commitment to help people and when it landed on me I was more than grateful. I believe this is a second chance for me to improve and make my life more impactful to society. I believe I'm destined for greatness and I'm a testimony that significant things can happen even if one is going through tough times. I will never forget the role that the Bank of Kigali played in my life and I'm looking forward to meeting the committee that started the hash tag MyWishAt50 as I continue to strive for greatness."
Also rewarded was a security guard at the bank, who received Rwf1million toward his dream to venture into sugarcane farming.