Saturday, July 7, 2012

Agahozo Shalom Youth Village

I had an opportunity to visit Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rubona, close to Rwamagana. It is a village where 130 staff serving 500 students who are most helpless orphans selected from all 30 districts in Rwanda.

It all began in 2005 when a lady, called Anne Heyman, learned about Rwanda's 1994 genocide and its aftermath of many orphans having been displaced and a number of dysfunctional families resulted. She thought "Why can't this country (Rwanda) have a successful and systematic youth village like the one that helped a great number of orphans in Israel after the Jews suffered from the horrible holocaust?" She also asked herself a question, "What can I do for Rwanda?"

Mango tree where it all began
It did not take Anne too long to decide on a fact-finding mission. She visited Rwanda in 2006 with a friend and one of her daughters. After a series of meetings with Rwandans and Rwandan government officials, she took the next step without much delay. In the same year, she bought an 144 acre land in Rubona and started what a lot of people considered a daydream, a dream of building a village where such displaced orphans can find home, receive education, access to training and look into the future of hope that will build them up with sustainability.

The dream looked virtually impossible at that time because she did not have much money left to build the village after she purchased the land under a mango tree that now symbolizes the genesis of this dream project.

There are 32 of these houses
But the dream has come true, a reality that now many philanthropists and international development specialists desire to learn from and imitate. It is a showcase in Rwanda for sustainable and holistic development of youth.

Now the village has 500 students with 125 students each for secondary 4 through 6 and 130 staff, including teachers, to support them. The village has 32 5-bedroom houses where 16 students stay with one house mom. The village also has almost all amenities and facilities a school needs, such as library, gymnasium, resource center, amphitheater, computer labs, science center, playground, green houses, community center etc. In addition, the village has lands for farming and vocational training. All these have come true in just 6 years. Amazing.

JC, Exec. Dir., Anne, Trevor and Tom
Agahozo means "A place with tears dried." Indeed, the name is fit for the village.

Shalom means "wholeness, perfect harmony, sinless peacefulness" in Hebrews. Again, it reflects the philosophy and principles of the founder.

Agahozo Shalom Youth Village is therefore a village for youth (displaced children) where their tears are dried and where they can experience a holistic life through education, care and training.

Green houses
After a short visit, I became fascinated by the story and inspired by the philosophical principles for the project, which I also share deeply as my own principles. We talked about several possibilities of collaboration. In one form or another, I will likely be involved in this project to help them out whether it be vision casting speech, personal mentoring, student tuition fee loans, entrepreneurial business loans or whatever.

May the good Lord bless Anne, her friends, supporters and all staff so that they may become greater blessings to many others who will go through the Agahozo in many years to come! - Jeffrey 

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