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The East African : February 3rd 2014
VI The EastAfrican MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1-7,2014 cove≥ sto≥y Agahozo-Shalom: Whe≥e tea≥s a≥e d A pproximately 60 kilometres from Kigali, and 10kms off the Kigali-Mutara highway at Ntunga, is a serene youth village that has restored hope and humanity to hundreds of Rwanda’s youth who would have given up on life otherwise. This has been achieved through the fostering of two Hebrew beliefs; tikkun halev (repairing the heart) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) is a residential community on 144 acres and is home to youth who were orphaned during and after the genocide in 1994. With the primary objective of protecting and nurturing these young people, the village is teaching the youth to become healthy, self-sufficient and take part in the rebuilding Rwanda. Genesis Founder Anne Heyman — a former district attorney in Manhattan USA and her husband Seth Merrin — founder of electronic stock-trading firm Liquidnet — attended a talk about the Rwandan genocide; Merrin asked what the biggest problem Rwanda faced was. He was the told that there were many orphans with no structured support systems for their well-being. Inspired by Israeli youth villages that took in Holocaust orphans, the couple raised $12 million through personal funds and donations from friends and foundations, and a corporate sponsorship from Liquidnet. Along with help from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the couple built a village outside of Kigali. Realising the dream Heyman immediately made contact with various organisations and people in Israel, the United States and Rwanda to share her idea and how it could be achieved. In 2006, together with her team, she found a model in Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel. The JDC and Liquidnet offered housing and logistical support for model of education where children get formal academic training and informal skills, as well as opportunities to hone their talents.” ‘‘ Kwibuka Flame at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi. Pic: Cyril Ndegeya the project. She broke ground in 2007, and on December 15, 2008, the first 125 students moved in to make Agahozo Shalom their new home. Today, the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is an independent non-profit organisation that is home to 500 children. Re-integration and life at the village Every year, Agahozo takes in orphans and vulnerable children from all over the country, four from every district, at a girl to boy ratio of 60 per cent to 40 per cent. The home is based on a family structure to help the youths heal. The village places them into residential families of 16. The family environment fosters a brother-sister dynamic. In each home, a Rwandan ma- ma guides the youth and holds the primary responsibility for each child’s physical and emotional well-being. Most of the children join the institution with mixed feelings about being in a family; some of them were betrayed by their families or family members. The mama fosters dialogue through evening family discussions that encourage problem solving with each individual’s participation. The children participate in housework such as washing dishes, making their beds, washing their clothes and cleaning the compound. They are taught to take responsibility for their actions through a problem solving technique known as Discuss, Negotiate, and Agree. The village doesn’t allow corporal punishment but uses dialogue my sto≥y Keza Coralie, 18 years old, Senior 6 Unlike other students, Keza Coralie is of mixed heritage and this didn’t help her case. “I never met my parents; my father was a French national and my mother a Tutsi. I don’t know if my father is alive because I was brought up by my mother’s relatives. Because of my light skin colour and background, I was constantly discriminated against because of my father’s nationality,” she explained. Agahozo uses a “The French don’t have a good history in Rwanda and that was reason enough for people to deny help to me not knowing that I did not choose to be part of this, nor did I choose who my parents should be. I later joined FARG (Genocide Survivors Assistance Fund) but life was too hard. After I had given up hope, ASYV came to our village looking for orphans and I was lucky enough to be picked. This is my fourth year in the village and my life has never been better. I’ve changed mentally, I have a positive outlook on life; I have the courage to help other people, and in rebuilding my country.” t Keza says she wants to study busine management at the university, and for the development of the country. Turatsinze Ferdinard, 17 years old, “My story is one of disappointments mistrust. I lost both my parents, and staying with a guardian who, due to of his work, had to travel a lot. Durin he was away, he left me in the hand person who mistreated me and use money for upkeep my guardian wou me. I got depressed, and never thou trust anyone again. “At that time, I was studying at Grou Mater Dei Nyanza and I was at the l of my life. FARG used to help us, bu than not I had to fend for myself. I h to use drugs to forget my problems God, ASYV rescued me, counselled I am a future nation-builder”.
January 27th 2014
February 10th 2014