News / Africa

Rwandan Youth Village Flourishes

Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, east of Kigali, is home to 500 orphans. Credit: ASYV
Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, east of Kigali, is home to 500 orphans. Credit: ASYV

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
It’s been 19 years since the Rwandan genocide. Much has been done regarding reconciliation and rebuilding. But the work continues, including helping those who became orphans during and after the mass killings. At a youth village in Rwanda, more than 100 high school seniors, all orphans, recently passed their national exams to graduate.


It’s called Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. The name is a combination of Kinyarwanda and Hebrew -- Agahozo meaning “where tears are dried” and Shalom meaning “peace.”
Anne Heyman, the founder, said, “I actually was attending a lecture on genocide, and there was a speaker speaking about the Rwandan genocide. This is in the fall of 2005. My husband asked him what was the biggest problem facing Rwanda today? And he said in a country where you have 1.2 million orphans, with a population of 8.5 million people, there really is no future for the country unless you come up with a sustainable solution to the orphan problem.”

Heyman is a South African born lawyer, who now lives in New York City.

Anne Heyman with some of the youth village residents. Credit: ASYVAnne Heyman with some of the youth village residents. Credit: ASYV
x
Anne Heyman with some of the youth village residents. Credit: ASYV
Anne Heyman with some of the youth village residents. Credit: ASYV

“It occurred to me that Israel had had an orphan problem after the Holocaust, and they had come up with a system that reintegrated those kids into society, and they don’t have an orphan problem today. So there really is a systemic solution to dealing with the orphan problem,” she said.

Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is about an hour’s drive east of Kigali, near the town of Rwamagana. It’s built on land Heywood and supporters purchased from local landowners.

“The philosophy and methodology that are infused in living in the youth village are really geared so that the village as a whole can provide parenting for each kid, even though it’s done, sort of, on a mass scale. We have 500 kids in the village. Everyone gets the kind of support that you or I would give our biological children. Yes, they get food, clothing, shelter and all those things. We’re a high school age community. So, we have a high school where kids really get a top notch state-of-the-art education,” she said.

It’s the Liquidnet Family High School, where all but one of the 118 qualifying seniors passed Rwanda’s national exams a few months ago. It’s the school’s first graduating class. The students are now waiting to see who might get a scholarship or have access to student loans. Those who don’t would have to delay university classes unless they get a job and save some money.

“All of our kids are orphans. So they’ve all gone through some traumatic episode, otherwise, they wouldn’t be orphans. We take the most vulnerable kids in the country. We focus on, as we would do with our own kids, trying to heal their emotional scars; giving them a healthy outlook on life; helping them determine what they want to do with their futures. Our goal is really not to send kids to universities. It’s to help every child maximize their potential. So they’re really looked at as individuals,” said Heyman.

Families consist of 16 youths, along with so-called brothers or sisters, who work at the village. And each family is headed by a mom.

“It’s a staff position at Agahozo-Shalom. We have 32 homes. Each home has a mom. Many of them, the vast majority of them, are women who lost their families during the genocide. And for them, too, the village is a very healing environment. They all say that they have found incredible meaning in their lives and restoring the rhythm of life for these young kids has really been incredibly uplifting for them,” she said.

Each night, there’s family time. For about an hour, members of each family get together to discuss the days events, issues in the village or new information about some sensitive issue.

Heyman said, “Some of our kids are out on the street when we get them. Some of them have drug addictions. Some of them have alcohol addiction. So we have programs for those kids. We have a very serious HIV/AIDS education program. We really work hard at it until every kid who comes through our gate gets tested so that we can deal with whatever we find.”

There are also classes on job skills, such as writing resumes or conducting interviews, and classes on hospitality, computers and modern agriculture.

Heyman said that funding comes mostly from donations and much time is spent drumming up support. She hopes to one day turn Agahozo-Shalom into a self-sufficient village, where small businesses can fund operations.

“If we can fix that last loop, making it self-sustaining in terms of income, then I think we have a tremendous model for development for the world.”

Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village has a statement of philosophy. It reads in part: Each traumatized youth has a past, present and future. Trauma causes a break between the past and present.” Heyman says life in the village is about repair.

You May Like

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid