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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid