Hero (hɪərəʊ ): noun
- A person who is
admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
At 3:30 am Central African Time (CAT) on 1 February 2014, Village Director Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura gathered the ASYV staff to inform of the passing of Village Founder, Anne Heyman. The news was equally shocking and horrifying as just three weeks prior, Anne was smiling at ASYV’s Imbuto Grade graduation, embracing us with her boundless energy. The deep silence following the announcement was broken by the sobs of Mamas, weeping for the loss of a woman who had brought so much light to their lives. It was an hour before another word was spoken and we could digest the meaning of the information provided. In a display of characteristic ASYV strength, Informal Education Director, Jean Marie Vianney Sikubwabo, brought the attention to the children of Agahozo-Shalom and the strategies that should be employed in managing their grief. Just as Anne always encouraged, the children come first.
At 6:00 am CAT, the entirety of the Agahozo-Shalom community was told of Anne’s untimely death. The profound sorrow that was perceived in the aftermath of this announcement is one that cannot be adequately described. For the children, Anne represented the light at the end of the dark tunnel that is their past. She was their hope for a better future. Anne’s passing was felt as the loss of their own mother. The trained staff of Agahozo-Shalom’s Health and Wellness Center went into overdrive, providing support and medical treatment for anyone who required it. In their grief, the ASYV community drew upon an inner strength to come together to mourn the loss of their beloved "Grandmother."
Agahozo-Shalom is currently observing a period of mourning, which will be held in its official capacity until Monday, February 10th. All formal activities have been cancelled and nights are being reserved for a vigil held at Anne’s adored Mango Tree in the center of the Village. It is a place to mourn together as a Village, to pray as one, to hear speeches from students and staff, to stand in silence by the bonfire kept lit in Anne’s honor, and to listen to the somber gospel of the Village choir.
As much as we mourn the loss of our Grandmother, we also say thank you for having Anne in our lives, for being part of something that was so much a part of her. Agahozo-Shalom lost an angel on earth on February 1st, 2014, poignantly coinciding with Rwanda’s National Heroes Day.
Anne, we will live today as you have set the example and dare to achieve all that you have shown possible. We grieve for your absence and are grateful for the time we shared with you. You are forever in our hearts and always the guardian of Agahozo-Shalom.
Thoughts and sentiments gathered by Sasha Friedman, 2014 Village Fellow