A Day in the Village – Anne Heyman

August 30, 2010

By: Anne Heyman, Founder

I have been in the Village now for a week and still haven’t written …I think my problem is a wealth of riches – every day there is so much that happens, so much that amazes, astonishes (and occasionally astounds) that it is very difficult to know where to begin. Last week we were honored to have one of our major donors spend some time in the Village and, despite the fact that he has constantly been kept up to date with all the major events, challenges and developments with the project he was “blown away” (if I say so myself) by all that is happening here. Together we spent a fair amount of time with our kids, and he was able to get a real sense of what life in the Village is about.

For one family time we attended a debate on whether DNA (discussion, negotiation and agreement – our way of mediating disputes and correcting mistakes in the Village) is better or worse than straight out punishment. We went to a house of 2nd year kids, who were hands down in favor of DNA and argued eloquently, in English, using many examples of how it was better. Clearly they totally understand and have internalized the concept that a person’s decision to change or correct their own behavior is far more powerful than acting in response to threats or out of fear, which is usually temporary and carries many consequences (including a terrible relationship with those who live and care for you). The second debate we attended was a house of first year kids. Clearly, there were a few who thought that punishment was so much easier, and more likely to make them do what their caretakers wanted in the quickest and easiest (for the caretakers anyway) way. They understood punishment as an effective inducement to get the desired behavior. As the argument got more and more heated, many switched to Kinyarwanda, not having the language versatility to make their points. The difference in attitudes as well as language level was obvious; I think it was also obvious that if we were to have this debate in a year, what we would hear in the second house would be significantly different.

We spent time in the school together, at family time, visiting some of the tikkun olam projects (where our kids are helping others in surrounding communities) and during meetings of various sorts. When he was leaving the donor told me that “this place is amazing….but your materials and your website don’t tell the true story of what is going on here. Somehow you need to convey how different this place is, how miraculous, what a difference it is making in every way. I often think how to describe the feeling of peace that envelopes our village. How it simply lets you “breathe deep”. 

How do you make tangible the atmosphere of hope, of belief in the future, of positive energy that is so strong it is truly palpable? How do you describe the incredible talents, drive and amazing openness of our children, the warmth with which they embrace every visitor to the village, and the fierceness of their love for and protection of each other? I do need to do a better job of PR; to try to find a way to convey the whole message of whom and what we are. But I think it would be better for you to come here. You can’t believe how easy it is! Just contact us – Rachel@asyv.org!