October 27, 2011
By Anne Heyman, Founder ASYV
It is October again, and that means the end of another school year at Agahozo-Shalom. As usual at this time of year the management team from New York meets with the management of the Village to review the past year, examine where we are and look at what needs to happen for us to move forward next year. We are fortunate enough to be joined once again by an amazing team of volunteers from Liquidnet Holdings, Inc. who not only help facilitate our meetings but also will also work with their counterparts in Village to strengthen the skills and practices in the various departments. Today was our first full day of working sessions in the Village, and it was a good one. But the greatest part of the day was, as always, a completely unexpected gift: Today happened to be the day that one of the tikkun olam groups were giving the keys of a house they had built to the poor widow whom they had built it for, and if we wanted to come along for the small ceremony.
We arrived at the widow’s house which, like many homes in Rwanda is down a windy dirt path which passes for a road. The usual group of little kids arrived as if out of nowhere, gleefully laughing and pointing at the “muzungu”. I always enjoy interacting with these kids, whose joy at the littlest things is really infectious. I felt especially privileged to be here today as I had been lucky enough to be at the Village in July when this group began working on the house, and I had accompanied them on one of their tikkun olam (community service) visits then. I learned from them how to make mud bricks, and as always counted myself lucky to have shared in the experience. The widow was lying on a straw mat beside her current home, if you can call it that, and was clearly not feeling very well. Nevertheless she was very happy with what these amazing kids have done for her, and told us how pleased she was that she would no longer have to feel the rainwater dripping onto her through the banana leaves which pass for a roof. The kids explained to the visitors how they had gone about the process of making the bricks and building the house, which has a door which can lock as well as a tin roof with a rain gutter. They also told us how, after the widow moves into her house they will knock down the little round hut she now calls home and help her plant a vegetable garden, assuring that she will be able to eat in the months ahead. I am so proud of these kids, and they should truly be so proud of themselves. What an amazing thing it is to know that as long as you have the desire and you are willing to put some hard work you are truly capable of changing someone’s life.
Tomorrow its back to the “work” of running the village – more meetings, more training sessions, more strategic planning. It is so much easier when you are reminded about the results of your efforts in such an incredible way. We set out to change the lives of children who, through no fault of their own, were facing incredibly bleak futures. We knew that our methodology would help to heal them and open passages for them that they could never contemplate before. But we couldn’t imagine how they would transform the lives of so many others long before they left the village. I want to thank the children of Agahozo-Shalom for taking me on this incredible journey with them.