February 7, 2013
One week ago, Rwanda celebrated Heroes' Day, an annual day in honor of both the extraordinary and the simple day-to-day heroic acts of leaders and everyday citizens. It is a day when, as a nation, Rwanda reflects on the incredible journey that the country has been through, all the struggles, the tremendous loss and pain that the genocide and war inflicted on society here.
The day is marked at Agahozo-Shalom with various celebrations throughout the day. Students engaged in games and activities led by family Big Brothers and Sisters. Delicious, celebratory meals were served and discussions were led about what it means to be a hero, characteristics of leadership and students explored the notion of recognizing heroism in their community.
Specifically, Rwanda remembers a few individuals who deserve additional recognition and serve as particularly good models of heroism. One group of national heroes that are singled out and remembered on this day is a group of students who refused to identify which of them were Hutu and which of them were Tutsi when challenged by Hutu fighters. As a result many of them perished at the hand of these perpetrators.
In speaking with the Agahozo-Shalom students it is clear that these stories resonate all too close to home. Heroes' Day is special and an important moment representing something different to each of them. They all have a story; either a personal account of the war or the aftermath and many have family members who were directly impacted and haunted by their experiences.
Heroes Day culminated in the Village with a visit from a Maj Pascal Hakizimana of the Rwandan Defense Force, who spoke enthusiastically to the students about their role in Rwanda’s history. He addressed them during the Village-wide Village time gathering and spoke about how for his generation, their context informed their acts of heroism. For the kids of Agahozo-Shalom and the next generation he said their responsibility is development and fulfilling the vision for Rwanda. He spoke of the value of believing in oneself and the commitment necessary to achieve your goals. His overarching message to the students was that everyone can be a hero; that this generation believes in them and that if they set their minds to it, they too can be heroes.