February 21, 2013
Valentines Day, a day celebrated wholeheartedly in Rwanda, also marked the launch of the AIDS/HIV Awareness week throughout the nation. At the Village, banners were artfully painted to have on display. The message read, “Healthy Lives for our Community and Bright Future.” The dining hall, Administration, Health & Wellness, the school and each of the houses were decorated with posters, pamphlets and pictures promoting healthy relationships and emphasizing making responsible choices.
The festivities kicked off with an assembly in the Dining Hall in which the Director of the Health and Wellness Center communicated the importance of this week. She described the prevalence of AIDS/HIV in Rwanda and in Africa, spoke about how there is no cure, and how it is up to the students to protect themselves from infection.
The Village Director emphasized the power of our choices and that we have the ability to make responsible decisions about our partners and our relationships. Our obligation to each other is to support one another in making good, thoughtful choices.
The schedule for the week included seminars for all the students on AIDS/HIV transmission and what it means if you have it, conversations in each family about STDs and safe sex, a course reemphasizing these messages in the school and more. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss important issues in a safe place with adults that they trust.
Wednesday February 20th, the Village welcomed a series of guests to complete the week and round out all of what the students had been learning. A series of speakers from the district and local organizations came to discuss the importance of keeping yourself healthy, taking the necessary precautions to avoid infection and one guest gave his personal account about living with HIV, giving an extensive talk about his experience and advice.
Wednesday’s assembly concluded with a performance that brought all the students to their feet screaming and dancing. Agahozo-Shalom welcomed a famous Rwandan pop star, Tom Close, who is not only a famous singer but also a practicing medical doctor. He embraced the message of the day, reemphasizing the importance of what the kids had been learning and singing inspirational, high quality messages about working for your success, putting in the effort necessary to achieve your goals and never shying away from those who challenge your abilities; believe in yourself.
This series of celebrations coupled with intensive AIDS/HIV awareness & education marked an important step at the Village and in Rwanda. It was a wonderful and important week for all.