September 18, 2015
Submitted by Julia Lisi, guest blogger and clothing donation collector extraordinaire
In January 2015, halfway through my freshman year at Wheaton College (MA), I had an amazing opportunity to travel to Rwanda. Dennis Hanno, the President of Wheaton runs a program through which Wheaton College students are able to travel to schools and Universities in Rwanda and teach students about entrepreneurship and the leadership skills associated with success. I, along with 14 other students on our team were lucky enough to visit the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village as part of the entrepreneurship teaching trip. We spent one day, early on in our trip at the beautiful Village, leading a short seminar on business. Each of the Wheaton team members had 8 or 9 students in their group. My group was incredibly inspiring; I was so impressed by the students' desire to learn, as well as how welcoming they were to me. I admired each and every one of my students as they came up with a collective business idea of selling customized pens.
In learning about the purpose of the ASYV, I was moved by the fact that I was surrounded by some of the most vulnerable orphans in Rwanda, yet they taught me more about the positives of community and education than I could have ever learned on my own. The emphasis on, and love for, family life the Village has created is directly in line with my own value system. I felt at home at the ASYV even though I was thousands of miles away from my actual home. I soon realized that the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is filled with immense hope and encouragement.
After I left the Village and returned home to the U.S.. I couldn't forget all the beautiful emotions I had experienced when I was with the students at Agahozo-Shalom. This is inspired me to begin collecting clothing donations at my Wheaton to try and help the Village out in any way that I could. I wanted to try to repay the students for how welcoming they were to my group and me, and for the beautiful experience they had given me. I put a box on my dorm hall floor, and over time as word got out, the box filled with clothing items from various people on campus. I took the clothing home, and my family and I added our own donations to the pile. I sorted the clothes and realized that I had collected nearly 6 large garbage bags!
I hope it helps the Village that I was able to give something back in return for being welcomed into such an inspiring and promising environment.