January 2, 2018
On opening day for the Enrichment Year students, the ASYV journey begins for more than 120 students who arrive from throughout Rwanda's 30 districts. From near and far, they came to a bus stop in Rwamagana, from where they were shuttled to Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. Some of the students traveling from the Western Provinces took motorbikes to Kigali and spent the night in the city before making the trip. All were met by Village mothers and ASYV staff who were eager to welcome the new students and their guardians. Each was greeted with warm hugs, and arms grasping forearms. One by one the students piled into the Village buses to be transported down through a valley of rice fields and farms and up onto the ridge where ASYV is located. The buses pulled into the gates of ASYV, past the colorful walls painted with the words “If you see far, you will go far,” and stopped at the dining hall. The students and guardians unloaded from their shuttles and began signing in with staff at tables on the balcony of the dining hall.
Throughout the morning the newcomers slowly streamed in to the balcony area. They sat in chairs and were treated to performances by some older ASYV students who had come for the day to welcome them. There were beautiful songs and speeches performed for the growing audience. After a welcome speech from ASYV's Executive Director, JC Nkulikiyimfura, it was time for the students to be welcomed into their new families. The family Mothers, Big Brothers, and Cousins had been waiting for this moment and were very happy to meet their new family members. The crowd walked down to the sports field and sat along the stone bleachers. As the first family was about to be introduced, it began to rain. Everyone quickly picked themselves up and hurriedly moved back to the balcony. This was the first time rain had interrupted an opening day, and there were smiles and laughter as the crowd covered their heads and returned to shelter.
Finally, it was time for the families to be introduced. Names were called one after another and the students were given big hugs by their new family members and then sat for a picture. The families spent the rest of the day settling into their new environments, picking out their beds and unpacking their belongings.
At dinner time some of the students spoke about their first impressions of ASYV. Remy, a tall student with a big smile said, “I’m just happy. It’s a big pleasure to be here at Agahozo-Shalom. I’m thanking God for all he has given me.” Remy was with his new family member, Danny, who noted, “My favorite thing about today is my home, and also my Mama. She is funny and lovely.” While pictures were taken of the new students enjoying their first dinner together, one of the female students named Deborah said, “I first felt fear, but after I met friends and my mother and cousins I felt at home and felt excited for the next day.”
After dinner it was time for the first 'Family Time' for each new unit. The family mothers spoke about their expectations for the new students, such as good hygiene and respect towards one another. The students were tired after a long day of travel and introductions and soon it was time for bed. It was a wonderful first day for everyone and joy and gratitude could be felt in the atmosphere around the Village. The Enrichment Year students had arrived.
Submitted by Noah Wolf-Prusan, Village Fellow 2018