February 2, 2018
Heroes' Day arrived with a bright blue morning, the fresh air greeting the Agahozo-Shalom community and our guests. Everyone began the day assembled underneath the mango tree. It was a good place to start the day as the mango tree is the site of one of the most heroic moments in ASYV history, when our Village founder, Anne Heyman, purchased the surrounding land from 96 different land owners to build the village.
All the students were dressed in their ASYV polo shirts of green and orange. Among the members of the audience were faculty, cousins, big brothers, teachers, and even some Village alumni. Following prayers and speeches, two talented students presented a beautiful poem. The principal of Liquidnet Family High School, Aloys Kagimbura, spoke about the history of heroes in Rwanda, beginning a century ago with the kings of Rwanda, all the way to the heroes of the Genocide, and then to our very own hero, Anne Heyman. The speech set the tone for the day and was followed by some of the Villages singers who sang two beautiful songs.
Following the assembly, our new Enrichment Year students visited each of the family homes to learn about the different heroes after whom each Village family is named. It was a time for the students to share with their younger brothers and sisters why they had been inspired by heroes in history such as Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, King Mutare Rudahigwa, and Maya Angelou.
The next part of the day was dedicated to community. After community members spoke movingly about the importance of ASYV history, students had the opportunity to vote for their Mr. and Ms. Core Values, who are recognized for exemplifying the Village’s founding values. Candidates each shared a speech before the grades had the opportunity to sit for a vote.
As a final treat, our kids watched “A Small Act,” a film about the life of Chris Mburu, a Kenyan man who is now a human rights lawyer in Kigali. The film tells the story of Chris as a young man in Kenya, who went from having almost nothing to studying law at Harvard and going on to be a lawyer for the UN, thanks to having his school fees sponsored by a woman named Hilde Back. She considered this sponsorship only “a small act of kindness”, and as an adult, Chris paid her act forward by sponsoring Kenyan students to attend school in her name.
After finishing the film, students were excited to find Chris himself as the keynote speaker. Chris joined the newly elected Mr. and Ms. Core Values on the amphitheater stage where he answered questions and discussed with them how he believes our students can, and will, change the world.
The entire day was a spectacular chance to consider the heroes in our lives and how their small acts have affected us. The Village was started with Anne Heyman and Seth Merrin asking a simple, small question about how they could help Rwanda. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. There are so many teachers, program directors, grade coordinators, cooks, and maintenance workers who have been at ASYV since day one, and each of their own heroic acts have led to countless students becoming successful, confident leaders in Rwanda and around the world.
Submitted by Noah Wolf-Prusan, Village Fellow 2018