October 25, 2017
While October 19th may have been a very normal day for most people in Rwanda, it was anything but at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. Cloudy skies loomed overhead holding back rain, umushanana-clad educators ran around campus, and green gowned students eagerly took pictures with their Village families. Graduation Day of the “Icyizere (Hope) Grade,” Class of 2017, was momentous for many reasons. This graduation ceremony marked the 10th year since the Village’s ground breaking with 1,131 students walking through the gates since its inception. The entire Board of Directors came to Rwanda for this important graduation to join in on the festivities and plan for the Village's future. For some, this was their first visit to ASYV.
Seeing the Village for the first time was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Thinking about the journeys these young people have went through was challenging to say the least. But when you meet these amazing kids and see them graduate with healed hearts and a purpose of repairing the world, you realize that you are witnessing a truly intentional miracle. It was a magical experience that I will never forget. - Seth Rosenzweig, ASYV Board of Directors
A record number of more than 900 attendees joined the celebration, including alumni and supporters from across Rwanda, Israel, and the United States. The guest of honor, Ms. Kampeta Sayinzoga, Director General for NIRDA, gave an inspiring speech to encourage our students to find their own ways to be great.
"We may not be able to be great at everything all the time, but you can be great at some things during each phase of your life. Enjoy that time - without fear, without guilt, and keep in sight the joy of the journey." - Ms. Kampeta Sayinzoga, Director General for NIRDA
Four years ago, ASYV founder, Anne Heyman, tragically passed away following a horseback riding accident. This made the day an especially emotional one since this graduating class was the last to have met her in person. Everyone from Anne’s husband, entrepreneur Seth Merrin, to the graduating students expressed their love and devotion to Anne’s memory during the ceremony.
ASYV has always been part of a special relationship between Rwanda, Israel, and the United States. The bond between Israel and ASYV continues to this day with MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, donating a greenhouse to ASYV. After the graduation ceremony, ASYV’s Board; the Deputy Ambassador of Israel to Rwanda, Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon; Boaz Medina, the MASHAV representative to Rwanda; and others gathered to dedicate the greenhouse. 60% of the food consumed in the Village comes from its grounds; the Village's goal is to eventually achieve self-sustainability. Thanks to MASHAV, the Village is one step closer to that goal. At the dedication, Ms. Ben-Ari Yaalon spoke to the history and relationship between ASYV and Israel and said that she hopes to someday help bring additional greenhouses to the Village.
"It is very important for us to be part of Agahozo-Shalom; we consider it an honor to be able to support the youth village." - Ms. Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon, Deputy Ambassador of Israel to Rwanda
By the time the ribbon was cut, the sky had opened and rain poured down as those assembled peeked into the greenhouse to see the bountiful tomatoes growing, almost ripe for picking. With that, graduation day came to a close, full of growth and hope for the future of Rwanda.
Submitted by Lauren Gross, Village Fellow 2017