Submitted By: Emmanuel Nkundunkundiye (Class of 2012)
I was one of the first students to enter, and graduate from, the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.
In ten years, I went from bottom-of-the-pyramid poverty to a fully-funded high school education and before going on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania.
When I was two years old, the genocide in Rwanda took away my chance to be raised by parents. I became an orphan and grew up in poverty. My grandmother raised me in a one bedroom hut, with a dirt floor, a leaking roof, no electricity, and no water. I would fetch water twice a day walking a total of three miles each trip. The world seemed unfair and I had no hope for change because education was not guaranteed in Rwanda. Needless to say, things turned out differently. At 17, I was selected from among the poorest students in my village to be admitted into Agahozo-Shalom.
There I met Anne Heyman, my hero and inspiration, who constantly reminded us that the future is as big as we want it to be.
Anne Heyman created a home for us when we needed a home. She gave us the parenting we didn't get growing up. She guaranteed food and shelter so that we could focus on our growth and learning. At Agahozo-Shalom, we always met at the end of the day for "family time". For one hour, we would meet as a family with our house mother and cousins to talk about the day, share the good and the bad, address individual concerns, and seek advice from each other.
It was a perfect home, and a perfect environment to grow up in.
At Agahozo-Shalom, I discovered new skills and talents. I learned English slowly, and after four years, I spoke enough English to take the SAT. I applied to UPenn and got in with a full scholarship.
I am now in my last year of undergraduate studies in Economics. My community back home is waiting for me to come and create jobs for them and lift them out of poverty, as well. As other Agahozo-Shalom graduates do the same in their communities, Rwanda will not be the same country it was after the genocide, all thanks to Anne Heyman, and thanks to the many people who continue to support Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and my brothers and sisters there today.
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