January 31, 2018
It’s been another year without her. Another year since we lost my mother, Anne Heyman, founder of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and the best person I have ever known. But we keep moving forward - strong, resilient. We keep working - working to make the world a better place, the place she believed it could be. Because it’s what she would have wanted. Because she taught us how.
We feel as though nothing can prepare us for that moment that we can no longer rely on the help of our parents - when we are forced to stand alone on our own two feet. But in fact, something can. That’s exactly what parents are for. When my mother conceived of Agahozo-Shalom, she did it with a specific purpose in mind: these children would walk through our doors, and the Village would act as their parent. The children would be given love, an education, food and care and play, and every opportunity a parent could ever want for their child. And then, after four years, they would leave our gates and have to stand alone. Not because we did not love them anymore, but because a parent can not be there forever. And when our “children” left, it would be not as children but as capable adults, men and women who could take care of themselves, who know right from wrong, who could go into the world and leave it changed. This was what my mother dreamed of for our kids - not of the idyllic life within our gates, but for a life of passion and independence beyond them.
The children in the Village used to call Anne “grandmother”. She didn’t like the name, but it was apt. The Village was parent to the children, and Anne was mother to the Village. ASYV came from her mind. She raised it, she imparted on to it all the best parts of herself, and she dreamed of a day when it could stand without her. When we lost my mother, we felt a fear that it was too soon. That ASYV wasn’t ready for a life without her. I know because I felt that fear for myself - I didn’t know if I could survive without her guidance, her hope, her reassuring smile. But if my mother was anything, she was a great parent - and that meant she taught us well, even if we didn’t know it yet. With time came the realization that we still had the knowledge she gave us, and with that knowledge came confidence to move forward. With every day, we continue to grow, taking one step at a time, taking the lessons and values we learned from her and making them our own. Each day we continue to improve, to become better - and even without her, it is thanks to her. We will use her lessons to make the world a better place. We will make her proud. It is not easy. But it is getting easier.
I thank you for being a part of this journey.
Submitted by Anne's son, Jason Merrin