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.
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, mushanana-clad educators ran around campus and green capped and gowned students eagerly took pictures with their Village families.
Nicholas Navarro joined the University of Pennsylvania Hillel'sservice learning trip to ASYV this past May for an unforgettable week exploring the Village and Rwanda.
Nicholas is the highest fundraiser of any service trip participant in 2017 to date. We caught up with Nicholas to hear more about his experience visiting the Village and his tips on how to be a successful peer-to-peer fundraiser.
This summer, Liliane Pari Umuhoza (Class of 2012, Urumuli Grade) made the trip from Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, all the way to Jerusalem, Israel to intern at The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Yad Vashem. Learn more about Liliane's experience in our interview with her.
We can't believe that second term is already coming to a close! Check out the July 2017 newsletter for messages from Student Government and leadership about how to stay healthy over break, using free time to give back and what to expect in the third term!
Is it true that humanity can be restored? Is it possible to turn an angry face, depression, and broken heart into a smiling face, happiness and a healing heart to save the community? Why do we have mercy for others who are suffering? How does love to create friendship arise? What does it take to realize our dreams? These questions can be answered by my brief story describing my life changes at ASYV in four years.
Giving back to her community is one of the things she puts first in her journey. Peace Grace Muhizi is a graduate of Agahozo Shalom Youth Village and she is currently schooling in Atlanta, Georgia at Agnes Scott College. This summer, she came back to Rwanda with an aim of interning in a public organization and also giving back to her community, more specifically the youth village that raised her to be who she is today.
Before I came to the ASYV, I lived in a nearby village with my three brothers and my father. My mother had passed away shortly after the Genocide due to Genocide-related traumas. My father decided not to remarry and instead focused on taking care of my brothers and I. Prior to ASYV, I attended Catholic school, where I struggled to maintain good grades and achieve academic success. When I was recruited to the Village, I didn’t have a good understanding as to what ASYV was but I looked forward to the opportunity to improve in school.
This is the first year Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning (MEAL) has been fully implemented at ASYV. We’re learning so much about our students and programs, and starting to make some exciting changes!
For the first time, the MEAL team collected baseline data on all new students. Baseline data includes recruitment data, answers to the Intake form completed by students’ guardians on their first day, information from students’ physical and psychosocial evaluations, and their answers to two surveys, DAP (Developmental Asset Profile) and KAP (Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices) administered in their first few weeks at ASYV.
One of the best parts of being a student at ASYV is the opportunity to apply skills and information you learn in the classroom to the real world. ASYV’s Entrepreneurship program is one of the strongest examples of this.
This week, the Senior 6 (equivalent to high school seniors) students got the chance to go on an Entrepreneurship Field Trip with Technoserve, our partner that created and helped facilitate ASYV’s Entrepreneurship program. This was a special occasion for the kids, not just because it was a chance to leave the Village, but also because it was an opportunity to see how to turn your business ideas into a reality.
600 people standing in a line on the top of the school’s hill, looking down on the vast expanse of Mugasera Lake, the distant hills and our home, ASYV. Heads held high and standing tall: staff, Village Management, guests and students begin the steep procession down to the dining hall in a walk of solidarity for an important cause. International Women’s Day happens once a year. It’s a time to bring both girls and boys together to celebrate the successes of women and reflect on the significance of how women shape and define society.
Last week, ASYV tragically lost a family member, ASYV graduate, Robert Rudakubana. Robert was a caring friend and brother who lit up our lives.
Classmate, Fred Mutangana remembers Robert in the dedication below.
It is hard to find the words to describe how I feel now that you are gone, but I thank God for bringing you into my life. For the past 4 years of high school I got to sit next to you in the same room and same classes since we both had the Maths, Physics, and Computer Science (MPC) combination. Everyday I appreciated your love, courage and helping heart. Since I have known you, you were smiling, encouraging of others, and giving out your help for others to achieve their dreams.
February 1st marks Heroes’ Day in Rwanda. This annual public holiday commemorates the national heroes from Rwanda’s past. Here at ASYV, this day is particularly special because it is a time for us to celebrate and remember our founder, Anne Heyman, who three years ago passed away from a tragic horse riding accident.
In her honor, and the honor of other past heroes, we reflected on what being a hero truly means. Heroes don’t come in one standard packaging – they come in people of different ages, genders, ethnicities, nationalities and economic backgrounds. As a family, we find a hero in the sister who helps us achieve good grades in school, the older student who motivates us to try new things or the brother who watches out for us when we are sick.
We officially have a full house at ASYV! Yesterday, amid rainstorms and traffic countrywide as boarding students return to their schools, our Senior 4 and Senior 5 grades trickled in through the front gates. We celebrated their return with a Special Edition Village Time attended by JC, our Executive Director, and our special guest, Board Chair, Laurie Franz - who we are lucky to have here for the start of school.
A new year brings many new exciting things! For the Health and Wellness Center (H&W), it means we have 128 new students to care for and watch grow over the next 4 years! It is such a joy to watch our students thrive during their time here. Year after year, we watch kids grow taller and wiser. We have no doubt our new students will be no exception.
It's officially been three weeks since our Enrichment Year students arrived at ASYV. And what a three weeks it’s been! Relationships continue to become stronger and stronger within the families, and friendships have formed across the grade. Kids lovingly refer to one another as “brother” or “sister”, which is just one of the many magical components of ASYV. And, there is certain level of trust amongst the students and the staff, which in many cases, is a new concept for these kids.
In addition to getting to know one another, the weeks before the older grades arrive at the Village are utilized to teach English Enrichment and Computer Literacy classes.
While New Years Eve is the one truly global holiday that exists today, it is celebrated in different ways and with varying traditions, depending on where you are. At ASYV, we took the 2017 New Years celebration to the next level.
Before arriving in the Village, I studied at the Inyange Girls School of Science. I lived with my mother and two sisters in the Musanze district which is located in the northern province of Rwanda. Unfortunately, there were many occasions where my family was unable to support my school fees.
When I heard that I had been selected to study at Agahozo-Shalom, I was so happy. My older sister already had the opportunity to study here and so I knew about all of the amazing things that go on in the Village.
Upon hearing that I had been selected to join the Village, I felt overjoyed because there would no longer be any stresses over school fees. I was also so excited to have a new family that I could share experiences with. I had friends that were part of the Indatwa grade that already graduated here and they always had amazing things to say about this place.
From my very first day here, I was determined to make the most of the chance I had been given. I worked hard to improve my English skills which have resulted in higher-confidence in all activities. I learned to play the guitar and improve my talent for traditional dance - two things I perform regularly during Village Time and other events staged here in the Village. I also take my studies seriously and am proud to have achieved the highest grades of any student in the Liquidnet Family High School last year.
When I got here at ASYV the first thing that they told me was that dreams are necessary in life. All you have to do for you to make things that you dreamt about happen, is go for it. Do it. Stop thinking and just do it. And that's what I decided to do. I decided to take all the opportunities that I was given by ASYV and decided to do something about them.
My proudest achievements at ASYV were becoming a responsible person with core values and becoming a guitar player. Before coming to ASYV, my plan for the future was to be a driver and to take care of my family as I am the one in charge. Now, with what ASYV has taught me, I have more options.