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.
Ornella Rwanziza was selected as the valedictorian of Ishema grade. As a four-time National Debate Champion and the Founder of Agahozo-Shalom’s chapter of Girl Up, a United Nations-affiliated club focused on women’s empowerment, she is truly a leader. A source of pride to her fellow graduates, and an inspiration to us all, Ornella made her mark during our graduation ceremony by delivering an incredible speech. For your enjoyment, a transcript of her speech is included below:
For the past few years, the ASYV has treated kids in the new grade to a fun-filled trip to nearby Lake Mugesera. Each occasion has comprised a variety of exciting activities including boat rides, sports competitions, dance parties and a barbeque!
This year the trip had a slight twist as kids were encouraged to participate in Tikkun Olam, Mucaka Mucaka and a scavenger hunt en route.The kids were split into four groups and each were given detailed instructions to follow throughout the two-hour journey along the red dirt road to the lake.
Today, we spoke with Aimable Ngabo, a Senior 5 student studying PCB (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) and the captain of the district cup winning boys football team.
Aimable joined ASYV as a young man who had always been passionate about football. His favorite team is Manchester United but he can name just about every player from any team playing in the European Champion League.
His story is an example to all of us how hard work, commitment, and determination really does pay off. In two years, Aimable went from being a fringe player to captaining a district cup winning team and utilizing his talent to support his family.
In this week's blog we talk to Senior 5 student, Pascal-Claudien Hakizimana about his love for art and how ASYV has helped facilitate his passion. Pascal-Claudien (alias N-Pac) spends the vast majority of his free time in the Village producing artwork that has been subject to much admiration. His work is exhibited in the ASYV gift shop and some of his pieces have even been sold to visitors in order to help raise money for the Village.
During the days leading up to our Stand Up and Be Counted gala 2016, we spent time with ASYV alumni who are studying at various universities across the US and Canada. Among the events was a meetup to discuss our graduates' experiences post ASYV and the impact that their time spent in the Village has had on their lives today.
Over the last few months ASYV has been catching up with their graduates. Read on to find out what some of them are doing!
The beginning of this year marked our 4th graduating class from Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village who went to join the ranks of our alumni, making their numbers grow to nearly 500. Over the last few months, ASYV management team travelled across the country to meet graduates and find out what they have been up to since leaving ASYV. Meeting in different locations across the four provinces of the country, the ASYV management team spoke with 180 graduates from all Urumuli, Imbuto, Indatwa and Ingenzi grades.
Many changes have taken place over the past few months at the ASYV. With Jean -Claude Nkulikiyimfura recently being appointed as the new Executive Director, it left the position of Village Director vacant. After a long and meticulous search for his replacement, we are both excited and delighted to announce that we have found the perfect successor to JC in Vincent Kalimba. A few months into his position, we managed to catch up with our new Village Director for an interview.
Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village happily celebrated the graduation of the Ingenzi grade. Following the graduations of the Urumuli, Imbuto and Indatwa grades, we are extremely pleased to have seen over 500 students pass through our gates and transform into socially responsible citizens. Read more about this ceremony!