Spotlight On Tanya Fredman

Tanya Fredman remembers the first students arriving to the Village. “Nobody knew what to expect,” she says looking back. “[ASYV] was like some kind of paradise.”

Now an Arts Educator at Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel, Tanya served as an ASYV Fellow during the first cohort of Village volunteers back in 2008-2009.

Tanya was a senior at Brandeis University when she originally found out about the Agahozo-Shalom for the first time. “Someone sent me a YouTube clip of Anne [Heyman] speaking about the Village and Yemin Orde and I was blown away. I connected with Sifa [Nsengimana] and I said, ‘I really want to come and volunteer.’”

After meeting with Anne and Will Recant, Assistant Executive VP at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Tanya decided she wanted to understand what it meant to live and work in a youth village, so she packed her bags and spent the fall of 2008 serving at Yemin Orde Youth Village near Haifa in Israel.

Her time in Israel was so impactful that, in December, Tanya decided to pack up once again, this time traveling out to Rwanda to begin her journey at ASYV. At the time, only two rows of houses had been constructed and were used for more than just housing students - one served as an office, one an infirmary, and another a staff dining hall.

Tanya led the Village’s Art Club and art studio sessions with Media Kayitesi, who still oversees ASYV’s art programming.

The project she remembers most vividly was the painting of the Village’s signature, Edmond J. Safra Community Center, a colorful and busily trafficked building found at the center of the Village between the Liquidnet Family High School and the students’ family homes. “One of the very first things that we did was give out pieces of paper. The students wrote down something they were proud of, something they loved about the Village, or a wish.” The thoughts and feelings, which she worked to compile into a cohesive drawing, served as the primary inspiration for the Center. Once completed, the drawing was projected on to the wall of the building to be traced and painted.

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Tanya and Students in Front of Community Center

Tanya took advantage of the building’s scaffolding, which had been left over from its construction. Using a pulley system, students and staff transported paint up and down the building’s wall to complete an intricate paint-by-number project. By mapping out the artwork, everyone was able to have a hand in its completion. The project was started in March and completed by June, just in time for the Village’s opening ceremony.

Tanya recalls other fond memories from her time at ASYV, such as making drawings with the Village Mamas, baking bread on Shabbat to distribute after Village Time, and walking the Village’s perimeter at a time before it was enclosed by fencing. In 2013, she returned to see her students graduate: “It felt very different to be there with 500 kids,” she says.

Tanya continues to remain connected to the Village, keeping in touch with ASYV alumni and meeting with Young Judaea volunteers in Israel before their annual trip to the Village. And in this way, her experience stays with her.

“Take time to listen to the stories, to the culture, to what’s needed,” advises Tanya to the current Fellows. “The giving will come naturally and in the best way.”