The Spark of An Idea
In November of 2005, Anne Heyman and her husband, Seth Merrin, attended a talk about the Rwandan genocide. Afterwards, Seth asked the speaker to identify the biggest problem still facing Rwanda. The answer was Rwanda's persistent orphan crisis. With no systemic solution to support the well-being and development of Rwanda's vast orphan population, many were being left behind. Immediately Anne connected the issue to the similar challenge that Israel faced following the Second World War. When faced with a large influx of orphans from the Holocaust, Israel built residential living communities called youth villages. Anne was inspired to bring this model to Rwanda, and subsequently founded The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.
About the village
The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) is a residential community in rural Rwanda. Its 144 acres are home to youth orphaned during and after the Genocide of 1994. Designed to heal and nurture these young people, the Village is a place of hope, where "tears are dried" (signified by the Kinyarwanda word "agahozo") and students can live in peace (from the Hebrew "shalom"). The union of these two languages and concepts reminds us of the success of similar efforts in Israel, where a significant youth population recovered from the trauma of the Holocaust.
A safe and loving community serves as the backdrop for programs designed to help our students grow emotionally and intellectually, transforming vulnerable young people into healthy, self-sufficient, and engaged change-makers. The experiences they accumulate in the Village will help them at every level of their future development.
In addition to healing oneself, Agahozo-Shalom teaches the principle and practice of healing one's community, and encourages students to mend the world around them. Our students graduate from Agahozo-Shalom as balanced adults who are not only able to care for themselves and their families, but who are committed to making their community, their country, and their world a better place.