One of our TCU friends, Pacifique Rutamu, graduated from Agahozo Shalom Youth Village. https://asyv.orghttps://asyv.org ASYV was founded by American Anne Heyman https://asyv.org/our-founder/ The framework of ASYV mirrors that the model of residential youth communities built in Israel after WWII for orphans of the Holocaust . https://asyv.org/the-asyv-story/https://asyv.org/the-asyv-story/ The goal of ASYV, therefore is …to heal and educate vulnerable Rwandan youth, helping them to realize their maximum potential, and become socially responsible citizens.
Before arriving to ASYV, Pacifique had told us that Ms. Heyman searched throughout Rwanda to find an inspiring site and, guided by a Rwandan proverb that states If you can see far, you will go far – she settled the village into the hilly terrain north and east of Kigali.
We had lunch at ASYV – it was delicious – warm, grounding. We had just come from the Kigali Genocide Memorial and speaking for myself, the beans and rice helped to fill some quite vacuous spaces in my body.
We met director, JC (Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura) and public relations fellow MC (Marie Claire Levy), and Fulbright Specialist and volunteer, Phyllis Lerner for a tour as well as some of the incoming first year students. Competition is fierce to enter ASYV. Teachers across the country make recommendations – about 2500 in total – and only 128 students are chosen to enter each year. Notably, 2/3 are young women and 1/3 are young men. Rwanda is prioritizing the education of women.
We toured the campus – it’s several acres. We started in the dining hall/gathering space, went up to visit the classrooms, amphitheater, residential section and agricultural and livestock sectors. In that oh-so-small-world way, when we arrived at the amphitheater, I put two and two together, and realized that new friend and TCU partner, Shelby Sullivan, Volunteer Coordinator of Refugee Services in Texas (Fort Worth division), had been to ASYV! We were talking about Rwanda before the trip – in November – and she mentioned ASYV and how remarkable it was both for how it was designed and developed, and the success it has had. She mentioned weekly performances in the amphitheater. It turns out that Pacifique was on the dance team – he performed regularly in ASYV’s amphitheater. And, of note, when he was there, the team won 2nd place in national competition. Shelby was one of eight fellows at ASYV in 2015. Fellows rotate yearly and are the cousins to the eight households where the students live with a Mama. The residential living spaces and the village itself were created to reflect family structures. It is truly lovely to have found another in my immediate sphere who has a clear picture of where we were, what we saw, some insight into the feelings we experienced, and the spirit of the people we met.