13 May 2012

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV)

"The village will be a place of hope, where traumatized youth can "dry their tears" (Agahozo) and "live in peace" (Shalom)."
Tikkun olam (literally, "repairing the world," and practically, "engaging in social action") is one of the core tenets of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. At the Village, to undertake tikkun olam as a central project because of the strong contribution it offers to the youth of Agahozo-Shalom themselves, as well as to the surrounding communities.

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) is a residential community in rural Rwanda. Its 144 acres are home to youth who were orphaned during and after the genocide in 1994. The Village is designed to care for, protect and nurture these young people. It is a place of hope, where "tears are dried" (signified by the Kinyarwanda word agahozo) and where the aim is to live in peace (from Hebrew, shalom). The marrying of these two languages and concepts in the name of the Village is intended as a reminder of the success of similar efforts in Israel, where genocide also changed the face of a nation.

Within Agahozo-Shalom’s supportive and structured community, the rhythm of life is being restored, with the ultimate goal of equiping young people who have lived through great trauma to become healthy, self-sufficient, and engaged in the rebuilding of their nation. The environment of love and safety created at Agahozo-Shalom serves as the backdrop for programs designed to help our teenagers grow both emotionally and intellectually. The experiences they accumulate at their village home are intended to help them at every level of their future development.

In addition to healing oneself, Agahozo-Shalom teaches the principle of serving the community, both locally and globally. The young people at Agahozo-Shalom are learning through principle and practice the value of mending the world around them (as are the many volunteers who join us from around the world). Our graduates will emerge 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.

The Spark of an Idea
In November of 2005, Agahozo-Shalom Founder Anne Heyman and her husband, Seth Merrin, heard a talk about the Rwandan genocide. At a dinner after the talk, Seth asked the speaker to identify the biggest problem Rwanda faced. The answer was the vast number of orphans with no systemic solution to support their well-being and development.

Immediately Anne, a South African-born lawyer and mother of three living in New York City, connected the challenge of the Rwandan orphan population to the similar challenge that Israel faced after the Second World War. When there was 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.

Misson - To enable orphaned and vulnerable youth to realize their maximum potential by providing them with a safe and secure living environment, health care, education and necessary life skills. Education and service are used to model and create socially responsible citizens in Rwanda and around the world.

The goal of the Village is to restore hope and opportunity to traumatized young lives. A place of learning and renewal, the Village offers a safe, nurturing environment where Rwandan youth can gain the skills and self-confidence they will need to fulfill their individual potential and make an active contribution to a stronger, more peaceful Rwanda.

Repairing the Individual
The philosophy behind ASYV is based heavily on the Yemin Orde Youth Village. We believe that there is a timeline in every life, and that it is important to recognize that each traumatized youth has a past, present and future. Trauma causes a break between the past and the present, traumatic events that they need be to repaired in order for the young people to live in the present and be able to dream of having a future.

At the Village, each teenager will deal with their traumatic break on two levels. One is called tikkun halev, meaning “repairing the heart” in Hebrew. This includes individual therapies that range from music and art to seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. The second level of the therapeutic process in tikkun olam, meaning “repairing the world.” The notion is that an individual’s healing can be furthered by doing acts of kindness for others and the feeling that they have a part in creating a more just world.

Focus on Learning
ASYV focuses on developing students both cognitively and socially. Schooling is geared towards the ideal of university but also provides students with choices for vocational tracks. Broadly, the Village education focuses on communal participation, and encourages the spirit of volunteerism as a means for sustainable development and community enrichment. It also seeks to expand each student’s talents, skills, and capacity to become not only functioning members of society, but leaders of their communities.

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