Agahozo Shalom Youth Village
"It takes a village to transform a child."
Agahozo Shalom Youth Village is a living and learning community in Rwanda's eastern province. ASYV offers education and healthcare free of charge to orphaned and vulnerable youth across the country. According to their website:
"Children need the love and support of a family to thrive. When a family isn’t stable, due to societal trauma or personal tragedy, a youth village can fill the gap. By providing a warm and welcoming home, youth villages build families that last a lifetime.
Founded in response to the orphan crisis caused by the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Agahozo Shalom is a place where 'tears are dried' (from the Kinyarwanda word 'agahozo') and where vulnerable youth can 'live in peace' (from the Hebrew word 'shalom')."
Students are housed into "families" where their classmates are their "siblings" and a former alumni or staff an "older sibling." Every family has a "mama" who is a woman committed to supporting her family for their entire four years there. This familial structure is the foundation for everything they do, from sports competitions to talent show performances.
Here are snapshots of the ASYV experience.
*Click on photos of each section to enter slideshow mode
The ASYV campus consists of the school, cafeteria, kitchen, farm, clinic, offices, and various activity facilities spread over 150 acres. Students participate in academics, sports and extracurriculars.
Umuganda is mandatory community service performed nationwide on the last Saturday of every month. Students participate in various ways, from helping at the kitchen and farm to cleaning streets.
Cleaning and upkeep, however, are not reserved for one day a month. Students are visible cleaning at all times of the day, every day.
ASYV has a policy that every student must keep a clean-shaven head. They say this policy is in place out of fairness, because due to the varying levels of students' socio-economic backgrounds not everyone can afford to get their hair done. Staff often take on the role of barber during the school year.
Visitors, both family and foreign, are a major part of the ASYV experience. Alumni, family, foreign groups and dignitaries have all walked through the ASYV gates. There are usually celebrations of some level, whether that be snacks in the family homes or special dinners and programs.
Access to healthcare is free of charge. Students have access to a clinic for daily needs and medications. The clinic also runs various testing and events such as blood drives.
First-year students go on a hike every year to the nearby Lake Mugusera where they can relax, picnic, ride a boat, dance and play sports. Outside the campus walls they interact with the local community and children.