Talya Curtis, London, England

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda prides itself in installing in the children the idea that they, orphans of the genocide, are worthy of helping those less fortunate than themselves. This concept of going outside the village to help others is not only to help them recognize how lucky they are to be in ASYV, but also to teach them that every person has something to give to the community and wider society.

Anne Heyman, the founder of ASYV, built the Village on Jewish values and thus, the Village sets aside one afternoon a week to do Tikun Olam, the Jewish notion of repairing the world. There are three options of Tikun Olam that the children can choose from: elementary school, social work, and HIV-AIDS clinic. I chose to go to the HIV-AIDS clinic with the children. As soon as we walked out of the Village, I immediately noticed the difference between those who are lucky enough to live in ASYV and those who live outside. The former are better dressed, well-nourished and speak impeccable English.

Arriving at the clinic was a big shock for me. The clinic was made up of a few dark and rundown buildings, some made of mud. There was nothing inside the clinic that resembled a medical center, no electrical medical equipment, no real waiting rooms and hardly any medical supplies. We were given a tour around the clinic, but during the tour I couldn’t help but get distracted by the background noise. My eyes couldn’t focus on the doctor talking to us. All that my eyes were drawn to were the mothers outside trying to cradle their sick and crying babies. As we were told later, the babies scream with pain because they have not eaten or drunk water for days, often weeks. This for me was painful to be around but the children of ASYV didn’t seem fazed by it, and I couldn’t understand why. It was only until later that day that I realized why. The children of ASYV used to be like those children I saw in the clinic, stricken by poverty and often sickness, and it made me so grateful for the work that this Village does for the children. They have been given a life-changing opportunity: an education, medical treatment, support system and most importantly hope, and I am deeply honored to be a part of this.