By Anne Heyman, Founder ASYV

Anne Heyman, founder of ASYV, is currently in the village and wrote this blog about her wonderful day at the village:

July 13, 2011 Once again I find myself waking up at the crack of dawn – literally – and I lie in bed listening to the wind in the banana trees which sounds like rain but not really, because here in Rwanda it’s the dry season. With rain being highly unlikely, the sun peeking in your windows and all the birds chirping their early morning singing songs….you know it’s just another day in paradise. You may think that is an exaggeration, but if you haven’t been here yet, you cannot even imagine how beautiful it is. And if you are a nature lover….let me tell you about what I did today.

At lunch I was approached by Fidel, the head of the Environment Club, and he asked if it would be possible for some of the students in the environment club to take me on a walk through “the Park” – the newly designated conservation area which visitors to Agahozo-Shalom can now take a guided walk through. I am told that so far over 200 students have worked on or participated in the creation of the nature trail, which is still under construction and in doing so they have all been exposed to the importance of protecting our environment (as well as the fun you can have in doing so!) Starting at the back of the school, where 4 state of the art large greenhouses are sprouting all kinds of plants (it’s been a long time since I tasted such a delicious tomato) we followed the fence line until we saw the sign: Agahozo-Shalom Nature Park. The whole way leading up to the entrance I was learning about why caring for our environment is so important from the 5 members of the Environment Club who undertook to give me my tour! Turning left onto the trail I was shown a one page “map” of some of the plants, trees, birds and wildlife I could possibly encounter. I am pleased to report that were no pictures of lions or baboons on the page; although there was the chance of encountering an Ichneumon Mongoose (who I am told are good because they eat snakes….and we did in fact not encounter any snakes on the path!) Immediately after stepping onto the path we were surrounded by butterflies of all types, and it was explained to me how important they are for pollination. An acacia tree led to a discussion about the different types of acacia trees, and which ones were used traditionally for church gatherings under the shady trees.

Innocent, Paulina, Leonard, Fidel, and Anne-Marie followed in short succession; with a discussion of each types of plant, the Kinyarwanda name, the English name and the scientific name all being provided. Despite the fact that it was 2:30 in the afternoon we were treated to encounters with Speckled Mousebirds, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters, and a Bateleur Eagle, just a few of the over 125 species of birds which have been documented at the village by our resident bird expert and erstwhile volunteer, Jared. (For those of you who are serious bird watchers, we are proud to let you know that Agahozo-Shalom is one of the few places where you can regularly spot Sooty Chats, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters, and Yellow-throated Longclaws).

Agahozo-Shalom is a village of hope, a village of learning, a village of promise and change. And it is a village filled with delightful surprises: Kids who have amazing voices, traditional poetry written by young people with old soles, wonderful murals painted by our resident artists, homemade potato chips (ok not that often but when we do get them…I have never tasted any potato chips so delicious)….and now there is one more….our very own very special nature preserve…..complete with a guided tour that I guarantee you will never forget.