It is the first day of the school year and this morning marked a climactic moment following a whirlwind of activity at Agahozo-Shalom over the past week and a half. Since Thursday, December 27th, when the Village welcomed its fifth class of 125 new students, all the staff, educators, cousins, mamas, and big siblings have been hard at work preparing this new class -- introducing them to Agahozo-Shalom, the Village way of life and our shared core values.

Welcome Day began early with the staff preparing the Village -- setting up the ceremony area and decorating in honor of the arriving students and their guardians. Throughout the morning nearly all the students arrived by bus from the neighboring town of Rwamagana, most of them with a guardian (sister or brother, neighbor, administrator from a previous school or orphanage, aunt, uncle or other family member), and all their belongings, which often was no more than one small backpack. 

Upon arrival at the Village, each student was welcomed with open arms, lots of hugging, smiling, and warmth and given a tour of their new home. The looks of relief, disbelief and amazement at the beauty of Agahozo-Shalom were palpable. As cousins we were all deeply moved by the impact that simply arriving at Agahozo-Shalom seemed to have on these kids. When prompted, one new student said, “I am very happy to have a future.”

The Welcome Day ceremony began in the afternoon, was coordinated by a current 4th year student and was complete with presentations from the Director of the Village, the Mayor of the district and an impromptu poem, prepared in both Kinyarwanda and English, by a new student to the Village in which she expressed the deep impact that being invited to Agahozo-Shalom has already had on her life.

In the past week the new students have begun to blossom. They’ve become increasingly comfortable in their new environment, shared their artistic and athletic talent, and begun to open up and express themselves. This morning at school, Bonaventure, the Principal of the Liquidnet Family High School, reminded the students to “maximize this opportunity and work hard.”  The new students and the returning classes, standing side by side, all gave him their undivided attention. 

The 2013 school year has officially begun and we cannot wait to see it unfold.

For more photos, visit our Facebook page at