Each year at Agahozo-Shalom, the first thing that happens when students arrive in the Village is they are given an ASYV family. These groups consist of 16 students, a Mama who will live with them and serve as their primary guardian throughout the four years they live here, a Big Brother or Sister and in their first year, a Cousin, who is a long-term Volunteer.  Families live together, work together, learn together and meet with one another regularly to share their challenges, successes and achievements. 

Throughout the first term new families spend a lot of time getting to know each other and learning to live together. As this first term ends it is now the responsibility of each family to choose a name that will be their family name for the remainder of their time at Agahozo-Shalom. The name is painted on a plaque that is mounted over the door of their house and the individual is meant to be a person who can serve as an inspirational role model. 

In choosing a name, students invest hours researching and studying historical figures, learning about inspirational individuals and debating with one another about the name they would like to represent their family. After much deliberation each family selects a name and the new families are formally introduced to the rest of the Agahozo-Shalom community in a huge, festive naming ceremony. 

This past Friday, the entire Village gathered in anticipation of hearing and formally welcoming the new families and their names to the Village. The new grade as a whole was given a name and the class was introduced as Ishema, meaning something that you can be proud of. 

One by one the families came to the front of the community and introduced themselves by their new family names, explaining their rationale and the meaning they take from their new identities. The new family names are as follows:

Family 1: Saint Valentine (Christian martyred for marrying soldiers in Roman times)

Family 2: Fred Gisa Rwigema (Founder and participant in the Rwandan Patriotic Force, who worked to liberate a number of neighboring East African countries)

Family 3: Martin Luther King Jr.

Family 4: Adam Smith (Scottish philosopher who is considered the grandfather of modern economics)

Family 5: Rosa Parks

Family 6: John Locke (American philosophical founder of progressive thought and the importance of individual liberties)

Family 7: Clara Barton (Founded the American Red Cross)

Family 8: Eleanor Roosevelt (Particularly influential for these kids because she was also an orphan who rose above her circumstances to achieve incredible things for her people and her country)

Each family was welcomed with thundering applause and murmurs of appreciation for their new names and the explanations of their meaning. The evening was truly a lively, positive, energetic celebration of the new Ishema class. The entire community demonstrated incredible support for all of the families.  As the students expressed their hopes and dreams and the importance of their new names, it was incredible to witness the entire Agahozo-Shalom community join together to encourage their fellow brothers and sisters.

Submitted by long-term volunteer Shira Liff-Grief