We are in the final week of the first 2013 term, known in the Village as Grading Week. Kids completed their final exams last week and spend this week relaxing, playing, packing for term break, and participating in fun team activities in the Village.  They also meet with teachers in order to receive their final grades for the term and discuss opportunities for improvement.

Grading week is filled with a wide assortment of activities.   One of the highlights is a student and staff athletic tournament on the sports fields. The atmosphere is one of excitement, with students screaming on the sidelines, cheering each other on. The competition continued for several days, with students meeting to play soccer, volleyball and basketball against families from other grades. Loud speakers blast the latest Rwandan and International hip-hop, pop and rap music, and students and staff dance on the sidelines, while cheering on their friends.

Throughout the past week, students have also had the opportunity to spend a few last moments in the art, music, computer and recording rooms before heading home for three weeks of vacation. The traditional art group has been meeting and working diligently on a number of projects to send to New York for the Agahozo-Shalom annual Stand Up and Be Counted fundraiser, which will be held on May 6th (www.asyvstandup.org).  The art room has been hosting students who are working towards completing their projects, or really just making the most of the last few minutes they get to spend with a brush or marker in their hand. The music room has been teeming with students who just can’t put down their guitars or stop tickling the ivory, and the computer center has had non-stop student activity, with students spending a few last minutes on Facebook.

Yesterday was spent predominantly in the school for the equivalent of parent-teacher conferences.  Family mothers and each student spent much of the day meeting with teachers to discuss final grades for the term, and getting feedback on students’ overall performance. Many were expected to do well, but were nervous, anticipating the one-on-one conversations with their educators.  Thursday (today) is centered on packing and cleaning up the Village.  Students are responsible for ensuring that their home is left thoroughly clean and ready for them when they return in three weeks.  Friday morning will begin before sunrise.  By 6am, the Village will be empty, with every student aboard chartered buses heading back to the 30 districts of Rwanda. All students and non-essential staff members will leave, returning to their homes in order to visit with family and friends, and to extend the reach of the lessons learned at ASYV.  Returning “home” is an important aspect while students are at ASYV, as it is valuable for them to recurrently connect to their roots, and pay-forward the education and values they receive at ASYV to those in their community.  Everyone will return to the Village by April 21st to begin the second term of the year!

Submitted by long-term volunteer Shira Liff-Grieff