Muraho! On December 28th, 2013 ASYV welcomed our newest Enrichment Year students to the Village! Travelling from Rwanda’s 30 districts, 128 children and their families poured into Agahozo-Shalom. They were greeted by the smooth sounds of ASYV’s own Indatwa Jazz Band. Nerves were eased as a satisfying lunch of samosas, sweet breads and tea were passed out to hungry and exhausted travelers. Village Director, Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura, gave a warm speech welcoming new students and encouraged them to take advantage of all the opportunities Agahozo-Shalom has to offer.  After lunch, families were escorted to the stadium for the celebratory tradition of receiving their family assignments.

Agahozo-Shalom is structured in the image of a family home with a Rwandan Mama and older sibling. In this way, students are integrated into the supportive fabric of the Village from their first day. For our enrichment students, this proved to be a very exciting moment. Smiling mamas, big sisters, and brothers waited anxiously to receive their new sons, daughters, or siblings. As names were called, families began to take form and new students officially joined the family structure of the Village. It is important for the new students to understand the significance of their families and to consider their fellow students and caretakers as their advocates. Families serve to provide whatever support they may need in the coming years.  

Mama Marie Claire, a five-year veteran of Agahozo-Shalom, stated to her girls on their first night, “we are all one now.” She reiterated the importance of self-confidence, motivation, and self-respect. The girls listened eagerly to her speech- one of the few that was given in Kinyarwanda (English is the official language in the Village).  Once classes begin, all of the students’ English skills will be strengthened, as the academic curriculum is taught in English. Mama Marie Claire told the newly acclimated cousins (year-long Village volunteers) that many of the students are quiet and apprehensive at first, which is a reflection of their difficult backgrounds. Despite their past, Mama Marie Claire remains confident that each student will evolve into a poised ASYV pupil. Each year she welcomes this transformation and feels honored to witness such displays of strength. 

To see a video from arrival day, click here

To see a photo slideshow from the first day, click here

Submitted by Sasha Friedman, 2014 Village Fellow