As the first term of the 2014 school year at Agahozo-Shalom draws to a close (term break begins 5 April), so too does the sports programming.  

At the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, our kids are welcome to choose from basketball, football (soccer), volleyball, karate, as well as a new option of track and field. Prior to arriving at Agahozo-Shalom, most of the students have never had access to athletic facilities or proper training. Undeterred, they pour onto the fields and courts enthusiastically awaiting instruction during the after school enrichment program offering.  You'll also find students organizing their own pick-up games when structured activities are not planned.  Despite their lack of prior experience with athletics, the students are in no way discouraged, and have a strong desire to learn and play. Coaches (informal educators) introduce the necessary concepts of stretching, warm-ups, and teamwork, and throughout the term, more detailed rules and regulations are explained to the students. The importance of hard work and perseverance is reiterated throughout each team’s practice. 

If you had the opportunity to attend an ASYV basketball game played by the older students, it would be easy to forget how far they have come in such a short time. They move about the court with grace, and each player possess an immense amount of skill.  It seems impossible that just a year or two ago, they stood wide-eyed and confused, having never picked up a basketball.  

It's not just the basketball team that shines though, in fact ASYV’s Men’s Volleyball Club, headed by coach Alexandre Umurinzi, took home the title at the Rwamagana District Volleyball Championship Series in 2013. “You may as well say 2014,” boasts Alexandre in complete confidence of his team, looking ahead to this year's competition.

In just a matter of weeks, the progress made by first-year students is palpable, and is only reiterated in the face of competition. Students are eager to prove themselves within their sports assignments and yet there is an element of teamwork and camaraderie that embraces the concept of ASYV’s family initiative. While the sports program officially ends at six in the evening, most of the students and coaches remain on the field.  “Practice and you will succeed” - these are words not lost on the young athletes and they are out to prove it.

Submitted by 2014 Village Fellow