ne of the most unique elements of the ASYV family structure is the role of our Big Brothers and Sisters within the Village. While the Mamas mend the hearts of our children, the Big Brothers and Sisters restore the fun of childhood. Many students are experiencing the love from a parent for the first time when they arrive at ASYV. It can be unnerving and sometimes overwhelming to let someone new into their lives in such a profound way. For this reason the Village provides another form of support through that of a sibling. Big Brothers and Sisters live in the Village and serve to dispense advice and support whenever and wherever it is needed. Unlike the Mamas who live with one family of kids for all four years, Brothers and Sisters have multiple families that they mentor.

during the child’s first two years in the Village. The students that enter ASYV in their enrichment year range from 15-18 years of age. The Brothers and Sisters provide a level of comfort to the new students as they represent the same generation and have shared similar experiences. When walking through the Village it is not uncommon to see Big Brothers and Sisters sprawled out with their families on the grass or holding hands and giggling as they walk up to the dining hall. The strength of a sibling bond is something that can never quite be understood, but it is the most beautiful strength that can ever be witnessed.

When speaking to the Big Brothers and Sisters about how they perceive their role in the Village, their responses mirrored their commitment to the Village. Dorkus Ashimwe explained that her role for her young Sisters is primarily to serve as an example. “When I was their age, I struggled to stay focused on my studies. They’re young, in a new place, with new people and many new things to try. I understand that it can be difficult to adjust and I am here for them during this transition. It was not long ago that I was a student. I am here to encourage them, to have them learn from my mistakes - as any Big Sister would." 

Big Brother Guy Kamatari provided his own learning experience within ASYV. “The Village is here to heal. I am able to heal my own history through being a part of my Brothers’ lives. My boys are my Brothers. You do this for a job for one or two months and you start to feel like you have to be in the Village. Agahozo-Shalom is my home. To me, this is what healing really is - when it’s so good that you don’t even realize that you’ve changed. That you’re finally happy.” Big Brother Alexandre Umurinzi nodded his head in agreement, “We are around their same age,” he continued, “the kids feel comfortable approaching us with whatever problems they are experiencing. It can be difficult for a teenage boy to talk to his Mama about some of the things that they can discuss with us. We make ourselves available to them, so no kid ever feels that they are alone without someone to talk to."

The roles of the Big siblings extend beyond that of the family construct. All of our Big Brothers and Sisters have alternative positions within the Village such as coaching sports, teaching art or music, or assisting with IT. In this way, the community grows even stronger and titles such as “Village,” or “Family” are sincerely justified. “I know who these kids are and where they come from. I understand how to teach them and how to motivate them inside and outside of the classroom,” said Big Brother Guy, “I’m with them every day. No one knows my boys better than me.” ASYV could not function in its familial capacity without the camaraderie that is encouraged by our Big Brothers and Sisters. We are so grateful for their endless love and abounding spirit! 

Submitted by Sasha Friedman, 2014 Village Fellow