2014 held many great successes at Agahozo-Shalom, including the debate team ranking second in the nation and the traditional dance team placing fourth. Ten students were also given the chance to visit New York for the annual Stand Up & Be Counted fundraising event, which was an insightful experience for both the students and supporters of ASYV. 

Hoping to match or maybe even surpass, the enthusiasm and achievements of the past year, the Enrichment Year (first year) students pulled together an inspiring talent show showcasing their self-confidence and impressive breadth of artistic ability. Throughout the day, the staff was busy preparing and decorating for the night’s celebration. Red and white ribbons twisted around the pillars of the Edmond J. Safra Community Center and a homemade “Happy New Year” sign hung above the makeshift stage. 

Having arrived at the Village only three days prior, the enrichment year students were still adjusting to all of the new changes. During the talent show however, it appeared that everyone had known each other for years; with never-ending laughter, booming music DJed by Guy Kamatari and cousin (year-long Village Fellow) Max Rewak, and students cheering on their friends. Two of the kids, Freddy and Pamellah, volunteered to be the MCs and guided the show, introducing students’ performances, which included singing, modern and traditional dance, comedy acts, and modeling. The staff at ASYV watched with admiration at how quickly the kids put together their acts and adapted to their new surroundings.  

Director of Operations Eric Salongo and Grade Coordinator Mable Muberuka delivered inspiring speeches about the New Year, encouraging the students to take advantage of the opportunities available at Agahozo-Shalom. As the clock struck midnight, a beautiful cake was rolled out, and the Village erupted in cheerful shouts and group hugs. For some children, the cake they ate to commemorate the New Year was not only the first cake they tasted in 2015, but their first experience eating cake – truly a sweet start to a new year!

The celebration continued on New Year’s Day when the kids were surprised with a special BBQ picnic, featuring goat brochette skewers and Fanta soda. The weather was perfect as students piled their plates, and looked out over Rwamagana’s expansive green hills. The picnic concluded with music and dancing, students celebrating with their new friends and family. 

The New Year celebration was an impressive and joyful time. Beyond the festivities, the beginning of 2015 marks an important time for our enrichment year students. Having recently begun their journey at Agahozo-Shalom, the New Year brings with it promises of a better future and of opportunities to proactively pursue their dreams. Agahozo-Shalom believes in each child, and we are eager to see what 2015 holds for all of our students and for Rwanda. 

Submitted by Shelby Sullivan, 2015 Village Fellow