One year ago today we lost the greatest person I’ll ever know. My mother, Anne Heyman, was an incredible force for good - someone who acted courageously and gave selflessly. She changed the world many times over with her ingenuity, passion and perseverance, and she always made it look so easy. And still, if you asked her how she got this power, what made her so special, she would tell you she was no different from anybody else.

My mother truly believed that every single person has the capacity to change the world. More incredibly, she had the power to make you believe it too. She made you feel like you had not only the ability, but also the responsibility to make the world a better place. While she might be gone, her legacy lives on in the hope she had for our future and in the faith she had in our potential. We must become the people she knew we could be, people capable of great love and kindness, people capable of doing great things. We must believe in our own power to change the world.

Recently, 128 brothers and sisters began their new lives in the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. These children will never get to meet their “Grandmother Anne.” They won’t know the warmth of her smile or the comfort of her embrace. They won’t know the feeling of looking into her eyes and knowing that they see the best in you. 

But they will know her. In a small village in Rwanda, my mother’s spirit lives on. The Village embodies her philosophies, especially the notion that if you take anyone – even the world’s most vulnerable youth – and give them hope, that they will achieve amazing things. 

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is a place unlike any other I have seen, and the kids there are the most remarkable I have ever known. They have an incredible passion for learning, for creating, for improving themselves and the world around them. They take advantage of every opportunity life has to offer, and they give back selflessly to those less fortunate than themselves. And yet, if you asked any of them what it was that made them so special, they would tell you that they are no different from anybody else. They take after their mother.

Thank you for being a part of the ASYV family. Your support, love and commitment keeps my mother’s dream alive. Every one of us has the capacity to change the world. Thank you for changing the world with us. Murakoze cyane.

We miss you, Ima. We will make you proud.