Charlize Theron Visits Agahozo-Shalom

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On July 22nd, ASYV was excited to welcome actress Charlize Theron and her team from the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP)! Founded by Charlize in 2007, CTAOP provides funding for women’s health education and HIV prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa. With CTAOP’s support, ASYV has launched an HIV Testing and Education program, improved technology for our life skills classes, and increased the resources available to our female empowerment clubs.

Our students were eager to show off the Village to Charlize and the CTAOP team. Leading up to the visit, our Female Solidarity Legacy, Girl Up, and He For She clubs had weekly meetings to prepare a female empowerment event. This event was meant to showcase the work of these clubs, the struggles that Rwandan girls face, and, of course, the students’ talents.

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After a tour by some of our outstanding female students and a special welcome by the whole Village at lunch, it was off to the Green Club House for the female empowerment event. The students showed off their hard work and preparation throughout the afternoon’s fantastic performances. The event included a poem, dance performances, a sketch about girls’ struggles in Rwanda, and a panel discussion. One line in the poem offered a particularly touching moment: “Because of Professor Phyllis, I can teach and because of Charlize Theron, I can act.” Afterward, the panel inspired impassioned discussions on topics such as methods for HIV prevention in youth.

The students also had the opportunity to ask Charlize questions during a special Q&A session. It was wonderful to watch how easily Charlize connected with the students as they asked her questions ranging from what success looks like to why she decided to start CTAOP. While the students had previously been inspired by watching her movies, they could now see Charlize’s passion for issues that they deal with daily. 

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The Village was especially touched when Senior 6 student Ruth Bahari, whose dream is to become an actress and go to acting school, asked Charlize about what advice she has for someone who wants to “do what she does” but comes from a culture that doesn’t have many opportunities and doesn’t view acting as a viable career. Charlize told Ruth that she should believe in herself, even if Ruth’s career path doesn’t look the same as her own. As Ruth started to tear up at the heartfelt response, Charlize stood up and hugged her.

Before Charlize and her team left, we sent them off in true ASYV spirit. The ASYV band played music while everyone sang, danced, and celebrated the superb event. It was a delightful and inspiring day for the students and the staff. We are very appreciative of Charlize and CTAOP’s visit to the Village, and we are thankful for their continued support empowering women and preventing HIV, both within ASYV and all over the world. We can’t wait to have them back for another visit!

Check out more photos from the visit here!

Submitted by Hannah Greenwald, Public Health Fellow 2018

Jill Radwin