It all began with one Woman…
In 2005, while attending a talk about the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Anne Heyman learned that the country had 1.2 million orphans. Without a systemic solution to support the well-being and development of Rwanda’s vast orphan population, many were being left behind. Anne recognized that to address their orphan crisis following the Holocaust, Israel built residential communities that ensured the orphans’ safety, security, and development. Anne was inspired to bring this model to Rwanda. From there, thanks to Anne’s perseverance, the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village was founded.
In 2008, ASYV opened its gates to the first class of 128 students.
Meet our founder, Anne
A native of South Africa, Anne Heyman moved to the US at age 15. As a teen she became active in Young Judaea, a Zionist youth movement, and she spent a year in Israel with the program (where she met her future husband!). After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, she pursued a J.D. at the George Washington Law School and finished her degree at Columbia Law School. After two years of private practice, she became an Assistant District Attorney, prosecuting white-collar crime. After she had her third child, she decided to focus more on her philanthropic work within and outside the United States.
Anne set out to improve the world. In her steadfast commitment to elder issues, she served as President of the Board of Directors of Dorot, which focuses on the social isolation of and services for older people. She was also an active supporter of important Jewish youth causes like the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in New York, Young Judaea, Tufts University Hillel, University of Pennsylvania Hillel, and the Jewish Community Centers of America.
It is with respect to the notion of Tikkun Olam, the Jewish obligation to repair the world, that Anne was most passionate. Among her greatest projects was “Moral Voices”, a program designed to inspire college youth to action. Anne’s inspiring story has appeared in numerous publications, including three books: "The Power of Positive Destruction," by Seth Merrin, "The Art of Doing Good" by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon, and "Act Three" by Julie Shifman.
Anne was an avid equestrian and competitive show jumper who passed away after falling from her horse while competing in a Masters jumper competition on January 31, 2014. She was survived by her husband, Seth Merrin; children Jason, Jonathan, and Jenna; siblings Dan, Lauren, and Justin; and parents Sydney and Hermia.