The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is home to the most vulnerable Rwanda teens, many of them orphans of the genocide and survivors of unspeakable trauma. Founded by Anne Heyman and Seth Merrin in 2008, the village is a safe and secure living environment that supports these young survivors with health care, education, and necessary life skills. Using education and service, the village is a modern model of how to create socially responsible citizens in Rwanda and around the world.
Each summer since 2009, Tufts Hillel sends an interfaith group of twenty-two students on a twelve-day trip to volunteer at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and study the impact of contemporary genocide on society. Students tour memorial sites and spend time living in the village, working on community service projects, and meeting with genocide survivors.
Upon returning to campus, students continue their engagement with the village, designing educational programs on the Rwandan genocide, raising funds for the village, and promoting awareness about educational and reconciliation initiatives in Rwanda.
By meeting and working side-by-side with these inspiring Rwandan teens and village leaders, Tufts students who take the annual trip learn about the issues of genocide in our world today, can put the theories of activism and advocacy into practice, and see first hand the importance of moral action in the face of persecution and oppression.
About the Village
In 1994, Rwanda suffered a devastating genocide leading to many social hardships. One of the issues lingering throughout the country was the high number of orphaned children and vulnerable youth. Despite this catastrophe, the country is rebuilding itself into a thriving and stable country.
The teens living at Agahozo-Shalom come from all thirty districts in Rwanda. Despite years of incredible hardship, these young students have the drive and determination to overcome their past and create a brighter future.
The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village preserves the value of Rwandan culture through Rwandan staff and educators. The village places each youth into residential families. In each home, a Rwandan mama guides the teens through their healing.
It is modeled after Yemin Orde, an Israeli youth village established in 1953, where orphans from the Holocaust were cared for. The name of the village combines Agahozo, a Kinyarwanda word for "tears are dried," and shalom, the Hebrew word for “live in peace.”
About the Founder
Founder Anne Heyman, z"l was inspired to establish the village after hearing the first speaker in our Merrin Moral Voices program describe the genocide in Rwanda. When Anne learned of the tremendous needs of the 1.2 million orphaned children in that country, she was determined to address this pressing problem.
Anne, a South African-born lawyer who had given up her legal career in New York to devote herself to philanthropy, knew that Israel had welcomed and cared for tens of thousands of children who had been orphaned by the Holocaust. The Israelis set up residential communities called youth villages to nurture them.
Anne knew no one in Rwanda and little about the country, but in less than three years, she raised more than $12 million; recruited experts from Rwanda, Israel and the U.S.; won the support of the Rwandan government; and acquired 144 acres in eastern Rwanda. She then built a village of 32 houses for orphaned teenagers, setting it high on a hill, she said, “because children need to see far to go far.”