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Summer 2017 Rwanda Blog

Day 1

Today was our first full day at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. Our schedule was tighly-packed: communal breakfast, 3-hour village tour, communal lunch, group discussion on global citizenship and allyship, free time to spend with student clubs and activities, communal dinner, family time (1 hour with a designated family), and Tufts group debrief. Despite this structured itinerary, we experienced pockets of special moments with the village youth and our own Tufts group.

Tariana

Today’s theme for me was discovering myself and others around me. One of the most special moments of today was free time to explore student clubs and activities. After a brief nap, my roommates and I sat through a traditional Rwanda dance led by village students practicing for a competition. Their enthusiasm was palpable. Afterward, we ventured to the arts center, where we heard piano sounds from a corner room. There sat a 15-year old boy, Franbo, playing a keyboard by himself. We sat close to him, and listened to him play songs,  such as, Jingle Bells, and If You’re Happy and You Know it, Clap Your Hands. My two roommates took turns playing, and practicing, songs with him. I nearly cried watching Franbo express his musical talent, particularly the access to instruments that allowed him to shine and grow. What could he, and others, accomplish if they were given the opportunity? I think that is why a place like the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village exists. 

YooJin

For me, the first day was very insightful and impactful. Coming to Rwanda, I had no idea what to expect. However, through the Tufts group and the welcoming Rwandans in the village, I truly felt comfortable in this new and foreign country. After breakfast, consisting of a piece of bread and porridge at 6am, we went on a tour of ASYV. Consisting of 144 acres, there was much to see. We learned about the history of the village and how it came to be, what its values are, and about the founder, Anne. Through the tour, I came to appreciate how much of an impact the village has on the students. They offer family, friends, and even “mama’s” for the four years they are here, and beyond. After the tour, we had lunch and then free time to hang out with students. A touching moment I had was when I met Franbo playing the keyboard. This was my first real, one on one interaction with a student, and I had the opportunity to sit down and teach him a little jingle. Franbo was such a quick learner! The potential these students have if given the opportunity is amazing. I truly am looking forward to the next nine days here. Even though it was only my first day here in Rwanda, I am already dreading the day we leave. 
 
 

Day 2

Leili

Today we had breakfast at the dining hall with some interns at ASYV. Interns have graduated in the past year and are working at the village. I had a very interesting conversation with one of the interns about playing and composing music. We soon boarded the bus and headed out to the NGO Gardens of Health in Kibenga. We learned about the organization, which does amazing work with mothers to address the problem of malnutrition. These women work on the farm and also learn about balanced meals they can bring to their families. The lunch that was offered to us as well as other community members was delicious, especially the guacamole! The next NGO we visited was the Urugo Women’s Opportunity Center. The site was beautiful and aims to empower women through giving them lessons in English, weaving, painting, etc so that they can gain the skills to find independent success. After the drive back to ASYV, I had dinner with my family and some of the girls tried teaching me their language. Throughout the day I had a balance of fun and meaningful conversations with both Tufts and ASYV students, which I am very grateful for! 

Day 3

Amir

Today we woke up early and went to the school to help Senior 6 students with cover letters. We split into two groups. Each group attended one section of a CDC (Career Development Center) class led by one of the teachers. We listened to the lesson and then offered feedback on the cover letters students wrote. After school, some of us went to lunch. In the afternoon, we walked to the Rubona market. Some students had clothing made by seamstresses. Some of us enjoyed local Rwandan food and soda. The trip to Rubona was a window into the stark contrast between life within Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village and life outside of it. We returned from the market and attended a meeting with the village’s cousins, a cohort of short-term workers who live with families and spearhead initiatives. The meeting raised concerns on how the presence of cousins, who are predominantly white Americans, affects the children’s perspectives. Shortly after the meeting, we went to Village Time. Village Time was a meaningful gathering of the whole village, and it featured performances by traditional Rwandan dance groups and other talented ASYV kids. One of the other highlights of the village time was the monthly birthday celebrations. Then dinner was served with the birthday cake presented to all the students and staff of the village. This was followed by an optional Boom Party on the balcony of the dining hall. Some of us attended church services during this time. We ended the night with the usual check ins of all the Tufts students and discussed the plan for the next day

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