Supporting the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village
Proceeds from Race4Rwanda will go toward three incredible causes in Rwanda, Medford and Somerville. Read below for more information, and please consider making a donation by clicking "Donate" above.
During the course of just 100 days in 1994, over 800,000 people were killed in the Rwandan Genocide, which left even more people displaced, a country in ruins and nearly 1.2 million children orphaned. These children were not only robbed of their families, of their homes and of their communities, but also of their hope for a viable future.
Agahozo-Shalom aims to be a solution to the challenge of healing these traumatized youth. The village’s name summarizes part of its intentions: to be a place of hope, where traumatized youth can “dry their tears” (Agahozo) and “live in peace” (Shalom). Agahozo-Shalom was based upon an Israeli model of residential living communities called youth villages, designed after World War II in order to care for the large influx of orphans from the Holocaust.
The first 125 students at Agahozo-Shalom moved to the village last December, and classes began in January. The village not only offers the children an excellent education in the classroom, but it also provides the children with a sense of community and family. The students, who are around the ages of 16 to 18, live in houses with 15 of their peers and a “house mother.” These groups are called families, and they meet every evening for “family time,” when they share any problems or thoughts on their minds with their “siblings” and “mothers.”
In addition to providing the children with a home and family, the village also emphasizes the value of informal education. From music therapy to dance, athletics and a religion club, the children have new, powerful ways to express themselves. Additionally, outreach and community service programs are an integral part of the informal education curriculum, as helping others serves as a methodology for personal healing and leadership development. Agahozo-Shalom gives its students the skills they need to realize their potential as individuals and to become contributing members of society, helping to build a stronger Rwanda.
Within the next three years, Agahozo-Shalom will grow to become a permanent home for 500 Rwandan youth – four classes of 125 high school-aged children. In order to support all of these students and to continue to do so in the future,the village is working to become self-sustaining. There are still investments that need to be made now, though, in order for the village to achieve sustainability.
Learn more at www.Agahozo-Shalomm.org.
What is the story behind the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village?
The idea for the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village was hatched in the basement of Tufts Hillel in November 2005. Through Hillel’s Moral Voices lecture series, Hillel board member Anne Heyman heard a talk about the Rwandan genocide. At a dinner after the talk, the speaker was asked to identify the biggest problem facing Rwanda today. He replied that in a country with 1.2 million orphans – 15 percent of the population – there is no future for that country unless you can figure out how to help those children.
Immediately, Anne, a South African-born lawyer and mother of three living in New York City, connected the challenge of the Rwandan orphan population to the similar challenge that Israel faced after the Second World War, when there had been a large influx of orphans from the Holocaust. To care for these traumatized youth, Israel built residential living communities called youth villages. Anne was inspired to bring this model to Rwanda.
AWith guidance from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee > (JDC), Anne researched youth villages in Israel, and in so doing, came > across a model which could be successfully replicated: the Yemin Orde Youth Village. She then determined whether this model would make sense in the Rwandan context. Rwandan authorities confirmed both the > need and viability of the solution. In July 2006, Anne traveled to Rwanda, and the implementation phase of Agahozo-Shalomm began.
The Medford Family Network (MFN) of the Medford Public Schools is a family support and parenting education program that is accessible to every child through age six and his/her caregiver(s) who lives or works in Medford. A wide range and types of workshops, discussion groups and playgroups are held at a variety of sites around the city. Other resources for families are available, and the MFN encourages parent advisory and leadership roles.
Resources available through the MFN directly or in collaboration with other community organizations include: facilitated parenting enrichment workshops and classes; English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes; MFN Advisory Board that reports to the Medford Family Resource Coalition Council; information and referral services; parent-to-parent discussion groups; special family events; home visitation program; groups for specific interest areas such as single parenting and parenting children with special needs; Lending Library of parenting information and books; specialized support groups (e.g., parents of multiples, grandparents); New Moms Group; program development opportunities; quarterlynewsletter; playgroups (drop-in, leader-led, age-specific, in Spanish, in Portuguese); and free child care for certain events. Learn more at www.medfordfamilies.org.
In Somerville, nearly one third of the residents were not born in this country. Among Somerville High School students, English is not the first language spoken at home for 66 percent of the families.
The Welcome Project’s mission is to strengthen civic and community life in Somerville by diminishing racism and empowering the city’s refugee and immigrant groups. The group creates opportunities for residents of all backgrounds to work together to improve their social, economic, and personal well-being.
The Welcome Project is based at the city’s largest public housing development -- the Mystic Housing Development -- but the group works with immigrants throughout the city. Its programs combine services and civic engagement. The Liaison Interpreter Program of Somerville (LIPS) trains bilingual Somerville high school students to assist with interpretation at community meetings. The group’s English classes teach vocabulary and ways to connect to the community. Youth tell their stories through The Welcome Project’s summer Digital Storytelling program. The stories of immigrants from different generations are recorded and shared through the Immigrant City: Then and Now initiative. Students and faculty from Tufts University are actively involved through class projects, internships, work-study projects and volunteer days. Learn more at www.welcomeproject.org.