Monday, September 24, 2007

The Amazing Story of the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village

Two friends and I share a cherished birthday ritual - the three of us go out for lunch to celebrate each of our birthdays. One is in January, one in July, and one in late September, so it's roughly one a season. At first we didn't exchange presents, then for awhile we did, and now that we're into our 50's and all accumulating way too many pairs of earrings and scarves, et al, we contribute to the birthday lady's favorite cause.
In July, Dayle asked us to support an amazing project she learned about at The Jewish Funders' Conference (she had presented her own wonderful work with the elderly there) when she heard Anne Heyman, a philanthropist, talk about her incredible project, the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village. She is originally from South Africa, though now lives in the States. She became haunted by the numbers of Rwandan orphans, whose families have decimated both by AIDS and the 1994 genocide. It moved her to marshal her resources - philanthropic and other - to bring a dream of a youth village to fruition - ground breaking took place just took place, and 500 orphans will eventually live there. It is based on the Israeli youth community Yemin Orde. Yemin Orde was created following WWII to raise Jewish children orphaned by the Holocaust. In more recent years it has educated many Ethiopian refugee youth. So now these expertises are being shared with African orphaned youth - a wonderful sort of international empathy not seen often enough. The project is under the umbrella of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Anne Heyman is the personification of the idea that one person can rock the world. When I think of "community building", I imagine bringing people together. But this woman is actually building the community itself! You might say that providing for 500 out of 1,200,000 orphans isn't going to solve the problem, and that's true. But they say saving one soul is like saving the world; think of the impact of taking good care of 500 kids.
You probably have guessed that this is what I'm going to ask for on my birthday, too. A new donor has agreed to match all donations until 12/31, by the way. Directions for donating are can be found here.

1 comment:

anne heyman said...

I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for picking up the banner and joining us on this extraordinary journey. We have had an extraordinary year at the ASYV, and are thrilled to be starting the new year with construction underway and program building on our front burner. Sharing our story with others is one of the greatest gifts you can give us. With deep appreciation.
Anne Heyman