Co-Founders Harry Leibowitz and Kay Isaacson-Leibowitz traveled to Rwanda to visit 2009 Youth Honoree Jessica Markowitz and to attend the 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide. They also took time to visit Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, a program that was modeled after Yemin Orde in Israel. Yemin Orde was founded by one of our original Honorees, Chaim Peri. To learn more about their travels, visit our Rwanda page. The following post is written by Harry Leibowitz.
Chaim Peri of Israel, 1998 World of Children Honoree, is more than just an educator, more than just a child advocate, and more than just an amazing innovator. He is a mentor and a role model for so many others. So it was with Anne Heyman, founder of Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda which my wife and I had the privilege of visiting. Sadly, Anne was killed in a tragic accident this past January but her legacy will always shine at Agahozo Shalom.
When Anne visited Rwanda for the first time she was shocked by the number of orphans there, created by the genocide of 1994 (by some estimates as many as 1.2 million, or 10% of the population of the country). She immediately thought of her experiences in Israel and she contacted Chaim Peri at Yemin Orde and asked for his help.
Chaim became her mentor, her “go-to-person.” He helped her shape her curriculum and design her village in Rwanda and still, to this day, consults with the Village management.
The result is an amazing haven in the middle of a terribly impoverished part of Rwanda. Here, 500 teenagers live and learn together. All orphans, they live in beautifully designed buildings called Home. Each one with a name such as Nelson Mandela, etc. Each home houses 16 boys or girls along with a “Mother” or “Father” who lives in the home with them and comes from the community and has been trained to work with the children.
Perhaps the words of one youngster we met describes the situation the best:
“I never had a family or a mother or a father…until I came here,” he said. “Now I have more than that. I have a family and I have a chance to become a role model for the other children here.”
This young man leaves for McGill University in Canada in a few weeks to get his University degree. Students are taught more than just math and how to read; they are taught to live and learn and real life skills. But more than that, they learn that this is their home not just for now but forever. They are always welcome to come back “home.”
Also visiting Agahozo Shalom whilst we were there was Shimon Solomon-Yassu, a member of the Israeli Knesset and a graduate of Yemin Orde. He has been integrally involved in the development of the Village since its inception and comes back several times a year to help and to mentor the children.
This is the uniqueness of the model that Chaim Peri has created and that now reaches so very far beyond Israel and Yemin Orde.
Chaim Peri – http://www.yeminorde.org/index.php/2012-01-28-09-14-11/dr-chaim-peri/purchase-dr-chaim-peris-book
Anne Heyman – http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/world/africa/anne-heyman-rwanda-rescuer-is-dead-at-52.html?_r=0