Place for Rwandan Orphans Modeled on Holocaust Survivor Youth Villages

Ben Cohen
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A bit of inspiration to start your Monday - Anne Heyman, a New York lawyer originally from South Africa has started a phenomenal project to give orphans from the Rwandan genocide a decent start in life. From Fast Company:

There is currently no systemic solution to Rwanda’s orphan problem. But Heyman and her colleagues are trying to create one with the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a residential community for orphaned high school students in rural Rwanda. The community is based on the youth villages created by Israel for orphans of the Holocaust. "Israel [dealt with] a genocide, but they don’t have an orphan problem today. This is a system for mainstreaming these kids and getting them back into society," says Heyman.

Heyman, a lawyer by training, pitched her idea to a number of organizations. All of them thought it was a good idea, but no one wanted to take it on. So she did it herself. Heyman tapped the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to act as a fiscal sponsor while the organization got on its feet, brought on coworkers and a Rwandan advisory group, and in 2008, Agahozo-Shalom accepted its first group of 125 kids (there are 500 there currently).

The villages aim to give the children a daily structure, an education and skill sets for their professional lives:

A typical day goes something like this: The kids wake up at 6:30, start their day at 7:10 with breakfast in a communal dining hall, and stay in school until two. After that, they come down for lunch (the school is up on a hill), and depending on the day, have different activities to take part in. The first two years, the students do enrichment programs in art, music, sports, and science. Every term they have to do one art and one sport, and every semester they switch so they are exposed to a wide variety of activities. The second two years, the kids focus on professional skills.

Amazing stuff, particularly given Heyman couldn't get anyone interested in helping her start the project, so decided to do it herself.