Time check 10:30 a.m. Drumming comparable to the welcoming of the king in his palace begun to sound while the crowd in the playground of Agahozo Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) where the graduation ceremony was held cheered. This was during the school’s second graduation ceremony held on January 9.
Amidst the drumming, walking to the beats like they had rehearsed the moves, 122 graduates paraded, battling to maintain their stronghold on the ground or else be swayed off by the congregation’s deafening cheers.
The students for whom the colorful event was organized did not only graduate from passing their secular education curriculum but rather are a group of kids who graduated from a four-year’ life training.
“Most of the graduates lost both or one of their parents during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Others were conceived through treacherous acts of the same hence common among them is that they never felt the warm embrace of a loving family”, Jean Claude Nkulikiyimfura the ASYV village director scored at the ceremony.
However at the point of graduation, Nkulikiyimfura noted that all the lives of the youngsters had changed in one or the other.
“Some came into the village drug addicts and have left as clean souls that transformed on free will through various life teachings. They have all, through the enrichment programs and professional skill trainings, discovered at least one and in most many of their talents that would otherwise never be put to use in their lifetime.”
19 year old Muhizi Peace Grace is one of the “Imbuto Grade 2013” the class which graduated from four years of intensive life-skills training and unequalled care.
When asked to recall her first day in Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, the young, super confident lady finds herself in an emotional struggle that leaves her in silent sobbing. After a minute she manages to compose her posture and raise her chin high to respond.
“I never knew my parents. I am told they passed on before I was hardly two months. That was during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. After that, I was alternated between various people at times with an aunt, a sister or another relative. This made my life quite challenging while growing up”, Peace Grace as she prefers to be called noted.
However to answer the initial question, Peace Grace frankly said that setting first foot in ASYV felt like it was going to be one of those other homes she was to live in and eventually leave just like her whole life had been.
“As days went by, Agahozo proved different. It was a very warm place and gave me the opportunity to discover my own life profoundly. Everyone was lovely and loving, a phenomenon that I was not used to. I am just happy that I was lucky to have gone through it, and to call it home.”
At the time of graduation, Peace Grace had discovered she had a powerful voice and was the leading vocalist of the graduating class as they “expressed” their joy at the ceremony. Besides, she acquired skills in craft work making duseke baskets, playing the piano in addition to graduating with deep knowledge in computing.
According to Anne E. Heyman, the Board Chair and founder of ASYV exhorted the graduates to pass on the spirit of love with which the village endeavored to sew their tone pasts transforming them into new, strong and confident men and women who are bound to address Rwanda’s and Africa’s challenges.
Go out there and take the opportunities that your various communities have to offer plus create many others where there are none. We are counting on you to do one main thing; transferring the Agahozo (loosely translated solace) spirit from the boundaries of this village to the rest of the world.
Present to grace the occasion was Rwanda’s state minister in charge of Technical and Vocational Education and Training Albert Nsengiyumva scored that Youth Villages like Agahozo are key to gearing the country towards achieving its envisioned future; of socioeconomic development. He pledged support to the village’s founders and management.
“We are counting on you to transform of our society into a knowledge based skill driven economy and I have trust that you have been equipped with life skills that will foster this achievement,” Hon. Nsengiyumva addressed the ASYV graduates.
In addition to the pioneer class which graduated early 2013, Agahozo Shalom Youth Village now counts over 250 students produced from its boundaries some of whom are already pursuing undergraduate degrees from various universities in Rwanda and abroad.
While Anne E. Heyman continued to suggest throughout the course of the day that the facility was created to wipe volumes of tears that Rwanda’s youth had cried, it seemed that it was rather a change than an end; from tears of sorrow to ones of joy.