Archive for : Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village

Repair Interview: Jamie Etkind on Her Time at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village

Since 2006, Repair the World grantee-partner Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village has provided a community and high school in Rwanda for the young people who were orphaned during and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It has also served as an amazing place for service learning.

This past May University of Pennsylvania junior, Jamie Etkind, attended a Hillel-led trip for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students to ASYV for a 10-day service learning program. The students spent time with Agahozo-Shalom’s villagers, worked in their gardens, school and community, and gained a deeper understanding of the lasting impact the genocide has had on the country. Etkind took the time to tell Repair the World about her once-in-a-lifetime service experience.

What is your background with service and volunteering?
I was raised in a reform Jewish household, participated in mitzvah days when I was younger, and had a service project around my bat mitzvah where I raised money for the Koby Mandell Foundation. In high school I was also the co-founder and president of an organization that raised money for and got students involved as volunteers in hospice work. But I had never been on a service trip, and never really given much explicit thought to how deeply related Judaism and service are.

How did you find out about Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village?
Two of my friends had participated before and came back with rave reviews. They both said, “you have to do this!” I had learned about the Rwandan genocide in high school, but before the trip I never knew what happened there after the genocide. Leading up to the trip, I was incredibly excited. I did a lot of independent research including watching a bunch of documentaries about what the country is like today. I also read the powerful and fact-filled book, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families. In the semester leading up to our trip, our group also read a lot of survivor testimonials and did outreach events, so by the time I left I felt pretty well versed – but I still didn’t have any first hand experience.

What did you do during the trip?
A lot of the trip was focused on forming personal relationships with the students in the village. Every morning we would do a service project, like helping in the garden or kitchen. After the students’ school day, we met up with them and went to their after school clubs and took tours of the village. On Saturday, since the students weren’t in school, we got to work side by side with them in the garden.

Can you share a story or two of the impact the trip had?
One of my favorite interactions was with a student named Pacy, who I first met during a meal. One night when we were walking from dinner – it was pitch black outside in the village, but she knew her way – she told me her life story. She opened up about her family’s history and her ambitions and said, “I’d love to be like Oprah someday.” I said, “Oh, so you can be on television?” And she said, “No, so I can help other girls in positions like me.” That was really powerful – these kids have such a sense of service ingrained in them. It’s part of their daily life – they can’t wait to go to university and come back and be the generation that helps make their country great.

What surprised you most on the trip?
I wasn’t expecting to have so much introspection about my Judaism. As I mentioned, I grew up reform but I’ve been a part of the Maimonides Leaders Fellowship at Penn, and have found a lot of meaning in that. On the trip, there were Jews across the denominations, as well as Christian, Catholic, Mormon, and Muslim students. We would talk a lot about religion, and people would ask me very innocent questions like “Why do you work on Saturday, but the other Jews aren’t?” or “Why are you not keeping kosher but the other Jews do?” I had never been asked those questions by anyone and it led me to the realization that if I don’t do these things, I need a reason why. I’m at a point in my life where it’s not enough to simply say, “I do it because I was raised that way.” So my eyes were opened by these other students.

Did the trip also change your thoughts or perspective about Judaism and service?
Yes, I had really never put the two together before even though I’d experienced them together. I never really thought about service being such a strong pillar of Judaism, but that was something we really explored on the trip and it got me thinking. I had always associated tzedakah as simply giving money, but now I know it’s also about service and so much more.

Learn more about Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village’s work here.

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday! Hopefully you enjoyed a spectacular and restful weekend. Now, say hello to the week with your weekly round up of semi-random but totally inspiring service related posts from around the web.

  • The Huffington Post shared an op-ed that argued that the key to sustaining the world’s food security is to empower the world’s women farmers.
  • Sustainablog published a piece about an awesome new smart phone app that helps you curb your food waste.
  • The Forward looked back in history at activism in New York City over time – and what lessons we can learn from the past.
  • Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, a grantee-partner of Repair the World shared the story about the revitalization of a neighborhood library that is changing the world of reading in a Rwandan neighborhood.
  • GOOD leaves us this week with the story of an anti-poverty campaign that moved from tweets to historic Camp David, where this year’s G8 Summit was held.

Spotlight On: Agahozo Shalom’s Nature Park in Rwanda

This essay was originally published on the blog Rwanda on the Wing by Agahozo Shalom Youth Volunteer, Jared Cole. The Agahozo Shalom Youth Village is a Repair the World grantee-partner organization doing amazing work in Rwanda.

Murakaza neza ku Parike Y’Umutungo Kamere W’Agahozo! What in the world does that mean? It means that you are about to enter a brand new nature park. This will be the first of several posts about a special project: a student club has adopted a piece of land and turned it into the Parike Y’Umutungo Kamere W’Agahozo.

The name translates to Agahozo-Shalom Nature Park. At the very top of the hill we call home, which is part of ASYV’s property, the Environment Club envisioned a place where people could protect and enjoy trees. The park features a 600 meter trail that surrounds the 1.72 hectare (4.26 acres) natural area. The mix of trees, tall grasses, and wildflowers provide a glimpse of what wild Rwanda looks like.
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Join Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village for a Family Service Learning Experience

Looking for meaningful summer vacation ideas for your family? This August, Repair the World grantee-partner the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is offering the opportunity of a lifetime with their Family Service Learning Trip to the ASYV village in rural Rwanda.

This unique family trip combines service with opportunities for touring and cultural exchange. Participants will explore Rwanda’s beauty and biodiversity with a visit to Akagera Game Park (home to hippos, giraffes and more), hike through local rice paddies and take a guided tour of the nation’s capital city, Kigali. And with service options ranging from working with villagers to make art and create a gallery space, to playing sports with the kids and teens and farming in the ASYV farm – everyone in the family will have an opportunity to volunteer in a way that is meaningful to them and impactful for the village.

Like all of ASYV’s programs, trip participants will come away with a deeper understanding about the devastating Rwandan Genocide, which killed more than 800,000 people, orphaned nearly 1.2 million children and left the country in ruins. And it will give participants the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of the ASYV villagers.

ASYV’s Family Service Learning program costs $1200-1500 per person (excluding airfare) and includes all meals and transportation in Rwanda, accommodations, and classes/learning sessions with ASYV Staff and Educators. To find out more, contact Rachel Olstein Kaplan at rachel[@]asyv.org or 212-863-1352.

Find out more about ASYV’s service learning programs and other opportunities to volunteer here, or on their website.

Three Voices, One Goal: Jewish Service in Participants’ Own Words

What does Jewish service look like? Turns out, the answer to that question is as varied as the people engaging in the service itself.

For some, it’s about digging their hands in the dirt and literally repairing the world by planting a community garden; for others, it’s about helping under-served Jewish populations connect to their faith; and for others still, it’s about deepening their understanding of an important – and sometimes painful – global issue, and then acting on what they’ve learned. Below the jump, you’ll find quotes from participants of three recent service trips. Their inspiring words and stories help to illuminate the many diverse faces and experiences of Jewish service today.
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