Agahozo Shalom, the home of hope

Sitting on the lush green gentle slopes of Kakirimbi cell, Rubona sector, Rwamagana district in the Eastern Province, Agahozo Shalom youth village is a home of love, hope, and dreams to the vulnerable.
Students at Agahozo Shalom village during their graduation in January.
Students at Agahozo Shalom village during their graduation in January.

Sitting on the lush green gentle slopes of Kakirimbi cell, Rubona sector, Rwamagana district in the Eastern Province, Agahozo Shalom youth village is a home of love, hope, and dreams to the vulnerable.

The institution, established in 2008 to shelter and nurture young people who were orphaned during and after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, has been a channel through which many orphans have found hope.

The village sits on about 144 acres of land and was founded by Anne Heyman-Merrin, an American philanthropist who is actively engaged in the fight against the atrocities in Darfur, Israel, the former Soviet Union and Uganda.

Moving around the compound surrounded by modern structures, you come across hundreds of young people, mostly in their teens, who have found a loving home at Agahozo Village.

“I am an orphan; I didn’t believe that I would find another family that would gradually restore hope in me. Agahozo Shalom has become part of me,” said Assumpta Umutesi, one of the orphaned children who graduated recently.

She graduated in History, Economics and Geography and was among 118 students graduated in January in various disciplines including music and drama, graphic designing, art and painting, humanities and sciences, after spending four years at the village.

Dreaming big


Assumpta wants to be a successful entrepreneur in the next few years, because she says that her future is bright following four years of skills development and enrichment at Agahozo Shalom.

To many children at the village, their dreams looked virtually impossible before they joined, because they never believed, they will have somebody to look after them considering their level of vulnerability.

“Agahozo is the genesis of my future. I joined when I was a helpless girl. The village opened my path to success. I was lucky enough to have been chosen among many orphaned children in Rwanda,” Umutesi said.

The village is designed to be the centre where displaced orphans can find a home, receive education, access training and look into the future with hope that will build them up with sustainability.

It is a place where “tears are dried” (Kinyarwanda, Agahozo) and where the aim is to live in peace (from Hebrew, Shalom).

Agahozo was set up based on the similarities between the high numbers of Genocide orphans and the challenges that faced the Jews after the Holocaust.

According to the village founder, the area was built to model the Yemin Orde Youth Village in northern Israel.

It empowers orphans drawn from districts across the country with a secondary school education and therapeutic and creative skills.

“The village was founded following the occurrence of one of the greatest evils because the only solution was to start a village where parenting could effectively be done as a community,” said Heyman.

She describes Agahozo as a village of great hope and promise that has transcended great and unimaginable evil.

Heyman encourages the youth at the centre to always be the change they want to see and not wait for someone else to bring about change.

Most of the young people at the centre went through some traumatic periods, and have since been given a healthy outlook to heal their emotional scars through resilience, kindness and generosity.

The village setting


The orphans live together, 16 students per house, one mother, and one cousin or “big brother” to bridge the age gap and help the younger students.

The village has 500 students with 125 students each for Senior Four through Six and 130 staff, including teachers, to support them.

Agahozo Village has almost all amenities and facilities a school needs, such as library, gymnasium, resource centre, amphitheater, computer labs, science centre, playground, green houses, community centre, etc. In addition, the village has land for farming and vocational training.

As Rwanda commemorates tthe 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, the orphans should be at heart of all nationals, for they are drawn from across the country.

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