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February 14, 2014
 

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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 14, 2014 Anne Heyman's legacy lives on in Rwanda Ben Sales Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura, right, the director of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, walking with students returning from lunch. By Ben Sales hozo-Shaiom can hardly remember their biological mothers. Twenty years ago, their mothers and fathers were demonized in a racist cam- paign, their siblings rounded up, their families and friends killed by machetes, clubs and guns as their country was torn apart in genocidal brutality. In many cases they grew up with one parent or no parents, in the care of an older brother, sister, cousin or guardian. Some have been abused, some abandoned, many too poor to afford basic necessities. Now the 500 students at Agahozo-Shalom, 15- to 21-year-olds who in some way were hurt by Rwanda's 1994 genocide, live in a care- fully planned refuge amid a stunning landscape in the country's center. They study biology, math, history, economics, language and lit- erature in a full-service high school. In the afternoons they paint or play soccer, record gospel music or do electrical work. At night they sit with more than a dozen peers they call "brother" and "sister" and talk about their lives. The surrogate families, comprised of groups of 16 boys or girls in the same grade, each in care of a house "mama" and staff member who act as a big sibling or cousin, are named after inspirational figures such as Mother Teresa, Benazir Bhutto and George Washington. The goal of Agahozo-Sha- lore -- where the children AGAHOZO-SHALOM YOUTH VILLAGE, Rwanda (JTA)--Anne Heyman's death during a horse-riding compe- tition in Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan. 31 shocked and devastat- ed many in the Jewish world. But it was Heyman's work in Rwanda that so many of her admirerswill remembermost. A former assistant district attorney in Manhattan who made a career shift to phi- lanthropy around the time she began having children, Heyman learned during avisit to the Tufts University Hillel in 2005 about children who were left without parents by the Rwandan genocide. Inspired to do something to help, Heyman set about establishing a youth village for the orphans modeled on retain Orde, the Israeli youth village set up for children who survived the Holocaust. The idea behind the Aga- hozo-Shalom Youth Village, located in a rural area about an hour from the Rwandan capital of Kigali, was to provide the orphans of the genocide with an enclosed, nurturing environment where they could grow up while recovering from their trauma. The word "agahozo" comes from the local expres- sion for drying tears. Heyman, who had three children of her own, didn't just raise millions of dollars in funding for the village. She spent as much time as she could at Agahozo-Shalom, visiting several times a year. "Every day she thought of those kids, every time I talked to her," Laurie Franz, a friend and youth village board mem- ber, told JTAon Monday before Heyman's funeral at Congre- gation B'nai Jeshurun in New York. "She believed in helping people. She had the biggest heart of anybody I know, and she did it continually, honestly and with so much passion. She was intelligent and beautiful and wise and kind." When news of her sudden death at age 52 reached the vil- lage, Rwandan Youth Minister Jean P. Nsengimana wrote on Twitter that the village "just lost a mother." Many of the kids at Aga-  Development Corporation for Israel Israel Bonds 12600 South Belcher Road, Suite t 01A SRAUONOS .................. Largo, Rorida 33773 Reva Pearlstein Monica DiGiovanni Assistant Director Registered Represe, fative 727-539-6445 800-622-8017 tampa@sr aelbonds,com www.israetbonds,om The Traditional Mohel for the Modem Family -- Rabbi Dr. Israel J. Barzak, GMP, DM Gentle Certified Mohel Specialist Endorsed by the Greater Orlando . -- ........... ,- " Medical & Client References. " '/': Failhfully serving for25 years.  " "J North-Eastern, Central &  .  i We,,tern F,o,da ! "Treating every baby as my very own  i with love compassion and TLC" i  i www.floridamohel.com mlmmm Study- 386-673-5535 Ceil '386-290-8833 ........... Email- ijb@floridamohel.com live in modern homes with running water, electricity and plumbing, have access to a large staff of teachers to social workers, and can spend their leisure time in green fields, a farm or a grove of banana trees--is to take high schoolers far from their trauma so that they may begin to confront it and help their country heal. "They find themselves, they learn to know about them- selves, they learn that they have passions," Jean-Claude Nkulikiyimfura, the village director, told JTA during an interview in the village two weeks ago. "They realize, 'I'm not the only one with problems. Someone else has a problem and I could be a solution to that problem.'" Even though most of its residents are Christian, the village has something of a Jewish character. Students speak of "tikkun olam" proj- ects in the surrounding com- munity, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee sends fellows to work there for a year and Yemin Orde, in Israel, often is talked about as a model. "The students who know about the Holocaust really relate to Jews here," said Ari- elle Sokolof, aJDC fellow from New York who began working at the village in December. "I think it's an important Jewish value to teach others and learn from others." At Agahozo-Shalom, the kids' days are programmed from start to finish. They rise as early as 5:30 to clean their houses or attend sports practice. After breakfast they attend school from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., then comes lunch fol- lowed by science, art, sports or, for older children, techni- cal training. At the end of the day they have their homework and a range of extracurricu- lar activities, from planning solutions to village problems courtesy of Dorot Anne Heyman to film discussions and envi- ronmental projects. "If a kid is in sports, you can see not only how a kid is throwing a ball but how he can become happy with other kids," said Isa Sikubwabo, the village's director of education, training and philosophy. "The kid can have a time when he can discuss, he can smile." One late afternoon last month, YaelZaken,anAmeri- can-born Israeli, stood teach- ing a group of students about the artistic movement of abstract expressionism, the way an image can convey an emotion rather than a realistic scene. Surrounded by paint- ings by past and present stu- dents, she told JTAthat art can help students work through their pain, even though some use the opportunity to draw machetes or guns. "I talked to them about us- ing freedom of expression as a cathartic tool," Zaken said. "Slowly they started to draw things in their mind. It sad- dens me, but it's a wonderful moment to start talking about what they experienced." The village encourages its students to attend univer- sity after graduation, and a handful now are at colleges in North America. Kagame Jeaa, who lost seven siblings in the genocide and gradu- ated from &gahozo-Shalom in 2012, is working at the vil- lage this year and will attend McGili University in Montreal in the fall. "There's nothing that makes me happy more than seeing a kid rising to the peak of his potential," Jeaa said. "When you're in the process, it's really hard to recognize what's going on. I really enjoy giving them advice as some- one who passed through the journey they're starting." First-year student Oscar Murwanashyaka, 19, says he connected quickly with the village's supportive atmo- sphere. Lanky and enthusi- astic, Murwanashyaka says he wants to produce gospel music or start a business after he graduates. "I have my morn and my cousin and my big brother," he said, referring to the staff members who guide his family of 16 boys. "Everyone shares the program in unity. If I know something, I share it with others." Twenty years since the genocide, very few of to- day's students experienced its horrors firsthand. But Nkulikiyimfura, the village director, says that effects of violence in subsequent years and the genocide's legacy have rendered the village helpful even to younger children. Agahozo-Shalom is working with Rwanda's Education Ministry to explore replicating the village's model elsewhere in the country. "It's amazing, once you give them attention, the greatness that can come out of a kid," Nkulikiyimfura said. "We're not trying to create the next president of Rwanda. We're trying to create the next good citizen who cares for his fam- ily, has a family and cares for his community." JTA staff in New York con- tributed to this report. JCC's Rosen campus let it snow and so much more am Evan and Jaxon Safford enjoy tiding an inner tube down the snow slide at the JCC's Winter Festival 2014. Kai Bush laughs in a pile of snow, provided by Lee's Ice. On Jan. 26, the 5th Annual Winter Festival at the Jewish Community Center's Jackand Lee Rosen campus featured a snow park, sledding, rides, inflatables, games, charac- ter experiences, interactive booths--including Games 2 U Video Truck and Forever Expressions--food and much, more. This year's Winter Festival also featured J IDOL, a sing- ing competition for ages 5 to adults. The pool of more than 60 contestants was whittled down to the top 10. After great performances, sometimes in the rain, the J-Idol Jr. winner was Alexis Bentinganan and the adultwinnerwas RianaKuring.