PRESIDENT PAUL Kagame has told the pioneer graduates of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village that Rwanda counts on their contribution to take the country to greater heights.
The Head of State was speaking yesterday at the graduation of 118 students from the centre and home of the most vulnerable children and orphans of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The students graduated in various disciplines including music and drama, graphic designing, art and painting, humanities and sciences, after spending four years at the village.
Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, located in Kakirimbi cell, Rubona sector, Rwamagana district in the Eastern province was established in 2008 to shelter and nurture the youth who were orphaned during and after the Genocide.
The Village is designed to be the centre where displaced orphans can find a home, receive education, access to training and look into the future with hope that will build them up with sustainability. It is a place of hope, where "tears are dried" (signified by the Kinyarwanda word agahozo) and where the aim is to live in peace (from Hebrew, shalom).
"You are part of the wider Rwandan family and we want to support you to reach your goals. So you should count on us who will be with you throughout the way," Kagame told the excited students.
"Equally important the Rwandan people need you and count on your contribution to transform this country even further".
The President added, "We want you to leave this place with confidence, trust and faith, in families, the country and together with your invaluable contributions; we can shape the future of our people as we deserve and want it to be".
The village, that sits on about 144 acres of land, was founded by Anne Heyman-Merrin, an American philanthropist who is active in the battle to raise awareness and to stop the attrocities in Darfur, to programmes in Israel, the Former Soviet Union and Uganda.
The village has 500 students with 125 students each for secondary four through six and 130 staff, including teachers, to support them. It also boasts 32, five bedroom houses each housing 16 students and a 'mother'. Agahozo Village has almost all amenities and facilities a school needs, such as library, gymnasium, resource center, amphitheater, computer labs, science center, playground, green houses, community center etc. In addition, the village has land for farming and vocational training.
The President congratulated the pioneer class graduates on completing the part of their studies, saying that Heyman and the people she worked with have given the country and the students the most valuable asset that they and the country could aspire for. He urged them to be the role models of their peers and students who come after them and build on the strong foundation they have been given for the better future.
The graduates - helpless orphans drawn from all 30 districts in the country - completed high school level and are ready to join universities and other higher institutions of learning for further education.
After their graduation, they leave the centre and go back to their home areas for others to join.
"The Village has restored our hopeless life caused by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Many people call us orphans but this time we are no longer orphans, we have a home," said Emmanuel Nkund'unkundiye one of the graduates. "I am extremely excited to have come this far and be able to graduate and get professional skills, and I am committed to achieve more and more educational skills in the future."
Nkund'unkundiye graduated in Mathematics and Physics and hopes to be an engineer in the future.
According to Heyman, the Village was founded to restore the hope of the hopeless especially Genocide orphaned young people, where parenting could effectively be done as a community.
She emotionally stated, "Together we have transcended great and unimaginable evil and built a village of great hope and promise".
Heyman urged the graduates to go forth and make a difference for people around them and always stand up for what is right.
Sharon Haba, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, thanked the management and staff of the Agahozo Village, saying the environment they have given to the youth is a starting point of a very important process in their lives.