Rwanda Blog 2019
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Thursday 29th August 2019

Rwanda Blog 2019

Wednesday 21st August

After disembarking from the plane, we made our way to the genocide memorial museum. Looking out from the minibus, we were overwhelmed by how built up the capital Kigali was and how the country had made such efforts to recover the country following the genocide. The memorial was an incredible experience since the story of the genocide was relayed in various forms : from the outdoor rose gardens with a memorial to the harrowing pictures of the events.  

The retelling of the stories was made especially poignant through including other genocides that occurred during the twentieth century which reinforced how greatly hatred between different groups had manifested. 

The lunch at Chabad was a refreshing break from the intense morning we had shared so far. Spending time with chabad couple in a remote part of Rwanda made us appreciate how far the Jewish presence can stretch and it was so lovely to connect with Jews in a place so far away from home and the effort put in to welcome. 

This afternoon we went to the market called Kimiranco. It was amazing we all managed to see lots of items. Which were so nice. We were in Ntunga, Bicombe and Rutona. They all called us sisters and they were so friendly. We got welcomed so well. After this we went in the car on way to Agahoza Shalom Youth Village. The journey was so great with so many views. We then entered the village where the Agahoza Shalom Youth Village is in it was 9km dirt road. It started to get dark but it was still so amazing to see all the smiles and waves from everyone. We then arrived and we went to our room. It was so beautiful at night that we couldn't wait to see it in the light. We went to the dining room and we had dinner with the students. It was incredible to see so much laughter and happiness and to be part of their family and mamas. I loved the good portions they had a plate filled to the top with the food. Which is great to see. I can't wait to be part of the families and family time and get to know the students and to be part of the village.

Yael Reingold and Ruby Levy


We started our tour at the mango tree under which Anne Heyman and her team concluded the purchase for the land for the village 12 years ago. After then visiting a family house and the amphitheatre overlooking Lake Mugesera and Tanzania, the farm was another great place as we got to get rabbits and goats. Finally, we went to the Science Centre, seeing some rather remarkable student-made inventions. The tour was very informative and enjoyable and a great opportunity to put the village into context.

Sam Kramer


Friday/Shabbat 23rd-24th August

I was not sure what to expect from shabbat in Rwanda. On Friday night we davened outside with all of the bugs, mosquitos and long pieces of grass that we were convinced were bugs. Battling the elements, it was easy to miss the comforts of home and yet the beauty of rural Rwanda instead served as inspiration for the Shabbat to come.

The next morning started unexpectedly early. Every Saturday morning the entirety of Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village wakes up before sunrise in order to go on a run around the village. To be perfectly honest, I was not looking forward to it but i was pleasantly surprised. 
The students weren't incredibly competitive like I had expected and instead, sang chants to motivate each other, including one with the words "boker tov". There were also plenty of other stragglers at the back with me so I ended up having a really great time. Shacharit, kiddush and a quick schulf later we were ready for lunch. Thanks to the amazing creativity of Anna we had delicious salads and as a special treat... spaghetti. We were also able to admire the mixed results of our challah bake earlier in the week.

The afternoon saw us using our free time to watch the ASYV dance team, who we had seen practicing on various occasions throughout the week, compete and win an inter school dance competition. The teams' iningenuity and creativity without the advanced technology we are used to seeing was truly inspirational but even more so was the pride that all of the students took in their various schools' teams. Then something quite unexpected, yet comfortingly familiar happened... it began to rain. The audience scattered to find shelter and we found ourselves back at our guest house dragging chairs outside to watch the sheer spectacle that was Rwandan rain during the dry season.

We sang songs as it poured and bemoaned the fact that there was a heatwave in London. 
Havdallah provided an opportunity to reflect on what was possibly the most unique shabbat that each of us had ever experienced. Whilst it may not have been the busiest day of our trip it did what shabbat is supposed to do in providing a time for us to reflect on the week gone past and all of the incredible people we had met and new experiences we had had and to prepare ourselves for what promised to be an exciting week ahead.

Emily Sinclair


Sunday 25th August

On Sunday morning we woke up bright and early at 4:45am, ready to leave the village for our safari. We split into four jeeps and after a 2 hour journey we arrived at Akagera National Park. Many of us had never been on safari before, and so we were all really excited for the day ahead. First, we attended a briefing to introduce us to the park. It was fascinating to hear about the different techniques that the park use to preserve the wildlife. Examples of this were burning sections of grass to prevent natural forest fires from emerging and creating a fence to protect the animals from nearby villages. Next, we headed into the jeeps to see the animals. There was an abundance of buffalos, antelope, zebras and giraffes along the way, and they all stood still and posed for our pictures. We even saw a group of elephants crossing the road! A definite highlight of the day was witnessing two lions and a hippo having a stand-off, with each animal weighing up the pros and cons of attacking the other. Finally, when the lion made its move, the hippo took a step towards it which scared the lion so much that it ran away! Our tour guide told us that this was an incredibly rare sight so we all felt very lucky. 

After a bit more driving (and a lot of singing in the back of the Jeep) we stopped off for a delicious lunch of wraps before heading back on safari. We saw baby zebras and antelopes, and the views of the lake were amazing. 

Before heading back to Agahozo Shalom, we bumped into a group of Seventh Day Adventists from London who were visiting Rwanda with their church group. Gathering in a circle, we all said a prayer together, with Rabbi Dov and their pastor leading us. It was incredibly special to be able to use religion to connect and come together, and it was a unique experience that none of us will ever forget.

Millie Flaum

Monday 26th August

On Monday morning, the group participated in the ‘service’ tasks which the village kids willingly carry out each day. Half of us helped in preparing the salads for 500 kids for lunch while the rest of us stacked books in the library.

This allowed us to give back to a community which has taught us all so much and we gained an appreciation of how much hard work goes into maintaining a successful youth village. The chefs welcomed us and taught us new skills whilst tirelessly working to provide for the kids of the village who they are so passionate to support. Later in the day we joined the kids enrichment programmes, where they are provided with amazing opportunities to improve their artistic and musical skills.

Some of us joined in on the ‘Gym Tonic’ exercise class for the mammas which we were kindly welcomed into and motivated by the trainer. 
That evening’s family time entailed discussing what made each student happy. It was heart warming to hear how fondly they recounted their childhood memories and it was inspiring how pure and immaterially-based they were and the extent to their appreciation of ASYV and their new family.

Amelie Freedman



Tuesday 27th August

The day started off at 7:15am with a rude awakening from Adam. We didn’t slide out of bed until 8:15am, having paid little attention to our personal hygiene and appearance, as we had previously been informed that the coach would be arriving around this time, but Adam lied to us, the coach ONLY arrived at 9:45am meaning we could have had an extra hour and half of beauty sleep. We were herded onto a seemingly functional coach, little to our knowledge the air-conditioning did not work. Windows fully open on the red earth roads of the village, a dust swarm quickly enveloped the inside of the coach painting us a rusty red. The leaders at the front, enjoying the fresh air, seemed to show little concern for the predicament of their charges at the back of the bus.

Our first destination was a Women’s Collective situated in the Muslim quarter of Kigali. The Collective focused on empowering women financially by teaching them skills such as sowing and basket weaving whilst providing necessary equipment. The brief introduction was followed by an excursion around the quarter which some compared to the vast trek that Robert Scott was once unable to accomplish. We visited a milk bar which the locals frequent, where we were told that the locals preferred a pint of milk to a pint of beer. We interacted with many different aspects of the quarter along the walk such as the hairdresser and the flour maker. Again, we were crammed onto a bus, but this was bus was different... Not only did we have luxurious seats but also we were warmly welcomed by refreshing air conditioning. If only my experience with this new coach had been this positive, however to my dismay my earphones had fallen into a black hole inside the coach and I was starved of listening to ben stokes’ record breaking century when I was attempting to catch up on the Ashes that I had to miss because of the safari trip on Sunday. No matter we persevered on to the Envision program where we were met by Rabbi Chaim from Chabad who supplied us with a gourmet lunch - sandwiches. After lunch we walked around an art’s collective which was founded by a former cousin of the village and filled with artistic work of former alumni.

Envision is a social enterprise which aims to help fulfill artistic potential seen in upcoming Rwandan artists. After the exhibition we sat outside and soaked up the ingenuity of a live artist who majestically painted Charlie Chaplain and Nelson Mandela.

Natty Talisman


To view pictures of our trip please click here