Ethiopian Jews to help victims of Rwandan genocide

The youth village aims to be "a place of hope, where traumatized youth can 'dry their tears' and 'live in peace.'

By MARGARET STONER
June 21, 2009 23:56
1 minute read.
Ethiopian Jews to help victims of Rwandan genocide

ethiopian poor 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Ethiopian Jews plan to travel to Rwanda in order to give orphans there hope for a new life, according to Howard Lenhoff and Nathan Shapiro, former presidents of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews. Nearly a dozen Ethiopian Israeli volunteers will participate in training the Rwandans as resident teachers and staff at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) in Rwamagana, Rwanda. The youth village aims to be "a place of hope, where traumatized youth can 'dry their tears' (Agahozo) and 'live in peace' (Shalom)," according to the ASYV Web site. The project is modeled after the Youth Aliya Village of Yemin Orde, which was originally established to help orphans of the Holocaust, and which eventually assisted Ethiopian orphans as well, many of whom had lost their parents in the Sudanese refugee camps. During the course of just 100 days in 1994, over 800,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide, which left even more people displaced, a country in ruins, and nearly 1.2 million children orphaned. "These children were not only robbed of their families, of their homes, and of their communities, but also of their hope for a viable future," according to the Web site. The organization is not simply a charity effort, though. David Aviv, an Israeli who has worked with the project, stresses the importance of remaining humble. "We have an educational method. It's not us rescuing the 'poor Africans.' We know how to do it, but we need to be very sensitive to the local culture. It's not us training them superficially, it's a dialogue." In keeping with the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, which translates as "repairing the world," the ASYV strives to instill a strong sense of self-respect and ambition in the orphans. Ideally, those who live and work at the youth village are now working to educate themselves, and learn necessary skills to care for themselves and others. The village stresses that the youth are responsible to give back to society. As of January, 18 housing units have been built in the village, each of which will be home for 16 Rwandan orphans.

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