Saturday, March 13, 2010

Family Time

A couple of nights this week, a bunch of us visited the various family houses here. From my understanding, each student is placed in a house with other members of the same class and gender. Currently, there are two classes at Agahozo. One that started in December of 2008 and the other that just started in December of 2009. There are approximately fifteen (give or take a few) students, as well as a family mom and counselor, in each house. I visited a couple of houses during this past week. Although I was unable to fully understand everything that was going on (all of the conversations are in Kinyarwanda), I was blessed with a translator in each situation. I will never forget some of the things that were said that first night.

Although I will be paraphrasing due to the language translation and my lack of writing statements down, I still believe these words are very powerful.

One student was talking about the importance of still showing love to someone even if you may not like them or get along too well.

One student stressed the importance of finding and being loving in every activity that he or she does.

At the end of the entire meeting, one student stopped and said, "Mama, how are you?" It was incredibly touching to witness that type of philia, that family love that so many of us desire. To remember that many of these students are orphans, who, in one sense, may have every right to be sad, is so humbling. I know that I sometimes speak of love in a very abstract sense. Or, whenever we hear the word love, we know that there are myriad meanings that one can choose from to describe the word. But here, I mean compassion, care, mercy, humility, understanding, sympathy, kindness, peace, gentleness, patience. These young teenagers still stop and realize the importance of asking this woman, now mother, how she is feeling. Family supports one another. Family respects and family loves. I truly saw this that night among these young leaders. Even with the way they constantly welcomed me, I witnessed the familial love each and every person in Agahozo shares with one another. At the end of family night, they asked me, a newcomer, to share any thoughts or words that I had. I simply echoed what I am writing here...that the family and love they have for one another is truly inspiring for me to witness. It is something that has helped them grow and will continue to do so. I begged them to never forget or lose this love and care they have for one another. On another occasion, I practiced with the soccer team before dinner time. The coached again asked me if I had any words to share regarding the game of soccer.

To be welcomed and love is something that I believe every human truly desires. As much as many people, myself included, sometimes bypass opportunities where we can allow ourselves to be loved, I still believe that we want it. Because at the end of the day when I am about to go to sleep and reflect on the day or ponder about tomorrow, I think about others, and I can recall many times when a smile has been on my face just from knowing that I stand in strong relationship with someone, whether it is a friend, teacher, mother, father, brother, or sister.

I guess it's something I'm a huge proponent for. Welcoming and Loving. And although it may sound abstract, I think it's something that will truly help. To see the way family and love has brought so many smiles on the teenagers of Agahozo has been the most amazing and heart-warming experience of 2010. Love can be so simple. Warmth and community can be so simple. We can start small and grow into a force of community, welcoming, support, and family that this village of Agahozo, city of New Haven, and world truly needs.

I want to quickly write about farming this morning. We woke up around 7 AM to head to one of two locations: 1) the main farm (very close to where we live) that has mango trees, avocados, corn, pineapples, and many other delicacies or 2) a coffee plantation behind the high school (which is quite a trek away). I headed to the main farm and proceeded to weed around the mango trees. We used rakes and hoes, and with all thirty of us working together, finished the job quickly. It is still bringing a smile to my face now as I reflect on weeding. Jacob (another group member) and I went to the mango trees to help with weeding and, at first, we were not sure exactly how they wanted us to proceed. As a young girl taught me (through body language and actions due to language barrier) the process she laughed. But, as I think about her laugh, in no way do I sense condemnation or embarrassment. By that, I just mean that her laugh was so welcoming. Her smile said, "I am glad to have you here. Let me teach you how to do this in the most efficient way we know."

After the hoeing, we went to meet up with the rest of the group. There, I started to help tidy up a smaller garden, where they also grew some coffee and other plants. As we worked, they taught us a song in Kinyarwanda, and we all shared smiles and laughs. I also finally found someone who speaks Swahili very well. Her name is Peace. Even though she spoke Congolese dialect, we were able to understand each other almost completely. The joy of connecting with another human beyond simple greetings and questions was very rewarding. She really liked the fact that I am taking a class on the ethics of humanitarian intervention. She wants to be a computer engineer. I'm excited because I know that will become a reality.

As we spend our afternoon on the porch eating pineapple, reading, drawing, and talking (with both one another and students from Agahozo), I pray that our last day here is fruitful and meaningful. We don't have any big plans lined up for the rest of the day. Interact, I guess. Grow. Become a family.

Thanks for reading and listening again. I am not sure how much I will get internet in the next week because we will be travelling around the country to Kigali, Ruhengeri, Gisenyi, and the National Park. I will try to write as I can.

Sincerely, thanks for reading.



  1. this is great zach! i'm so glad this has been so meaningful for you. see you soon!

  2. What a great day and wonderfully meaningful experience. Can't wait to talk to you when you get home. Love you. Mom

  3. Z~ I can't wait to talk to you about these ideas and your experiences when you get home. What you write about love has long been my guiding philosophy, it gets me through the toughest days. I love you and am so glad that this trip has been such a great experience for you! I hope you are feeling better after being ill for a few days, and I can't wait to talk to you when you return!
    PS~ What's the word in kinyar for love?