Noa Yaar, International Relations Coordinator at the Labor Party
On August 31, 2015 I started my journey to Rwanda with my ROI Micro Grant.
First time in Africa, joining the JDC Entwine Community Project as the only Israeli among a group of 15 Americans, was an experience that will always stay in my heart.
I spent a week at the Agohozo Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. I was privileged to touch the lives of 500 kids through Jewish values.
The kids at the villages have lost either one or two parents and joined the village from the most poorest and farthest villages of Rwanda. They have never had any connection to Judaism or the State of Israel until they arrived to ASYV.
As part of my stay there, I worked with the children as well as the staff.
I gave an educational session to 60 staff members on refugees and current events in that field and I took part in a career panel, sharing with 80 kids who are about to go out to the job market - my experience and advice for how to take risks, learn from failures, succeed and always strive for more.
For a week I became part of a family comprised of 16 girls, a mama and big sister. Each evening I spoke to them about my country, our traditions and values, taught them Israeli games and in a short time I really felt part of the family.
I worked in the village library, kitchen and farm- everywhere with the kids, engaging in powerful conversations with talented and educated children that want to learn, admire Israel as a State and Judaism of the bible. The flow of information from both sides was powerful and I feel we had a mutual long-term impact on each other. Together with the kids, I also had the opportunity to do Tikkun Olam activities at the nearby town clinic- we volunteered with the members of the town, giving back to their community.
It is very difficult to describe my experience in words, I truly feel that Rwanda- the people and the country touched my heart in so many ways, it changed my perspective on things, made me want to share more of my Jewish values with the world and continue making an impact on so many levels.
This experience made me want to learn more about Rwanda and help develop the relations with the State of Israel- with so many similarities between the two countries; there is a lot that can be done.
Together with the children of the village- who I truly believe are the next generation of leaders in their country, I plan on continuing my volunteer and development work with Rwanda.