Friday, December 9, 2011

...and so the journey begins!

It is very surreal to make a wish one day and actually have it come true. Thinking back to when the news was delivered that I had been chosen as a long-term volunteer and Jewish Service
Corps Fellow at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda, I remember the influx of emotions that I felt at that moment. I have always been a dreamer, and I have never shied away from pursuing my dreams, but living abroad in sub-Saharan Africa seemed almost unattainable. It was one of those bucket-list items that you jot down but don’t actually think will ever get checked off the list. Very few people in this world actually follow their dreams, and even fewer get wishes granted. Yesterday one of my dreams became a reality, and my wish to live and work in sub-Saharan Africa was granted. Many people dream, and many people wish, but not many take any action to make either a reality. Speaking fresh from experience, it’s scary as all get-out to take a life-altering leap like this, but I am proof that anything is possible if you set your mind to it, have a loving and supportive community of family and friends around you, and are able to come to the realization that living just for the sake of living is wasteful if there isn’t any passion behind what you are doing. In mid-November, I walked away from my career, gave up my apartment and moved my belongings into a 10x15 storage unit, and I began the final stages of preparation for a journey of a lifetime.
Yesterday at 8:10pm, as I stepped out of the airplane in Kigali, I took my first physical steps in the country which I will call home for the next year - Rwanda. A few hours later I arrived at my physical home, the Agahozo-ShalomYouth Village, and the excitement hit me like a bolt of lightning. At the village, there is a saying, "if you see far, you will go far," which is one of the many motivational messages ingrained in you once you enter the gates. The 144-acre village sits atop a hill in Eastern Rwanda, and you can see all the way to Burundi. The landscape and colors here are majestic and infuse a sense of magic into the area. The village name alone sends a message - Agahozo is a Kinyarwanda word for 'place where tears are dried' and Shalom is the Hebrew word for "peace" - together they spell out that this village is a place to dry one's tears and live in peace. It is a village with enormous healing potential, where everyone can face their past, live in the present, see a future and "restore the rhythm of life." The Youth Village is modeled after the Yemin Orde Israeli Youth Village and houses 500 orphaned high school children. This special place allows everyone who lives here to feel safe, get educated, learn and develop life skills, and become productive members of society. My reasons for being here are plentiful. Some say that this is my own Happiness Project, some see it as a year-long version of the show Survivor, and others insist that this is my own personal Eat, Pray, Love experience. What this journey actually typifies will be relayed as the days unfold. I can’t promise that I’ll find happiness here, or that the eating part will be pleasant (much like the meals on Survivor), or that I will find a new spiritual depth, or find love, BUT, I can promise that it will be a journey of a lifetime that will forever change me…hang on, it’s going to be one heck of a ride!

Highlight of the Day: waking up and seeing the land of a thousand hills in daylight, right outside my front door!
Laughable Moment of the Day: looking up during a skype conversation to see a giant mouse perched atop my roommate's bed!
Kinyarwanda Word of the Day: Mzungu – translation: white person


  1. Yay Barrett, can't wait to follow you on this journey. Maybe you'll inspire me to follow on of my dreams!

  2. So excited for you, Barre! Looking forward to reading your blog:)

  3. You are a natural for this. Keep posting!

  4. you will find love...and I have a feeling it will be very soon. It's impossible not to FALL IN LOVE with Africa :)

    so so so happy for you!!! I can't wait to see what lies ahead...