Saturday, February 1, 2014

Anne Heyman

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies . . . Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die . . . It doesn't matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away.” 
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

May Anne Heyman's memory be for a blessing.

Ex-Lawyer Provides Refuge for Rwandan Orphans
Updated June 2, 2010 12:01 a.m. ET
As Manhattan's assistant district attorney, Anne Heyman defended the rights of New Yorkers. Now the former lawyer is lending her voice to millions of children orphaned in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Inspired by Israeli youth villages that took in Holocaust orphans, Ms. Heyman and her husband Seth Merrin, founder of electronic stock-trading firm Liquidnet, set out in 2006 to build a place where Rwandan orphans could go to live, study and help rebuild their country.
The couple raised $12 million through personal donations and contributions from friends, foundations and a corporate sponsorship from Liquidnet. Along with help from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the couple built a village outside of Kigali, in the Eastern Province of Rwanda, called Agahozo Shalom, meaning "a place to dry one's tears and live in peace" in a combination of Kinyarwanda and Hebrew.
Today, Agahozo Shalom houses 250 students, who live, study and volunteer in the community for three years while attending high school. Ms. Heyman hopes to expand the village to 500 students by 2012.
"We are turning these children from abandoned orphans into a constructive force for positive change in the country," she says. "We want kids to leave here emotionally and physically healthy, ready to hold down a decent job and give back to their community."
This summer, the students will release an album they wrote, sung and recorded with the help of S-Curve Records' Steve Greenberg, who produced the debut album by the Jonas Brothers.
The 17-song album, called Rhythm of Life, echoes the struggles the children have faced since the 1994 genocide with a mixture of a capella singing, African drumming and songs such as "Don't Be Afraid" and "Never Again Rwanda." All proceeds from music sales will go back to the village.
"What started as music therapy has become a huge part of their lives at the village," says Ms. Heyman. "In the evening, you'll hear singing coming from the houses or kids sitting outside the music center having a jam session."
Ms. Heyman, who met her husband on a year-long program in Israel and is a longtime supporter of Jewish causes, says the album reflects the core principles of the village: "Tikkun Halev," a Hebrew phrase that means repairing the heart, and "Tikkun Olam," repairing the world.
The informal and formal education components, which include music, computer and arts centers, give children access to education they otherwise might not have and encourage them to contribute to the country's future, she says. The village also provides students with vocational training geared toward viable employment in the areas of information technology and agro-forestry.
The village is made up of community houses, staffed by house mothers and informal educators.

"This nurtures students as they begin a personal and communal healing process," Ms. Heyman says.

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