Monday, March 27, 2017


It’s funny how new settings can make you rethink the same old things always swirling around your brain.  When I lived with the most wonderful German family all I could think about was how I wanted to live like them when I have a family of my own – surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, children, friends, everyone.  I loved the constant stream of visitors and how 24 of their closest friends and family went skiing together every winter for a week.  

Now I’m a part of a different kind of family.  A family not tied together biologically but with a set of values.  When youth come to live at ASYV they become a part of a family.  It’s a very important part of how these children heal from their troubled pasts.  Each family lives in a home with a Rwandan Mama.  The Mama signs a four-year contract and very much becomes a mother to her 20 teenagers.  In addition, for the first year of school, each family has a Big Brother or Sister (an ASYV graduate) and a Cousin (a foreigner to help with English – that’s me!)  Each family creates its own set of guidelines, but we all live by our Core Values: respect, commitment, support, integrity, learning community, role model, and interest of the child.  It’s that last value, interest of the child, at the heart of it all.  Everything we do, we do in the interest of our youth.  I love having these values as daily reminders of why it is we do what we do.  Seeing my family members take on these values as their own is also incredibly humbling.  Though I’m only a physical presence in this family for one year, I hope we all continue to learn from each other for a long time to come. 

Something else I learned last year that I am re-learning right now is having a family, while incredibly rewarding, is also incredibly difficult.  Balancing the wants and needs of a big group of people while also keeping everyone’s best interests at heart definitely poses a challenge: whether it’s making sure I gave enough attention to each of the three wonderful German children or engaging equal amounts with each of my 20 Rwandan teenagers and not just the better English speakers. 

Another thing about families is that sometimes they don’t work out.  My Rwandan Mama is currently in the US visiting her daughter and won’t be back until next term.  My Big Sister has left the Village and won’t be back except to visit.  That happened in the middle of exam week and in the middle of a service group.  Needless to say, taking on both of their roles has been a bit tiring.  But I’m here for the students, and what an incredible group of young women they are.  Even though our family feels a little lacking right now, we still stick together.

I’m incredibly grateful for all of the families I’ve become a part of over the years – whether they be Brasilian, German, or Rwandan.  I’m also quite lucky that my family of origin happens to be pretty rocking.  I miss your crass commentary, our dumb diatribes, and of course your jokes and your love.  Shout out to all the families around ☺  

The day we became a family!

The day we received our name - Gandhi!

1 comment:

  1. Hi M-C! You have been in more than several circumstances where you have had to step up to serve children, model for and care for them. You always manage to do the right thing and are intentional in your actions. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reflection on familie and am thankful for you being an enriching part of ours. I can't wait to meet your "cousins" when I visit.

    Je t'aime!