On Wednesday night, I attended "Stand Up and Be Counted," a fundraiser for the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village
(ASYV) in Rwanda.
ASYV is a residential community, as well as high school, in Rwanda. It houses youth who lost their parents during the horrific 1994 Rwandan racial strife, when over 1 million ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutus. In college, I actually wrote a chapter of my honors thesis in part on the Rwandan genocide, and knowing the details of the tragedy, I was excited to be a part of an event held by such an organization.
I arrived with John Norris as my date; we walked the carpet together (I'm not sure we were fooling anyone, even though I called him my "boyfriend" twice — oh well!), and went inside to a completely packed room at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. I brushed shoulders with Whitney Port, Spencer Grammer (Kelsey's daughter) and actress Susan Egan. I think Natalie Portman may have been there too (she's on the board of the organization) but I didn't see her.
After a few speakers and an excellent short film about the residents of ASYV, artist Michael Israel put on a rock-art-interactive performance, which was actually excellent. I was worried at first when I thought he was drawing a large tiger, but relieved when he turned the painting 90 degrees to the left and revealed a stunningly accurate John Lennon portrait (the song "Imagine" was playing in the background, and I felt fairly stupid for not seeing it before the "reveal" — not to mention embarrassed that I had exclaimed 10 minutes earlier that I was sure it was going to be a massive tiger...). Anyway, it was still pretty cool.
Leaving the event, I went home and re-read a few of my old papers on the Rwandan genocide, and then a little more about ASYV's "Stand Up and Be Counted" campaign. Today, I'm going to find a way to get involved myself. It really is refreshing to see an organization that is creative in their mission and diligent, efficient and successful in its implementation. Amazingly, as we heard last night, the idea for ASYV actually came from what at the time seemed an idealistic concept at a dinner party. That idea has now saved, educated, and housed hundreds of Rwandan children.