Anne Heyman, Rwandan youth village founder, dies in horse-riding accident

Anne Heyman, who founded a youth village for Rwandan orphans, was active in many Jewish organizations.(Courtesy of Dorot)

Anne Heyman, who founded a youth village for Rwandan orphans, was active in many Jewish organizations.(Courtesy of Dorot)

(JTA) — Anne Heyman, a Jewish philanthropist who founded a Rwandan youth village for children orphaned in that country’s 1994 genocide, died in a horse-riding accident.

Heyman, 52, died Friday afternoon after falling off a horse while participating in a jumping competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Florida.

The Forward on Saturday was the first news outlet to identify Heyman as the victim of the accident.

Heyman’s interest in aiding Rwanda was spurred by a 2005 talk on the genocide that she and her husband, Seth Merrin, attended. Together they raised $12 million to build Rwanda’s Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.

The village opened in December 2008, and 500 Rwandans aged 14-21 currently live and study there. The village was inspired by the youth villages in Israel that resettled young Jews orphaned by the Holocaust.

Rwandan government officials expressed sorrow over Heyman’s death.

“RIP ‪#AnneHeyman‬ — your legacy will live on forever, our thoughts are with your family and hundreds of youth in ‪#ASYV‬ who just lost a mother,” Jean Nsengimana, Rwanda’s youth minister, tweeted.

Heyman, a South Africa native, has been involved in numerous American Jewish philanthropies. She is a former board president of Dorot, a Jewish nonprofit that organizes volunteers to help the elderly and reduce their social isolation.

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