Report on the First Basic HROC Workshops in Rwanda
April to July 2003
By Adrien Niyongabo, Coordinator, HROC-Burundi
After the one-month
trauma healing training held at the Friends Women’s
Garden Center in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 28, 2003, a meeting to plan
further activities was held. To that end, fifteen trauma healers met
with David Bucura (Legal Representative of Rwanda Yearly Meeting),
Marcelin Sizeli (Clerk of Rwanda Yearly Meeting), David Zarembka and
Cecelia Yocum (from AGLI), and Adrien Niyongabo (from Burundi Yearly
Meeting). In that meeting, four full time staff members and an Executive
Committee of seven people were chosen for HROC. Also, a three-month
program, focused primarily on conducting twenty-six three-day trauma
healing workshops, was set up and I was appointed as the coordinator
for that program. The activities started on April 24 and ended on July
24. Let us have a look on what happened in between.
There were twenty-five three-day trauma healing workshops held in
nine of the twelve provinces of Rwanda. Four hundred and ninety people
- interested, active men and women, struggling with their heavy traumas
- were trained. Those who attended these workshops, essentially composed
by young adults, came from different backgrounds: genocide survivors,
released prisoners, Twa, and community, church, and local association
In each workshop,
several key topics areas were covered - understanding trauma, including
trauma definitions, causes and symptoms; effects
of trauma on a person; listening skills, understanding loss and grief,
dealing with anger; and trust and mistrust. These modules were set
up with the help of Cecilia Yocum from AGLI. Small group discussions
were also included to provide participants with an opportunity for
deep sharing. Also some “lite and livelies” were provided
in the workshops. Through the schedule was very tight, facilitators
were able to attend a three-day in-service training session under the
leadership of David Cimbora from Biola University in La Mirada, California.
We also had two days of group clinical supervision.
Healing and Rebuilding Our Community (HROC) facilitators were blessed
to meet with very enthusiastic audiences in each of the places where
the workshops were held. The primary message was helping participants
to understand that trauma is not a shameful word or name. Neither are
traumatized persons. Respect was given to whoever was in the room.
Information was shared with simplicity and no ambiguity. Connection
was established among the entire group, laughing together and being
mutually supportive of crying. New ways to restore hope were sought.
All were overjoyed to see how these simple trauma healing modules,
used by non-professional trauma healing workers, have impacted and
enriched lives and have thereby started a path to healing. It has been
clear that these workshops were highly appreciated by the participants
as their specific needs were effectively responded to. As comments
demonstrate, participants did not hide their satisfaction about getting
skills that helped them to better understand what they have been going
through and how to deal with its consequences:
• I didn’t
realize that I was traumatized. I was surprised to find myself with
many of these trauma symptoms you told us. Thank
you so much for helping me to know what I am suffering from.
• In this workshop, I have discovered that there are many kinds of trauma.
Before, I was thinking that only having lost family members is traumatizing,
But now, I have see that the wrongdoer can be traumatized by the horrible
things she/he did.
Being in the group, where you talk about your stories, is comforting.
Hearing someone else’s story, you could realize that you are
not alone in the struggle. And when it came to telling others about
your story, it was like some thing heavy was pulled out from the heart
and you felt happy.
• We were forgotten and marginalized for years and years. I am thankful,
not only me but also the other Twa I came with, to those who invited
us to attend this workshop. This happiness I received from this workshop
is unforgettable for it was my first time, since I was born, to reach
that stage of happiness. Praise the Lord!
• I thank God for having been invited in this workshop. Since 1994, I
could not have a quiet sleep night and day. But, after the second day
of our workshop, I slept like a baby. It was a new good-morning again
after such a long time!!!!! If you keep coming to our communities with
these workshops, I tell you the truth, you will prevent many from becoming
mad. Comment by a sixty year-old grandmother.
• For sure, the more you talk about the story, the more you come to end
with the experience and less painful your emotions will be.
Some difficulties were observed during our work. In some of our workshops,
only two facilitators had to conduct the training because some of the
facilitators could not get permission from their employers. For logistical
reasons many of those who heard about the workshops and came without
being invited were sent back home. Many times, facilitators had to
travel back and forth, mornings and evenings, because the lodging and
workshop facilities were not in the same compound. Also, one of the
twenty-six workshops scheduled had to be cancelled because of budget
constraints caused by increased prices. The main difficulty was the
fact that follow-up after the workshops could not be planned. If this
follow-up system had been set up, it would have allowed HROC to be
in contact with many of those who attended the previous workshops during
their own healing process. In that way, the old victims would become
the new helpers for others in need of healing.
In all of the workshops conducted, participants expressed their deep
willingness to have further training, for themselves and for others
who did not come. In addition to that request, specific groups (orphans,
demobilized soldiers, HIV/AIDS people, widows, and others) asked for
specific training. The Twa case had also attracted the attention of
the facilitators. In fact, as Twa have been discriminated against for
a long time and suffered from many other injustice systems, a particular
case would be envisioned. On behalf of the facilitators, their main
request has been for more in-service training, as they need to shape
It is worthy to congratulate all those young facilitators who afforded
the three-day workshops with courage and abnegation. They made themselves
available and ready to facilitate the workshops whenever they were
asked to do so although they were volunteers. They have given their
time and accepted to be away from their lovely families. They conducted
the workshops without fear and made themselves humble in all the circumstances.
This commitment contributed a lot to the success of the scheduled activities.
HROC staff also merit special appreciation for their great efforts
in managing the tasks that were given to them. Particular thankfulness
goes to the HROC executive committee members for their many valuable
advices in how to manage the program, day by day. We need to recognize
the remarkable role of the Friends Church in Rwanda regarding the administrative
and logistic facilities offered to HROC. The needed papers were sent
to the local government administration leaders and for the churches
and classrooms where the workshops took place. We express our deepest
thanks to AGLI/FPT for their considerable involvement in the implementation
of the trauma healing program in Rwanda and ongoing support to peace
activities done by Friends in the African Great Lakes region. We address
our sincere thanks to all those who, from near or far, have played
any role in the accomplishment of our activities.
Will all these efforts, HROC was able to go forward. Our success has
come from a group effort. Let us all together be happy!!!