major conclusions are identified from our interviews and observations.
We begin with life before AVP, in the words of those interviewed,
and how each individual felt towards others prior to the workshops.
Then we explore the theme of transformation—the most inspiring
and powerful testament of AVP—and the various ways in which
participants felt change in their lives. Next we look at specific
lessons from AVP which participants report using in response to conflict
in the camps. We then explore how overall community relations were
affected by the presence of AVP in each camp, and how AVP produces
a “ripple effect” which contributes to community transformation.
Finally we consider obstacles that challenge AVP in these areas.
A. Before AVP: “We
Had Wounds in Our Hearts”
Hatred, Revenge, Fear and Trauma
Our hearts were hurt because of the situation. We had wounds in our
hearts,” said Nyirabatesi Donata, a participant in Ndego. Her
words express the physicality of the emotional pain suffered by Donata
and others in the camps. The majority of the people we spoke with reported
having feelings of anger, hatred, fear, a desire for revenge, or the
effects of trauma at some point in their lives. The unimaginable experience
of witnessing and surviving genocide, or being violently chased from
your home by people once considered friends is something that can sap
the ability to feel love from one’s heart. Such violent pasts
can haunt an individual—and the darkness of doubt, fear and worry
drowns out the light of hope, friendship and compassion.
People we spoke
with in Nemba, Ndego and Kageyo often recounted the extreme fear
or hatred they had felt upon arriving in Rwanda. “I
had a lot of fear in my heart. I thought the Rwandans here would kill
us, or that the Tanzanians would come here to kill us too,” said
Musabwe Maria, a participant in Nemba. Another participant, Mukanyangezi
Aderita, who was forced to leave her children behind when she fled
Tanzania, said, “I knew that if I had a gun, I could go kill
them. I had everything there, and I left everything when they chased
us. It is impossible to love after that.”
Still others harbored
deep resentment and sought revenge against those who had inflicted
such pain: “Before AVP came here to train us,
we hated those people who chased us and we prayed to God that they
would be hurt like they had hurt us.” These kinds of feelings
are like infections that eat away at a person, and for some, slowly
destroy any hope for something better to come.
B. Transformation: We Saw the “Impossible Become Possible”
Every person we interviewed told us that AVP helped banish or at least
alleviate these feelings of fear or hatred. AVP acted as a metaphorical
balm of sorts for these ‘wounded hearts,’ aiding a transformation
in which “we have seen what we thought was impossible become
possible,” in the words of one participant from Kageyo. Another
participant marveled, “you can see this change!” From the
impossible to the possible, and the possible being visible healing
and peace, is nothing short of miraculous to many with whom we spoke.
In this section we will explore the various levels of transformation
that participants, leaders and facilitators touched upon, and how they
intertwine to build something much stronger than each individual strand—a
more peaceful and nonviolent community.
am also Somebody”
That there is something good within each of us is a fundamental belief
that informs each and every activity of AVP. Those who truly understand
nonviolence realize the immense amount of courage and self-respect
that things like forgiveness, patience, trust, hope and communication
require. For this reason, we have begun with the most fundamental
requirement for nonviolence: self-confidence.
AVP has done a
lot. Before AVP I couldn’t stand in front of
people and teach them. I had a complex where I couldn’t be in
front of people. After AVP, I came to realize that I am also somebody.
Now, people even call me to teach them about violence and nonviolence.
-- Nyiraneza Mary, Ndego
An AVP facilitator
and genocide survivor, Solange, acknowledged that “AVP
helped me a lot, because I was able to stay with people and I came
to know my ability—what I can do, what I am capable of.” Trauma
and violence can shatter a person’s sense of self and perception
of self-worth. To regain such knowledge and respect of self is an enormous
leap forward in the process of rebuilding and the ability to be nonviolent.
and self-awareness comes the ability to admit when one has done wrong.
There is a sense of responsibility inherent
to self-respect and taking responsibility for one’s actions is
another integral part of healing and moving forward. We encountered
awareness of the importance of humility and accountability in many
interviews, like the following.
Before AVP, I had
a spirit of rejection in me. I felt that I was a nobody. But now
I feel that I am somebody because of AVP. After AVP,
I knew how to forgive and how to humble myself. Now I can apologize
for my sins. A lot changed in my life. In short, before AVP, when I
made a mistake I wouldn’t believe that I had done it. But after
AVP, when I wrong somebody, I am able to go and say, “I’m
sorry, please forgive me,” to that person.
-- Niyonteze Helen, Kageyo
next page: Findings continued