Spent the day traveling around Kigali. First stop was Ndera hospital, the only psychiatric hospital in the country. It sits atop a dusty hill just outside the city. Upon entering the gate and getting out of the cars, we were welcomed by patients asking for water and money. The hospital has a 19th century or impoverished cold war era feel about it. Sterile cement block buildings set in a square. Sparse is an overstatement. We learned many staff and patients were murdered during the genocide. This hospital has over 200 patients (but just 12 beds for children). Psychiatric nurses provide the bulk of the care. Their “intake” room had one chair, one table and very little light. Patients lie on the grass outside in various states of unhealth. They have many with PTSD and schizophrenia diagnoses. Their only medication is Haldol. No “atypicals” or newer medications. A woman started screaming just outside our door. Translated: “Why does everyone hate me?”
From this hospital we traveled to the National Memorial Center to tour the genocide museum and grounds where some 300,000 have been interred. I couldn’t handle the room filled with poster size pictures of young children in happier days. The small print told of their favorite foods and activities…and how they were hacked to death.
Another lunch with a Christian counselor, Ms. Paulette, who told of her counseling work and training of lay counselors. After lunch, we met with the executive secretary of the Commission to educate about and prevent genocide. This handsomely dressed man shows the signs of his own trauma. he desires our help to guide the country to remember in healthier ways. Right now they play videos of the actual genocide and so during their 100 day memorial (April to July) they see so much trauma responses. He wished us to start right away.
Here’s a thought in my head: Does Rwanda need us or do we need Rwanda. I am amazed at how community minded this country is. They have no choice. People sacrifice for the good of all. They make do with a little. They are action oriented and start doing things rather than waiting to get it right. Risk calculation is not part of their thinking. What amazing things we could do in this country if we would learn from these people on how to put neighbor ahead of self.