Rwanda Day 7

Started the day as usual with some quiet meditative reading on the porch overlooking the lake and the distant sound of many children getting water on the other side (yelling Muzungu (white person) to get my attention). Diane read us this quote from John Fawcett’s “Christ’s Precious” (published by W. Milner in 1839, p. 82)

I am but a stranger in this world, wherever I may be situated, or however I may happen to be distinguished. And such, it is my privilege that I am so. [However] when I look not upon myself as a stranger and a pilgrim, when I am captivated with anything in this place of my exile, I forget myself, and act far beneath my character, as a candidate for an immortal crown.

Fitting. It is easy in the US to forget our “exile” status. We focus, instead, on our own status. But here in Africa, there is little to do but remember how fragile life is and how we must depend on God for our daily existence.

Today we met with Justin Remera, a psychiatric nurse at Gahini hospital. The hospital was built in 1920s. He is the head of mental health. He sees some 30 patients per day and has a caseload of 500 with PTSD. He sees lots of “epilepsy” and has documented some 350 new cases in the past 2 years. But they have normal EEGs, thus it is trauma related not brain injury. Justin told us that there is an openness to therapy here because they see the benefits.

Problems noted by him? no medications other than Haldol. Infrastructure needs. His office is the size of a small closet and he has had violent patients and no escape (his desk and chair are away from the door). Also, next to his office are rooms where patients were screaming (while we were there). Seems they may have been doing some minor surgery without anesthetic. He also mentioned problems with demobilizing military and their own trauma as well as his own burnout.

Next we went to Kigali and met with the the permanent secretary of Defense. One of the persons there talked about having 520 peer counselors in the military to deal with the problem of HIV. Nothing dealing with PTSD. They have NO chaplains in their military.

Next, we visited the National Council of Protestant Churches of Rwanda. Specioise told us that 52% of the country are protestant. They have a program to deal with gender based violence, to educate the the church about laws designed to protect women. Their booklet combines Rwandan laws and biblical passages.

For our final meeting, we visited with Jean Baptiste at World Vision. He is new to WV in Rwanda but not new to WV (previously in Mali). He is a tall man with much presence. He spoke very openly and honestly about the issues of NGOs in the country and the problem of lukewarm Christians. He suggested they were much more problematic than rank atheists or Muslims. He gave us some advice as how to work with both churches and government officials. Josephine, a woman Diane had worked in Rwanda on previous trips, was there and spoke of the continued need to train and care for Rwandan caregivers.

Our day ended in Gahini with a farewell dinner. Members of the church and community (the local mayor) attended a dinner at the Seeds of Peace retreat houses. The dinner was outside under a canopy. During dinner we watched the local youth perform traditional dances with drums, singing and costumes. The young women danced with wooden milk bottles on their heads. We learned their trick. A heavy stone in the bottom of the bottle helps it stay on their head. Ouch! The night ended with gifts from our hosts to us and a few words of thanks from us.

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Filed under christian psychology, counseling, counseling science, Psychiatric Medications, Psychology, Rwanda

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