October 19, 2011, Kigali, Rwanda
Finally! Our conference begins. 19 separate group represented here for a total of 42 caregivers. Baraka Unwingeneye (IJM and lay counselor trainer) opened the conference with small and large group discussions on the causes, symptoms, and definition of trauma. The participants were active in discussions. The energy is high! Baraka concluded her section by reminding us all that everyone can be traumatized, even the strong in body and faith. Diane then spoke for 50 minutes or so on the nature of traumatic memory and an overview of the first two phases of intervention. Her voice was a bit weak as she came down with a cold but she delivered it well just the same. Her outline provided a useful reminder of treatment necessity: talking…tears…time. She concluded with some discussion of how having healing relationships, a purpose, and faith all play significant roles in the recovery process.
We ended the morning with a handkerchief project where participants created a depiction of their grief/suffering and then shared it with others. We knew this was going to be powerful and that it would take time. However, we were somewhat surprised at just how powerful it was and how much the participants valued telling others (in dyads and groups) a portion of their trauma story. Several told us that even though they had been counseling others since the genocide in 1994, they had never told anyone their own trauma story.
Our afternoon continued with small and large group activities/discussions and concluded with a question and answer session. The group is hungry for information and we do not have to do much to encourage conversation, discussion, and engagement. Our late afternoon and evening is spent resting, planning for tomorrow’s work and enjoying each other’s company. The food continues to be outstanding at Solace. The only complaint I have is how early the roosters and birds start calling. 4 am is way too early for this. Just outside my window is something sounding like a bird having swallowed a bugle. I later discover it is the gray crowned crane. Here’s a short video I shot from my balcony where I got it to “sing.” (photos by Joshua Straub)