October 21-22, 2011, Kigali, Rwanda
Friday morning and we are up by 6 am. Have to pack this morning because we have to be out of our rooms. As soon as we finish the conference we must say our goodbyes and get to the airport. We have breakfast with Robert Briggs of the American Bible Society. He’s on his way to a United Bible Society meeting in Kenya. Our conference begins with Diane
Langberg and Carol King covering the topics of lament and grief. After their presentations, the participants practiced writing their own laments. We made time for sharing them with others. We concluded this section with a choral reading of Scriptural laments. This choral reading was compiled by Lynn MacDougall and quite moving for all. We had enough time before lunch for me to teach a bit on vicarious trauma.
After lunch, I did a short teaching on peer supervision. It is important for these caregivers to support each other and so I taught on how to do case consultations and to write-up case study/questions. After finishing this teaching, Baraka led the participants in a “What next” brainstorm. Their main recommendation was to form an association of counselor/caregivers–Rwandan Association of Christian Counseling as a place to get further support, training and to share resources. They wanted a website that would allow them to connect via social media. As they explored their current needs, many said that the number one need is ongoing mentoring. Others talked of finding ways to get paid for their work in counseling. Many spoke of the need for skills and training in dealing with drug and alcohol issues, sexuality, gender-based violence, depression, and anxiety. They asked for trainings 2 times per year. The group decided to appoint a few of the attendees to a committee to see these recommendations to completion.
We concluded our time by asking them to tell us what parts they liked the most. They liked the small group activities. They wanted these to go longer. They liked the role plays and want more. They would like PowerPoint slides (we didn’t do these but handed out outlines) and for speakers to speak slower English. We promised to send them a PDF of our talks and outlines for them to have in electronic form.
Our final activity was to hand out the certificates for real. I got the pleasure of doing this and getting a hug and a picture from each attendee. We said our goodbyes, made a quick change of clothes and headed off to the car to take us to the airport. Just as we were about to get in the car, we were given handkerchiefs each with notes and signatures from the attendees. A sweet parting gift!
Friday night at 7 pm, we boarded our plane (Brussels Air) to start the trip back home. The flight was full and our seats were all over the plane so no debriefing for us. For the next 10 hours (including a stop in Nairobi), I was jammed into a middle seat without leg room (front role of cattle class). Arriving in Brussels by 6 am, we managed to get coffee, chat a bit with each other, and buy some Belgian chocolates for the family. After a total of 28 hours of travel, we arrived back in Philadelphia, PA. 42 hours of no sleep (all day Friday and the night and then most of Saturday) but I arrived home wired and ready to tell my family about what I had seen. Funny, as I tried to tell them about my trip, I found I was having a hard time making sense of everything. I’m not sure it was just because I was tired but more because I had too many thoughts and feelings and was without words to express it all.
As I post this, I am now 1 month from the end of this trip. It is still hard to be concise about the trip. We learned much, saw much, and have ideas about how we can have an impact on future counseling training in Rwanda and the DRC. Clearly, we need to do more live vignettes for the counselor trainees. And we can impact the area by offering materials to existing schools.
I am blessed to have been able to do this work. Probably more blessed than the recipients! I couldn’t have asked for a more successful trip, better travel connections (well, unless someone has a teleporter lying around), or better travel companions. Can’t wait til the next time.