Category Archives: Rwanda

Tuza 2.0: Day Five

[June 27, 2013]. Day two of our three day conference. Today Dr. Barbara Shaffer talked about the problem of marital rape and reviewed 6 common characteristics of some abusive spouses. The participants were very involved in this presentation and the discussion about sex in marriage provoked some interesting debates among the group. The large group discussed the matter of dowry. In Rwanda, a husband’s family agrees to pay an amount to his bride’s family. The price is in terms of a number of cows. A friend told me that nowadays, “cows are kept in the bank.” This tradition gives many men the belief that they have purchased their wife. Now the wife is his (cherished) property. As such, he has rights to her body. Based on the conversation, I would argue that the concept of marital rape might indeed be foreign. One participant asked how 1 Corinthians 7 fit into this discussion. We were able to examine that this passage offers women the right to control their husband’s bodies just as much as he gets to have a say about her body. Not being sure where everyone stood in the debate, I concluded with a reminder that Philippians 2 requires that we emulate Christ in not demanding what we are due but giving it up so as to shine like stars.

After lunch Dr. Langberg presented on dissociation and a group of Rwandan counselors illustrated a counseling scene of dissociation and a counselor’s techniques in calming and grounding. Very well done! Just before the end of this day’s training, Rowan Moore gave a talk about child abuse. Kivu boats

Before dinner, we hired a local young man to take us out onto Lake Kivu in his boat. Ten of us motored out toward Peace Island. We didn’t have enough time to go all the way to Napoleon Island but we rounded several small islands and enjoyed the setting sun. We passed several fishing boats netting the tiny fish that are in the lake. We could feel the stress of the day fade with the lap of the waves. [photo courtesy Laura Captari]

After dinner, we had an evening of celebration. We identified our Barnabas’ (each person secretly wrote notes of encouragement and prayer to another). And of course, there was dancing and laughter. I have come to love the fluid hand motions during dancing and the energetic movements of men and women. Sadly, I  cannot dance to save my life. I have not rhythm. Of course, there was a dance where I had to be front and center. I tried hiding behind a camera but even that did not save me. Still, it was sweet medicine after 2 days of talking trauma, abuse, and violence.

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Filed under AACC, Abuse, counseling, counseling skills, Rape, Rwanda, Uncategorized

Tuza 2.0: Day Four

[June 26, 2013]

The conference has begun. We have 30 high level caregivers here, 17 of whom attended Tuza 1.0. One of the things we expect is that all of the planning as to how long things will take does not ensure we will be able to stay on schedule. While we expect it, it requires a lot more cultural sensitivity and flexibility than us Westerners usually like to display. When I go to a conference, I don’t want to “waste” time playing games and getting to know my neighbors. Just fill my head up with knowledge, thank you very much. But that is not the way most of the world lives. So, our conference began, appropriately so, getting to know each other. Truth be told, this kind of beginning is necessary if we are going to trust each other!

Our first session included a short review of basic helping skills followed by a roleplay with Carol King. After a large group discussion, we broke attendees up into groups of 4 to form quads (counselor, counselee, and 2 observers). Many attendees remarked at how helpful the quads were for practicing skills. It seems that most have not had this experience before.

After coffee break (coffee plus a bowl containing a little donut with peppers and carrots inside and little fried (whole) fish!), one of our attendees presented a case for large group discussion. The case was of a teen who had experienced sex trafficking and was severely wounded in an attempt to kill her.

Our afternoon session featured a presentation by Dr. Barbara Shaffer on the topic of domestic violence. She spoke about the common cycle of domestic violence (tension building–>violence–>calm), the basis for protection from the scriptures, and gave basic goals when meeting with a person who is domestically abused.

During our large group discussion, we heard from several men and women that men are increasingly abused in Rwanda society. There was some discussion about how much this is an issue. It appears that since the genocide, women have had greater need to be independent and so traditional relationships between men and women are disrupted. Women, these individuals claimed, are more likely to be argumentative than in past eras. Also, we learned that in a separation, children under 7 may be forced to go with the father (or his family) since children belong to the father and not the mother. Not all attendees agreed with this view. We ended the day with small group discussions about how to tell when a person is experiencing domestic violence and how to engage that person in some basic information gathering and invitation to talk further.

One of the major changes we have in our schedule is the fact that we decided it was important to translate in real-time. We had planned that English proficiency would be high enough to do the training in English. However, it appears that substantial concepts are being missed. Even though this doubles the time it takes to do a talk and training, we  believe this is best for the attendees. We give them written text of the talk in English and at the same time give it orally in English and Kinyarwandan.

Some of us ended our work day with a fun swim in Lake Kivu. The water was a perfect temperature and clear many feet down. We swam for about 40 minutes then got ready for dinner. The swim was refreshing after a long day of concentrating and listening. Listening across accents and experiences can really wear you out.

A Funny Anecdote:

Charging phones and readers can be quite a challenge in Africa. You can have a converter and the right plug and find out that your device will not charge. For some reason, I could not charge my phone or nook while in Kigali. However, I was grateful to find that I could charge my devices in my room here at Bethany Centre. Well, last night I awoke at midnight to flames shooting out of my converter right at my head and mosquito net. I yelled, “FIRE” and quickly yanked the blackened plastic out of the wall while sparks continued to fall on flammable material. Thankfully, nothing caught on fire. I opened the patio door and threw the converter outside. My room stunk of that awful burnt plastic smell. In my stupor I wondered if I should call the front desk and ask them to make sure there wasn’t any ongoing problems with the outlet. As I stood thinking about it, I heard/saw outside flourescent lights grow tremendously brighter and then explode, first one, then another, then another. Deciding that I now needed to call the front desk, I turned the light on so I could dial the phone. The overhead light also exploded and sparks fell to the bed/net below. Again, I pounced wanting to make sure nothing caught fire. It did not. I used my phone light to dial the front desk. Minutes later, a sleepy voiced answered. I requested someone come soon to check on me and to ensure something wasn’t terribly wrong. No one came. The next morning I related my story and learned that several others had no power and their lights blew as well. Later we learned that some wires crossed and caused the power surge. It ended well and we had no further electrical problems the rest of the conference.

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Filed under AACC, Africa, christian counseling, counseling, counseling skills, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychology, Relationships, Rwanda

Tuza 2.0: Day Three

[June 25, 2013: Kigali to Kibuye]

Our day started with devotions with IJM staff at their office in Kigali. After devotions we met with the social work staff on a beautiful balcony overlooking the city to hear about their work with victims, the process of getting information to determine View from IJMif they could take the legal case and the counseling they could offer. IJM offers TF-CBT informed therapy for parents and child victims. You could hear the heartache as the counselors can only offer counseling to those whose cases IJM agrees to investigate and work for prosecution. They do what they can in those cases where abuse has happened but lack necessary evidence for courts. Unfortunately, there are few options for referral.

After IJM we proceeded to go to Ndera Psychiatric Hospital. As the ONLY psychiatric inpatient facility in the country of 11 million people, they about 350 beds. Do the math! About half of their patients are those with serious seizure disorders. Those in the crisis units have severe psychotic and disruptive behaviors. We saw one man who was stark naked. When asked about census, we discovered that while they have 60 or so beds for men in crisis, their current census is 78. Meaning, men share cots for sleeping!

We visited the stabilization units for men and women, the pharmacy, and kids ward [Picture below is of the daily schedule for kids in picture form]. It seemed that the hospital has a fewkid schedule more medications available to use since our last visit in 2009. Then, they only had access to Haldol. Now, they have some atypicals like Risperadone. Most stay at the hospital for about 3 weeks, though we were told that someone was in the crisis unit since 2001!

After the hospital, we intended to take a trip to one of the church memorials in Nyamata. However, we were running late so we returned to Solace for lunch and discussions with Bishop Alexis, an Anglican Bishop. Bishop has been engaging with us since 2009 for counseling help. He suggested that we come next time with a plan to engage key principles for a country-wide  response so that we avoid overlap.

By 3pm, we were on our way to Centre Bethanie on Lake Kivu in Kibuye. Our bus was packed with people and luggage. The road from Kigali to Kibuye has more twists, turns and vistas than you can possibly imagine. Lovely drive, though long. Finally, we arrived 3 hours later (after dark) to the conference center. Dinner was served in the restaurant (open sides to the lake!).

Today was a full day in many ways. One fun item: I received an African shirt from other team members. Wore it with pride today. One serious item: on our trip to Kibuye, I sat next to a man who told me his genocide story. Lost wife and 2 children. Survived hiding in the reeds for over a month. He told me how the Lord spoke to him about forgiving his family’s killers and how now he is doing reconciliation work with victims and perpetrators. I am amazed at his strength and struggles.

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Filed under Africa, counseling, Rwanda, trauma

Tuza 2.0: Day Two

[June 24, 2103]: Kigali to Butare to Kigali

Day starts with a breakfast of croissant, hardboiled egg, dragon fruit, and coffee. Our team left Solace Ministries this morning to have devotions with World Vision Rwanda staff. Met with senior staff and Director George Gitau. He gave a history of WV in Rwanda since 1994. They work in 15 of the 30 sectors in the country. They are working to stop most handouts (e.g., school fees programs) and wean off dependency of international donor dollars as much as possible…and replace with economic development plans. They are helping Rwandans form saving and lending formations. Seemed to be saying that focus on genocide and trauma was passing to work on peace building and prevention curriculum with younger children. Using Christian musicians to bridge the cultural divide in the country. While prevention strategies are a great move, just because 19 years have passed doesn’t mean the trauma of the genocide and aftermath are finished. Transformation of traumatized populations are still needed.

From World Vision we left to visit the One Stop Center, a government institution for women experiencing domestic violence, a place to get medical help and seek justice. We were not allowed in for some reason. At this point, our teams split up. The larger group visited the genocide memorial, had lunch and did a bit of shopping. My group, Diane Langberg, Laura Captari (AACC) and Marianne Millen (student from Biblical) took a 2 hour trip to Butare (AKA Huye) to visit with Bishop Nathan Gasatura of the Anglican church. As board member of the Prostestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS), he brought us to the school and led a meeting with the vice rector and key faculty/staff. PIASS started in 1973 as an institute in theology. They added 2 faculties (what we would call schools) in 2010 and expect to had another by 2017 when they reach university status. In 2 years the school has grown from 300 or so to over 1000. Most classes are held on evenings and most students commute. We discussed possible ways we could support counseling training for pastors and school counselors who want to tackle issues of domestic violence, abuse, addictions, and trauma recovery. Seemed the most logical and realistic way to help is to develop some 1-2 night public seminars and a few short courses (100 hours across 2 weeks) for credit. Those with good skills in training pastors, cross cultural competency, and the specific content specialists would be welcome here.

On a tight schedule we “flew” back to Kigali with our driver Jean Pierre. Anyone looking for a careful driver in Kigali should hire him! By a miracle we narrowly missed hitting a young man who was crossing the road without looking. None of us in the car understand how we did not hit him (traveling at 30 miles an hour). Later, we stopped for our driver to make a call and were mobbed by school children on the way home wanting to try out their English with us.

We arrived back at Solace to go immediately into an impromptu meeting with 20 Bible Society volunteers and workers. The other team members had been listening to how the BS was using Healing Wounds of Trauma material in Kigali and other sectors of the country. We listened to some of their trauma cases: cases of forced rape, genocide victims, and forced abortions after rape. Many reported that HWT is the best material they have had access to over the past 19 year. There was one who felt the same but wished to not start with the chapter about why we suffer as there is some in the country who are inclined to quiet people with such material. I did a short presentation about how to ground individuals who are actively distressed and dissociation. We concluded the evening with a late dinner with the BS volunteers. Another home run by Simeon at Solace!

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Filed under AACC, christian counseling, counseling skills, genocide, ptsd, Rwanda

Project Tuza 2.0 in Rwanda: Your chance to participate

Those following this blog for a bit will know that I have travelled to Rwanda to participate in training Rwandan caregivers from 19 caregiving organizations (with World Vision Rwanda as the main host and partner). This project has been named “Project Tuza” and is funded by both World Vision Rwanda and donors to the American Association of Christian Counselors nonprofit foundation.

Trip Details:

This June (21-30), a group of 8 counselors and psychologists will be working with local counselors and caregivers to improve counseling and caregiving skills to women and children experiencing domestic violence, with those suffering addictions, and to provide opportunity for extensive case rich learning. While some trainings will be delivered via presentations, we have been requested to spend much of our time in small skills groups so that attendees can learn through practice and case review sessions. As this time will also be nearing the end of the Genocide memorial period (April – July), we will also leave ample time to give attendees time for processing their own trauma burdens. Beyond this training, we are now shaping up meetings with other interested parties so we can expand our opportunities on future trips.

How can I participate?

  • You can pray. These trips are difficult to manage from beginning to end. Getting the logistics right can be difficult when managing time-zones and cultures.
  • You can pray some more. Health, prepping for talks, making sure that we bring the resources we need (AACC is gifting the Rwandan counselors with a large cache of DVD and CD trainings). Next week, we will be meeting here in the States with one of the Rwandan counselors to finalize our training.
  • You can give. This trip is already funded by World Vision Rwanda and AACC. However we desire to keep returning to continue the training. You can help offset the costs of this trip and enable us to return soon. Since our last trip, airline tickets have increased more than $500 per person! Each one of us who are going give by covering a portion of the costs of travel to and from Rwanda. You can help us as well. Please consider giving to AACC Foundation by mailing checks (made payable to AACC FOUNDATION) to AACC Foundation, Attention: Project Tuza, PO Box 739, Forest, VA 24551 (in memo line, indicate the gift is for Project Tuza) or by giving online here in increments of $5. All gifts will be tax deductible.

Stay posted for more information and blogs about our trip!


Filed under AACC, Africa, counseling skills, Diane Langberg, genocide, Rwanda, Uncategorized

Praying for Goma

Last year I had the privilege of touring Goma (search Congo 0r Goma or DRC in my search engine above) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is a city on the northern edge of Lake Kivu and on the border with Rwanda. Residents of Goma (and all of the displaced persons) have known much tragedy, especially since 1994 when the genocide in Rwanda spilled over into the DRC. There have been African multicountry wars, ethnic conflicts, rampant poverty, corruption, an ineffective central government…and now, today, it has fallen into the hands of a relatively small band of rebels called M23.

If you are like most, you find the regions somewhat confusing. You’ve heard about the area being deemed the rape capitol of the world. You’ve heard it is an area rich in minerals. You may have heard recently that Rwanda has been accused of supporting the M23 group. But, you probably find it hard to keep the various acronyms clear in your mind and the situation in Gaza and Israel get most of the conflict attention these days.

Please pray for those in the DRC. Pray for rescue. Pray that the international community will care about them and put proper pressure on the various parties. Pray for the restraint of evil. And if you would like more information, read this link:


Filed under Africa, Rwanda

Booknote: Broken Memory

Just posted a short book review over at Global Trauma Recovery Institute. It is a novella about a child survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. If you are interested in getting an inside look at life after a trauma, dealing with memories and spaces in memories, and a common recovery process, I commend the book to you.  Quite moving, easy to read (not triggering for most), and gives some good illustrations of actions of the survivor and other caring individuals that help the young woman regain control over her internal world.

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Filed under Africa, counseling, Good Books, Rwanda, trauma

What really caused the Rwandan genocide? Scott Straus’ answer

Have begun reading Scott Straus’ The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda (2006, Cornell University Press) [HT to Carol for the copy]. Not sure how many books this makes about Rwanda but I am appreciating his attempt to take a dispassionate approach to answering the question about why the 1994 genocide happened, how it happened, how/why ordinary civilians participated in the killings. Right away, Straus focuses on the methods of data collection and why he avoids the sensationalized approach to describing the gore. Within his introduction, Straus makes this assertion and then spends the rest of the book showing his basis:

I find that the Rwandan genocide happened in the following way. After President Juvenal Habyarimana was assassinated on April 6, 1994, and in the midst of a defensive civil war against Tutsi-led rebels, Hutu hardliners declared all Tutsis to be “the enemy.” In a context of intense crisis and war, the declaration that Tutsis were the enemy functioned as a de facto policy–in effect, an authoritative order and a basis for authority–around which coalitions of actors could mobilize to take control of their communities. Once local actors who subscribed to the hardliners’ position had secured enough power, they made killing Tutsis the new order of the day and demanded compliance from the Hutu civilian population. In the Rwandan context, where state institutions are dense at the local level, where civilian mobilization is a common state practice, where the idea of state power is resonant, and where geography provides little opportunity for exit, large-scale civilian mobilization to kill was rapid, and the violence was extraordinarily intense and devastating. (p. 7)

In reviewing data that he can “triangulate”, Straus helps work through a number of hypotheses that may have explanatory power but lack the data to support them. If you want to gain an experience of the genocide, Jean Hatzfeld’s books are great introductions to the stories of surviving victims and perpetrators. But, this book moves beyond story to fuller explanations of how the violence spread so quickly and slaughtered so many in so few days.

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Filed under conflicts, Rwanda, trauma

DRC/Rwanda Trip: Day 10

October 20, 2011, Kigali, Rwanda

The second day of our conference with NGO caregivers. Today Bishop Nathan Gasatura joined us from Butare. It is always a pleasure to meet with the Bishop. We had a good lunch meeting with him where we discussed future possibilities of counseling/trauma training in his city. I learned why the national university is not in the capitol but 3 hours south in Butare. When Rwanda and Burundi were one country,

The Bishop grooves to some Gospel

the capitol was Butare and thus it made sense to have the national university there. Oh, and another reason it is good to see the Bishop is that he can really dance.

Carol King and I started this morning’s session with a short counseling vignette. I counseled Carol in order to illustrate the skills of bad listening and then good listening, stabilization, and grounding during dissociation. We then talked with them about ways to get another person’s story in bits (rather than all at once) and with their lead (rather than having the counselor pull it out of them). The role play was something that few had ever seen and we had lively discussion afterward, including why I didn’t push Carol (she played a hesitant, fearful counselee) and the issue of exploring emotion. At the end of the conference we learned our role plays were some of the most important parts of the conference.

Later, Josh presented some material on trauma, attachment, and the impact on the brain. To make this presentation practical, we did another role play where I was the counselee and Josh the counselor. We illustrated (in a rather speeded up illustration) portions of the levels of repair: telling the story, re-framing the story (in a wider truth), re-writing the story

Josh counseling Phil

, and re-connection with others. We concluded this time by having them practice counseling each other with a focus on drawing out emotions in the story. We had another great discussion about culture and emotion as well as the cultural differences between the US and Africa (counseling as listening vs. counseling as advising and solving problems).

The evening concluded with a party and hors d’oeuvres. It was an amazing celebration where many of the women wore traditional attire. We danced (I tried), sang scripture songs, heard silly riddles, and cultural stories. Then, we concluded with a ceremony of giving out the certificates. Normally, we would do this on Friday night at the conclusion of the conference but many wanted to receive their certificate in their traditional dress and we were leaving immediately after the conference ended on Friday so we determined to do this tonight. It was a time full of celebration and joy and a wonderful reminder of one antidote to trauma–communal celebration.


Filed under christian psychology, counseling, counseling skills, Rwanda, Uncategorized

DRC/Rwanda Trip: Day 9

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)

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Filed under AACC, counseling, counseling skills, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rwanda, trauma