Tag Archives: Rwanda

Tweet from RiftValleyInstitute (@RVInews)

RiftValleyInstitute (@RVInews) tweeted at 5:05 AM on Wed, May 08, 2013: A day-to-day syllabus of #RVI’s Great Lakes Course 2013 by @jasonkstearns: http://t.co/nsXB5PsfS9 Apply online: http://t.co/CvKbc7VdEH (https://twitter.com/RVInews/status/332058734308257792) Get the official Twitter app at https://twitter.com/download Check out the syllabus! Would love to take this class. Interesting that it is going on the week we will be in Rwanda.

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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

Update on the Complexities of Goma, DRC…And Why You Should Care

Followers of this blog will know that I have been to Eastern Congo and am passionate about the people there. You also know that there is a rather ugly and complex struggle for power in that region. This link to a Huff Post opinion piece provides an insight to some of those current complexities from an insider’s perspective. For example, some found the M23 group as elevating safety over that of the government soldiers. And yet, the M23 group may be funded by outsiders with evil intent.

I highly recommend you read it. You might ask why, since what goes on in the DRC has little to do with your life. You should care because,

  1. the extent of the recent decades of disaster there will boggle your mind and overshadow nearly every other disaster you care about
  2. these are our brothers and sisters and we are called to love our neighbor

The author, Julia Lewis, concludes her essay this way

The sad fact is that violence in the DRC is constant. As Congolese activist Vava Tampa recently reported in an article on CNN, the conflicts in DRC

… have claimed nearly the same number of lives as having a 9/11 attack every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — all combined and then doubled.

What will happen next in DRC? Anything is possible — and we need the world to keep listening. As many as 5.4 million people died in the last Congo war. That is fact, not fiction. And we cannot afford for it to happen again.

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Filed under DRC, Goma, News and politics, trauma

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: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/11/20/a-guide-to-understanding-whats-happening-in-congo/


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

Motivated forgetting amongst perpetrators?

I’m in the middle of a series on the problem of abuse, memory, and recovered memories. You can see the first two posts here and here. But, before I go on to address the matter of dissociation, repression, and re-remembering abuse, I want to point out that motivated forgetting doesn’t just happen to victims. It also happens to perpetrators.

Even when forensic evidence exists, it is common for perpetrators to deny their participation (or downplay it at least) in the offense. Some are quite capable of passing lie detector exams. They appear to able NOT to recall or respond in ways that would signal lying. From a theoretical point of view, we could offer two plausible answers

  1. They are extraordinary liars. They have perfected their craft and are able to beat the best technologies we have to detect their conscious lying.
  2. They have forgotten. By means of practicing an alternative story, by means of inability to see outside their own perceptions, by means of dissociation during the event, they have somehow forgotten. Cover of "Machete Season: The Killers in ...

Could it be that perpetrators use psychological mechanisms to forget–at least in part? I am still taken with Jean Hatzfeld’s accounts of his interviews with imprisoned genocidaires in Rwanda. In Machete Season, he documents how mass killers (already imprisoned and so thus with less need to maintain one’s innocence) seemed unable to speak about their actions in the first person but could speak with greater detail when using 2nd or 3rd person (we…they…).

To my mind, this suggests we are capable of forgetting many things (the motivation for forgetting how you chopped someone up is clear) but that we may remember when using a different portion of our brain and accessing a different perception of self/other. Self-deception takes many forms and is motivated by many  (often unknown to us) reasons.

To read another post I had on this book, see this link.


Filed under Abuse, deception, memory

Health effects of traumatic stress on infants

In Rwanda we hear that children born after the genocide exhibit signs of trauma–even though they did not experience it firsthand. You could hypothesize a number of reasons for this:

  • Hearing of the stories of lost loved ones; being told that their neighbors were killers
  • Having peers in school stigmatize: “You are Hutu, you are a killer. You are Tutsi, you are a cockroach.”
  • Seeing pictures of genocide

Notice that all three have to do with the child’s internalization of trauma through their environment.

But what if their trauma began in utero and biologically altered their capacity to handle stress? Consider these words by Maggie Schauer (available to be seen in context here),

Exposure to significant stressors during sensitive developmental periods causes the brain to develop along a stress-responsive pathway. The brain and mind become organized in a way to facilitate survival in a world of deprivation and danger, enhancing an individual’s capacity to rapidly and dramatically shift into an intense, angry, aggressive, fearful, or avoiding state when threatened. This pathway is costly and non-adaptive in peaceful environments. Babies born with a deformed stress-regulating system (HPA-a) experience higher and faster arousal peaks, longer intervals of crying and irritability, and impaired affect regulation (Sondergaard et al., 2003). (p. 398, emphasis mine)¹

How might this information help us better understand how “the sins of the fathers” (or whoever is the abusive individuals or communities) extend beyond primary victims to those victim’s children? How might this help us train survivors to understand what might be happening in their children and support parenting strategies that will encourage healing. Might it also help survivors to feel less guilty for the struggles of their children? Survivors don’t ask to be abused and can’t help the impact on their children while in utero.

Now, not every child with a “deformed stress regulating system” is that way due to the mother’s stress. We just don’t know why one child has a good stress regulation system and why another does not. But we can say that those whose stress regulation seems broken (or different) likely need different parenting strategies and a different paradigm in understanding volition (will) when it comes to their outbursts.

 ¹ Schauer, M., & Schauer, E. (2010). Trauma-focused public mental-health interventions: A paradigm shift in humanitarian assistance and aid work. In E. Martz (ed.) Trauma Rehabilitation after War and Conflict (pp. 389-428). Springer

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Filed under counseling, counseling science, Psychology, Uncategorized

Year-end giving opportunities for trauma recovery


Just a few days before the end of 2011 some of you may be considering year-end charitable giving ideas. You may not 11.5 million dollars to give away (like Google did to orgs like IJM!) but every dollar counts. Below are some of my suggestions if you are looking to give to trauma recovery efforts both here and around the world. I am absolutely sure there are many more good places that are excellent choices than I list here but I include my favorites and you can feel free to add your favorites in the comments section. I also admit that the first two choices might just directly benefit the work I do.

1. Trauma Training Ministry

A. Biblical Seminary. Yes. Biblical Seminary is involved in global trauma recovery efforts. Readers here will remember my posts about our trip to the DRC and Rwanda this fall. We will be launching trauma recovery training in 2012 (continuing education and graduate studies) by the summer. Look for more info on this site. Read Biblical’s December 2011 appeal letter by me sent to Biblical’s friends and family (sorry didn’t have a pdf version with letterhead). Gifts will support training costs and research.

2. East African Trauma Recovery 

A. She’s My Sister. The American Bible Society is using Scripture to engage individuals and communities suffering through the trauma of ethnic violence, especially women having been raped in the region. Their trauma healing workshops trains pastors and local leaders to be trauma healing facilitators in their own communities and in their own language. I can attest that those who go through the trainings are both active in giving away what they received and changed by what they learn. Click the “give” button on the side and choose how many women you wish to help.

B. DOCS Hospital. A medical ministry providing needed surgeries to women with fistulas as the result of rape in the DRC. They are doing fine work there and are serving many women who cannot control their urination without the repairs being done.

3. Domestic Trauma Recovery

A. The Place of Refuge. A counseling ministry to North Philadelphians. Specializing in trauma counseling work. I have known Elizabeth Hernandez since we first met in a counseling class in 1988. She is a fine woman, expert counselor, and an upright and godly person. Donations to Refuge will absolutely extend their ministry to many abused individuals.

B. GRACE. GRACE is a ministry to educate the christian community about the scourge of sexual abuse. GRACE is also involved in providing direction for victims of abuse and in bringing light to abuse cover-ups. As a board member I can attest to the fine work GRACE does with those reaching out for help in knowing what to do in preventing and responding to abuse in Christian settings.

4. Global Recovery Efforts

A. International Justice Mission. They may have received a large donation from Google for work done in India but they are fighting for freedom and justice for enslaved peoples around the world.

Whether you choose one of these fine ministries or one of your own, consider giving to trauma recovery projects this year.

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DRC/Rwanda Trip: Final Days

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

Planning the next steps

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.


Filed under christian counseling, Christianity, counseling, counseling skills, Uncategorized