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  • Karen Visser

Sharing stories from 'Empower'

The Empower program is a 7-day workshop which focuses on trauma healing and reconciliation. Both victims and perpetrators participate in the program to help them move forward from the consequences of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. As part of the program, there is a follow-up day three months after the initial workshop, where participants can share their progress and the changes it has brought them. It is a truly amazing program where change happens within days! The following stories show the huge impact the program has!

July Empower

John*, a genocide perpetrator attended the March workshop and had some amazing changes to tell at the follow-up

Previously, John was full of anger and revenge. But everything changed due to learning good lessons during the Empower workshop. His life changed in a good way. He was able to forgive himself after recognising [taking responsibility for] his bad acts of killing and destroying properties during the genocide - Empower helped him to understand the role that he played. Before the workshop he projected fault and blame onto the ex-government, that is why even after seven years in jail, he remained full of hatred towards all Tutsis (the genocide victims). In the Empower workshop, forgiveness and poison recovery plan lessons changed his mind a lot and he decided to ask for forgiveness from all people he wounded during the genocide. He also changed his behaviours by stopping his drunkard life and started living purposefully. Within three months, he was able to save money and install electricity in his house. He thanks everyone who was involved in his journey to living a better life. He is now a happy man and everyone from his family is happy to see him changed because of Empower.

Esther and Mathew*,participants in the July Empower workshop

Esther and her family were victims in the Genocide against the Tutsi, and she had a hatred toward Simon and his family. Simon's brother had killed Esther's father. Simon also took part in the killings of Tutsis. Esther killed his family's sheep in an act of revenge.  Simon was born to a single mother and grew up with  step-father. He grew up in difficult conditions which resulted in him making bad choices. Joining the genocide as a perpetrator was not difficult for him.  At the end of the Empower workshop, both Esther and Simon testified to living in the consequences of the genocide and not moving forward. Thanks to the workshop, they both received inner healing. Esther forgave Simon's family and to prove it she greeted his mother. Simon boldly stood up in public and appreciated Esther’s forgiveness and promised to also ask for forgiveness from the families of those he killed. Before the Empower workshop, Simon had lost hope and lived a drunkard life. The Empower workshop helped him to acknowledge the importance of living a purpose driven life and he committed to working hard for his family and to stopping drinking. 

August Empower

Ruth* survived the genocide and participated in the follow-up in August for those in the July workshop

Ruth is one of the genocide survivors who attended the Empower workshop in April 2018. She is married with three children still alive. As she shared her testimony during this Empower follow up, she said it was such a blessing to attend as she was living in hidden bitterness and hated life even though she is a choir member in her church. She thanks the Empower organisers and all facilitators for their loving hearts towards wounded people. She was carrying the burden of unforgiveness, but she hid that for many years. She pretended to be okay with everyone but inside she had heavy hatred and deep bitterness due to losing her family members, including her beloved child during the genocide. Her life was a mess as she was living with many consequences of all these things. It was hard to sleep well or enjoy her life, but the Empower lessons opened her eyes to see and live in a different way, better than before. She forgave all people who wounded her and she decided to build a bridge as the builder did in the story from the Empower manual. She started to smile from the heart, not only from the lips, and she testifies that her life has had a big change by accepting and letting go.

​*Names have been changed for privacy

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