Kigali, Kamonyi and Muhanga Districts
Our project in Rwanda centres around trauma counselling, rehabilitation and reconciliation, using the Empower program to combat the impacts of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi.
It is only as people being to engage with their trauma and start to experience healing and hope, that they can begin to look at improving other areas of their lives.
As people begin to journey forward, we provide support in the areas of leadership development, education sponsorship, housing and special projects such as medical treatment and food support, as vehicles of poverty alleviation and empowerment.
With a whole country devastated by the effects of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, the volume and intensity of the trauma suffered in Rwanda was unprecedented. A specially designed program for counselling and rehabilitation is needed in order to engage with this unique situation.
Empower is a program that was co-developed by Australians and Ugandans to deal with trauma issues. Compelled By Love has worked with our local partners to adapt this for the Rwandan context. We have seen incredible transformation in people's lives, both for victims and perpetrators of the genocide.
Empower is run over a period of seven days, with groups of 36 participants.
Its aim is to alleviate the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and build resilience in people's lives, particularly for those from poor communities who do not have the resources to seek help on their own.
The program teaches and guides the participants step by step, with each day building on what was learnt and discovered the previous day. Participants are given the opportunity and taught to share their stories in a safe way that does not result in re-traumatisation.
Empower has two parts - the first section focuses on trauma and equipping the participants with skills to process their experiences and deal with the symptoms of trauma. Participants report being able to share their story with another person for the first time, sleeping through the night for the first time since the genocide, and healing of other trauma-related physical symptoms such as headaches and chronic pain.
The second part teaches about forgiveness, and how forgiving is like releasing a burden that opens the way to hope and freedom. After Empower, participants share about the restoration of relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children and genocide victims and perpetrators.
Each Empower comprises of participants from the same area, often with direct victims and perpetrators attending the same program. After completing Empower, participants are invited to form a Reconciliation Cell Group (RCG) together, where they continue their journey of healing, supporting and encouraging one another and also working on economic development. The RCG's elect their own leadership and run independently, but are monitored and supported by our local partner.
Leadership development ties in with Compelled By Love's model of building capacity within local organisations and individuals. Leadership development provides sustainability to our work, as individuals, community leaders and leaders of local NGO’s are equipped to combat trauma and help members of their own communities.
Leadership development activities include training events, leadership forums, conferences, provision of various resources for continual learning, and specialised training for Reconciliation Cell Group leaders and volunteers.
Compelled By Love facilitate and participate in various training and development programs with our local partner in Rwanda, as well as supporting them to run their own programs as part of their work.
Education is a major key to breaking the poverty cycle. While education opens up employment opportunities, that is just one outcome, as it changes lives in many different ways. Education is essential for building self-esteem, financial security, social justice, health and long-term economic development for communities. It also enables people to be effective citizens, having a voice and the ability to participate in community decision-making. Education empowers people to be involved in local and national governments.
Compelled By Love's Education Sponsorship Program has a focus on quality over quantity - growing slowly to enable a high level of personal contact and interaction with students and their families. We aim to see children and young people in school, receiving an education - but more than that, we want to see them succeeding and developing to their full potential. Our co-ordinator in Rwanda spends a lot of time regularly visiting schools and educational institutes, as well as the students and their families to ensure that students are progressing in their studies and are well-supported.
Our education sponsorships are not limited to primary and secondary students, but also encompass individuals who have completed school and are moving on to further study at university or vocational training. Even for those students who make it right through high-school, a tertiary-level education is something most can only dream of. Tertiary sponsorships enable students to continue their studies, fulfilling their dreams and working in areas that they are passionate about, and where they can really make a difference.
Compelled By Love's sponsorship program is particularly focused on education - all sponsorship funds are used for education-related expenses such as school fees, tutoring, books, uniforms and stationery. Families in poverty find it difficult to provide for their most basic needs, such as food and rent. In these circumstances, education is often the first thing to be sacrificed as families struggle to survive. Supporting education costs takes some of the pressure off families so they can focus on their daily requirements.
A special and important aspect of education sponsorships is a personal connection between a student and a sponsor. A sponsor is paired with a student, and each are encouraged to write letters to the other. This support and encouragement is so valued by students - knowing that someone cares about them and their future fills them with hope and gives them the motivation to work hard in their studies and dream big! For the sponsor, it is such a joy to share with a student their interests, hobbies, hopes and dreams, and to know that you are really making an impact in the life of another person.
As we come across individuals and families with particular needs that fall outside of the scope of our usual interventions, we look to engage with these on a case-by-case basis in what we term Special Projects. This work includes medical treatment, support for living with disability, short-term food provision, access to public health insurance and livelihood support.
In 1994, genocide against the Tutsi people of Rwanda occurred, in which over 1 million people were tortured and murdered over the course of 100 days. The genocide was a climax of years of Belgian colonisation, in which deep ethnic divisions were created between the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa people. These divisions were formalised by the Belgians through the establishment of identity cards, as a strategy by which to control the country. Today, more than two decades on, physical, emotional and psychological scars remain. The genocide has not only impacted those who lived through it, but has deeply influenced Rwandan culture and way of life. Even the next generation, who did not experience the genocide firsthand, carry great anger and disillusionment.
The genocide has crippled the nation of Rwanda, with research within the first two years showing over 75% of the population meeting the full criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is not limited only to those who were victims of the genocide, but is also prevalent in those who participated in it - understanding that the genocide was largely committed by the civilian population under coercion and threat from government forces and community leaders.
In addition to the tragic loss of life, hundreds of thousands of women were left widowed, almost 300,000 children were orphaned and around 150,000 people were imprisoned. The country's infrastructure was destroyed and a large percentage of the population was left homeless. Many fled Rwanda during the genocide and endured further suffering in refugee camps. Attacks and raids persisted for a number of years, mostly in northern Rwanda, and perpetrators of the genocide continued to live and operate out of neighbouring countries, such as the the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sadly, over the years the incidence of PTSD has not decreased, but rather it appears to be on the rise, as the children and families of direct survivors are also impacted. PTSD affects the mental and physical health of individuals, as well as seriously impeding their ability to make a living and learn new skills. Therefore, many Rwandans live in extreme poverty, isolated from the world around them and living in constant fear and anxiety. The release of 100,000 prisoners back into the community in 2006 was a major trigger of PTSD in many survivors and resulted in an increased atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and hatred. As survivors and perpetrators live side by side in the villages where their traumas occurred, tension and hostility is high, and people often consider or carry out ongoing violence.
38% of Rwanda's population are living in extreme poverty
Half of all households have been headed by women
Life expectancy at birth is only 66 years for women and 70 for men
Average years of schooling is 3.3 years
35% of children under five are suffering chronic malnutrition and stunted growth
The enrolment rate in rural secondary schools is as low as 6%, and dropout rates high, particularly for girls. Attachment disorders are surfacing in the next generation of children, as parents were unable to provide the necessary love and emotional support.
91% of survivors did not have a chance to bury their relatives or perform mourning ceremonies for their loved ones, causing many to suffer from chronic traumatic grief, in addition to PTSD.
World Food Program 2022 https://www.wfp.org/countries/rwanda
Global Development Group Project Description
CARSA are a registered non-government organisation in Rwanda, and have been working in the areas of trauma healing and reconciliation, peace education and community empowerment for two decades. CARSA mainly work in rural areas, engaging with genocide survivors, their direct offenders, and their families, supporting them in their journey towards healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and sustainable holistic development.