and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC)
AGLI is just developing this program which takes ten people from one
side of the conflict with 10 people from the other side and has a three
day workshop to restore normal relationships between the two sides. In
Rwanda, this means Tutsi survivors of the genocide and the families of
the Hutu perpetrators of the genocide. In Burundi, this also means 10
Tutsi and 10 Hutu in each workshop.
The HROC program is based on a set of key principles
First, HROC believes that in every person, there is
something good. This is a radical notion in societies where most members
have witnessed neighbors and even family members committing gruesome
acts of violence.
Secondly, the program is based on the belief that
person and society has the inner capacity to heal, and an inherent
intuition of how to recover from trauma. Healing from trauma requires
that a person’s
inner good and wisdom is sought and shared with others. It is through
this effort that trust can begin to be restored.
Third, both victims
and perpetrators of violence experience trauma and its after-effects.
Fourth, the violence in Rwanda and Burundi was experienced at both
a personal and community level. Therefore, efforts to heal and rebuild
the country must also happen at both the individual and community level.
Lastly, healing from trauma and building peace between groups are deeply
connected; it is not possible to successfully do one without the other.
Trauma healing and peace building efforts must happen simultaneously.
HROC slowly builds trust within the group. It is common for participants
to be wary of attending workshops fearing they might be a trap where
they will be attacked, sent back to prison, or killed. Through experiential
activities and cooperative exercises, participants begin to relax.
Ground rules are set to increase the “Sense of Safety,” the first
The second stage is “Remembrance and Mourning.” There
are two Rwandan proverbs that emphasize the importance of speaking out
about one’s pain: “The family that does not talk, dies” and “The
man who is sick must tell the whole world.” Traditionally Rwandans
and Burundians talk about their losses and talk through their grief with
family and neighbors. Broken trust and dismantled families have impeded
that intuitive process of healing, but it is widely accepted in the cultures
here as an important step in the journey toward healing.
In the workshops
a forum is created for participants to pay tribute to their losses and
to share their grief with others. This process helps to humanize the “other” thereby
laying the foundation for the third and final stage, “Reconnection.” Many
program participants report having felt very isolated in their grief
and their reactions to the trauma they have experienced. The workshops
become an important first step in realizing that they are not alone.
Those who seek the second level of training to become peer counselors
begin to see how they can use their own painful experiences to help
others. As one recent participant wrote in her evaluation:
I was thinking that I have nothing in me, but I found that I can even
use my wounds to heal other people and I found that there is a good thing
in every person even though he/she is full of trauma and problems.” – genocide
important aspect of reconnection is the process of rebuilding relationships
the lines of “Hutu” and “Tutsi”,
thereby strengthening the fabric of communities torn apart by a long
history of violence.
Grassroots workshops are AGLI’s primary methodology.
Our workshops are experiential, active and evocative, involving the participants
as agents in their learning process. Each lesson aims to teach on three
levels: the heart or emotional level, the head or intellectual level,
and the hand, or practical level. Using popular education methodology,
the workshop content is drawn from the participants’ own lives,
acknowledging that participants are the experts about what is needed
in their own communities.
HROC-Burundi is in the midst of a series of workshops with Tutsi from
displaced camps and Hutu from the surrounding community.
Each series has six workshops with 3 follow-up days, and a community
celebration for all 120 participants. These have occurred in Mutaho,
Ruyigi, Ruhororo, and Rwanyoni. Peter Yeomans from Drexel University’s
Department of Psychology is conducing an in-depth evaluation of the Ruhororo
participants to see how the workshops have changed their attitudes, customs,
and conduct. A video production on an HROC workshop will occur in the
HROC-Rwanda is planning on training 15 new facilitators including ten
are developing a second advanced workshop now being called “Healing
of Memories.” They will be conducting five workshops in Cyangugu
for students and faculty of a school there where many of the students
display symptoms of deep trauma. They are conducting a series of experimental
workshops in Ruhengeri in the northwest part of the country with the
goal of determining how the community can sustain itself in its individual
and community healing process.
and Burundi: The goal for 2006 is to develop the training model for the
The initial training will be for two weeks with
12 facilitators from 4 communities in Rwanda and 12 from 4 communities
in Burundi. Each will then return to their community to do a series of
HROC under the direction of a lead facilitator. A second one-week training
will then occur where the facilitators will be given additional counseling
skills so that they may become “Healing Companions” for their
community. When this is completed in six months, a second training cycle
will occur. At the end of this project, HROC will have developed a training
manual for facilitators which may be used in other conflict areas of