Rwanda trip report from Marian Liebmann

Marian’s trip to Rwanda 31 Jan- 15 March 2019 – Report 2,  Saturday 16 Feb

Dear Ffriends

Our small group has become a tight-knit little band. I have developed a pattern of going for a walk between 5 and 6 pm, and gradually more people have accompanied me. This makes a change from everyone sitting round peering at their mobile phones!

The day after I last wrote was Sunday, a day off. It was taken for granted that we would all go to church, so most of us went to the Friends Evangelical Church nearby, dressed in Sunday-best. For those reading this newsletter who are Quakers, this was something different – a 3-hour service of choirs singing, visitors welcomed (I brought greetings from Redland Meeting), prayers and an hour-long sermon on the theme of David and Goliath. Not quite my cup of tea, but interesting as an experience. I think the only thing in common with British Quakers is a commitment to peace work – they started/ are involved in HROC, mediation, AVP, peer mediation, and a children’s peace library.

On Sunday afternoon I went with another participant to visit the Genocide Memorial in Musanze, which commemorated two dates, 1990 and 1994, as 1990 was the date of a ‘trial genocide’ in the NW of Rwanda, when many Tutsis were killed. We tried to find someone who could explain the local story, but were unsuccessful. We had hoped to go back on the Tuesday but our training sessions over-ran and we did not have time.

On our way back we paid a brief visit to an arts centre led by a young artist. He was a painter, and a fellow artist was busy sculpting large animals from waste materials, e.g. an elephant from rubber tyres and a colourful giraffe from old plastic buckets.

The sessions this week, labelled ‘Training for trainers’ have concentrated on deepening our understanding of the trauma work. So Monday was spent on trauma and recovery, Tuesday on identifying and responding to strong emotions. To be honest I was somewhat bored in these sessions as they covered material already familiar to me, and were rather slow-moving.

However, Wednesday was different and the focal point of the week. We had two hours to draw or write our Journey of Life, to include past, present and future. Then there was an opportunity to share our stories with the rest of the group. Most of the group had been children during the genocide time in 1994, and related terrible stories of confusion, losing touch with family, seeing people killed, and fleeing to Tanzania or Congo. Although most of the killings took place between April and July 1994, there were also killings in 1990 and 1997. It was a sombre and heartfelt day of listening. Two people took turns to translate into English or Kinyarwanda, as needed.

On Thursday we had time for a couple more stories, then a session on Trauma and Faith, which was interesting as we had Quakers, Catholics, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists and Zion Temple members in the group. I used the Quaker Advices & Queries I had brought with me, and gave away several copies to those who wanted.

Then we started our preparations for facilitating a basic HROC workshop for a local community group, starting with a team-building exercise of constructing a shelter from used flipcharts and masking tape without talking – with hilarious results as our shelters collapsed around us. We continued with facilitator skills and were then divided into three teams of three facilitators, and allocated an agenda to cover as a practice piece next day. We worked in our teams to prepare this. I was put in a team with Janet from Kenya and Maurice from Rwanda, both experienced facilitators. The teams were based mainly on language, with one team all from Rwanda, so that they wouldn’t need an interpreter.

So Friday was taken up with the three groups each presenting for an hour, followed by feedback on what went well and what needed improving. In the first session we were well-behaved participants, but in the second and third groups we became quite unruly and raised many challenges for the training teams!

Today, Saturday, was given over to a trip to Rubavu (formerly Gisenyi – lots of names of cities were changed after the genocide) on Lake Kivu. The bus trip took us through wonderful scenery that we couldn’t see much of, due to pouring rain and low cloud. Our first stop in Gisenyi was at the Genocide Memorial there, where we had a talk by a genocide survivor, another very moving account. In the mass grave he was able to pick up photos of many people he had known, and this brought several of us near to tears. Then we hired a local bus to take us to the lake, where we had drinks, chatted, and ate wonderful fish, fresh that day. A few of us went out for a short pedalo ride on the lake. I thought about swimming but the lake did not look very clean, so I decided against it. On the way back to the bus station we walked 200m to see the border with Goma in DRC, it was that close.

Tomorrow the hard work begins, of preparing to run the HROC course for three community groups. Apparently the team I am in has been assigned a group of single mothers, who may be bringing their babies! It seems to be quite accepted here for mothers to turn up to courses with their babies – one of the people on our three-week course comes with her two-month old baby, who gets passed around to different people to hold and cuddle. It can make it difficult to hear sometimes!

When I next write I will either be on the point of leaving here or actually back in Kigali.

Love

Marian

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