After a 3-Year Program in Rwanda: This is What Peacebuilding Looks Like!
It’s hard to believe that our three-year Healing Our Communities program has drawn to a close. The project worked intensely in 16 Rwandan communities where post-genocide tensions remained high, as a collaboration between Karuna Center, Aegis Trust, HROC (Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities), and Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP).
Even though we will miss working in this team, we have a lot to celebrate because we have accomplished so much together!
Here are some of the highlights:
Dialogue clubs now operate independently with very capable facilitators from within the communities, who have been supported and mentored by IRDP staff and Karuna Center Peacebuilding Associate and Dialogue Coach Seth Karamage.
The clubs continue to meet monthly to address the continued impacts of the 1994 genocide and to resolve new problems. This 5-minute documentary, produced by youth in the project, tells a reconciliation story that gives a sense of what is happening within and around the dialogue clubs:
Healing Companions—community members who have learned community-based support techniques—are now constantly helping others recover from the continued trauma of the genocide and other violence.
Marie Uwambaje, a genocide survivor, and Boniface Twagiramungu, a former perpetrator who confessed to leading killers to her children, are one example of a Healing Companions team working in their community. They were pictured together (below) in a National Geographic article featuring our project. The photographs documented the incredible resilience of Rwandan communities as our partners at HROC engaged survivors, perpetrators, and bystanders together in the healing process.
Youth clubs have involved over 1,400 young people in more than 400 activities so far, and are continuing to mobilize youth as volunteers, media producers, and conflict mediators, after mentoring and support from Aegis Trust.
This short documentary video, produced by some of these youth about the work of their club, shows the powerful impact of their activities.
There is now a strong social infrastructure for peace & reconciliation in the 16 communities where the project worked. By layering different approaches to reconciliation (dialogue, trauma healing, youth empowerment) in the very same communities, the project produced deep results far greater than the sum of its parts! We are so grateful to our Rwanda Program Manager, Rosette Sebasoni, for continually weaving it all together, and to the inspirational staff of our three partner organizations in this work.
To engage a broader public, the project held call-in radio shows with youth club members; produced a beautiful documentary that aired on Rwandan TV (watch it here with subtitles!); and created a campaign to highlight reconciliation stories. Anyone with telephone access was able to call in to listen and respond to those stories using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform through which we engaged more than 87,000 people across Rwanda. The program also opened up new channels of communication between communities and government officials, and between community members across generations—through broader listening days and community-wide intergenerational dialogues.
Our consortium of organizations co-designed the project and we originally obtained a two-year USAID grant to fund it. USAID then offered a third year of full funding because of the project’s success, in which we paid particular attention to engaging “at risk” youth.
Now, we look forward to continuing this work in new ways, through projects that build upon and expand the strong social infrastructure for peace and reconciliation that exists in these communities!
PS – If you want to learn even more about the accomplishments of Healing Our Communities, you can read our final report on the project (it’s a deep dive!).