|Journey to Rwanda|
Journey to Rwanda
A therapist confronts the unthinkable
By Laurie Leitch
"We know we must not run away from suffering.
—Thich Nhat Hanh
It's hard to believe that I'm on a plane going to Rwanda. Nearly two years ago, we were invited here by a community-based organization to teach a group of counselors in Kigali about a somatic treatment for trauma and meet with genocide perpetrators in prison. Now that four of us—two from my organization, Trauma Resource Institute—are actually in transit, I'm wondering how one possibly prepares to go into a country that's experienced such horrors.
In the spring of 1994, ethnic tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda erupted into a massive genocide. More than 70 percent of the country's Tutsis were murdered—between 800,000 and 1 million men, women, and children in a three-month period—making it the most ferocious genocide in recorded history. On command of the Interahamwe, the government-supported Hutu paramilitia organization, neighbors killed neighbors, friends killed former friends and their children, and trusted authority figures like priests and teachers turned on the people who looked to them for safety. Now, 14 years later, almost half of Rwanda's population is younger than 15. While the 1994 slaughter-by-machete was going on, many Americans were glued to their television sets watching the O. J. Simpson murder trial.
In February 2005, I was a member of a team from the Foundation for Human Enrichment who went to southern Thailand after the tsunami to use Somatic Experiencing (SE) to help the traumatized survivors (see Psychotherapy Networker, November/December 2005). After that experience, another teammate and I formed the Trauma Resource Institute (TRI), a nonprofit organization that offers treatment and training in a brief-stabilization model we call the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM), inspired by SE. A central part of TRI's mission is to provide affordable, three-day training to clinicians who work with underserved, at-risk populations to build local capacity nationally and internationally. We're on our way to Rwanda to conduct TRM training sessions.