Training on the psychological consequences of experiencing traumatic events and what lay counsellors can do about it.

The training was performed by Paul Mutama, pastor and interpreter & Jannetta Bos, psychotherapist.

From July 3 to July 14, 2023, in two different locations; one in a small village near Huye in the southern part of Rwanda and one near the capital Kigali.

The majority of the 46 participants are survivors of the genocide that took place in 1994, who are, despite having experienced so much, highly motivated to help their fellow human beings. Some had to walk 3 hours to attend the workshop and three hours back every day because they have no money for a bus ticket, until we heard about it and could support them. In the very practical experiential workshops people learned what experiencing severe trauma can cause and what they can do with it. They learned to apply Narrative Exposure Therapy, a form of trauma treatment in which a ribbon symbolizes the lifeline along which flowers are placed in chronological order for the good events in life, stones for the traumatic events, candles for the deceased/ murdered loved ones and eventually a twig for offender behaviour. The events are than discussed in detail, with the care provider also being the witness. After all, many traumatic events, including crimes against humanity, must remain hidden. They practiced with their own lifeline. Much experience has been gained in this highly transferable method in refugee camps in Uganda and Sudan, where non-professionals, often living in unstable circumstances, were trained.

Also now the receptivity was great. People felt relief about their own trauma’s and felt the power of evoking the good experiences that life has also brought them.

One participant told that as a fourteen-year-old boy, he was the only member of his family to survive the genocide. His father, mother, sibs (including a baby sister), grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews were all murdered. He felt totally lost and started to drink alcohol as a form of self-medication in order to try to feel the pain less. Eventually, he came in contact with a church and got help for his trauma’s. Step by step he even forgave his perpetrators. An incredible effort. Now he dedicates himself to fellow human beings in need. Everyone felt deeply touched by his testimony.  

We also received an unexpected invitation to tell about 600 churchgoers in another village about the consequences of trauma and what can be done to take steps to heal.

We are happy and grateful for all donors who made this work possible for A Cup for Humanity.

Paul en Jannetta