Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hope Realized

Joy at turning the impossible into the possible



10/21/10: I’m looking at the pictures today, & I see the faces of the children & young people of Rwanda. I wonder how they are doing, if the interaction they had with us is still with them as they are with me. Yes, it has faded to some degree in the last week, but their energy is still very alive in me. Their perseverance, their willingness to risk, their unrestricted sharing of their joy of life, their eagerness to embrace hope in the face of circumstances we would consider hopeless—these qualities endear them to me & dictate to me that I remember them; that I continue to put effort into finding resources to make their hope realized. Theirs is the exaggerated journey of all of us. Can we find inner peace & joy no matter what our circumstances? Can we acknowledge all of our gifts in each moment regardless of what we think we lack? Can we cherish each relationship & be fully present with it even though we know it is temporary? Can we wonder at the beauty of a flower or a smile even though we have seen the darkest of days? Can we forgive when all that we once held dear has been taken from us? Can we surrender to a Higher Power that appeared to have abandoned us? Can we use our most difficult experience to become more of the loving essence we truly are? Most of these young people can answer yes to all of those questions.

I haven’t directly spoken of the need for financial support to continue the work of bringing hope to these young people, & creating a model to do that in all parts of the world where it is most needed. The extent of the need could easily use millions of dollars, but our project, ProjectLIGHTRwanda needs just $30,000 to complete the pilot project, & I will be able to return to Rwanda to help create that for $4,500 in donations. If you feel drawn to participate in something that you can help create that makes a difference in fostering world peace, support in your mind & heart is warmly appreciated & valued greatly. If you want more tangible participation you may donate online at createglobalhealing.org. When you reach PayPal, click on the box that says “Instructions to seller” & write in “Credit to K. Brewer.”

I would like for all of you to have the life-changing & life-affirming experience that I just had in whatever form means most to you. Does anyone have a jet & a big house in Rwanda?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Natural Resource

Joy of dance



10/19/10: So many things in Rwanda call into question assumptions I have held for years. How can a 7-yr-old girl with machete cuts on both sides of her neck so deep that they require physically holding her head on survive alone in the forest for weeks? How can a child without parents or family from infancy & who lives in an orphanage with 499 traumatized others deeply connect with peers & adults—why don’t they have Reactive Attachment Disorder? They would here. Why don’t young people who experienced the most heinous torture ever perpetrated by man have Dissociative Identity Disorder? They would here. What does their society have that we are missing? I don’t know the answer, but I have some guesses. They do not question that they are their brother’s keeper. The village does raise the child. They take what they have & create what they need. They find joy in small moments. They sing & dance whenever they can. They find deep meaning in their Christian religion, despite the priests who betrayed them (80% of Rwandans are in church on Sunday, for 3 or 4 hours). They feel gratitude for the simplest of things. They do suffer greatly from the poverty & the losses, but there always seems to be someone who comes up with something to try as a solution, & it is freely shared. I know there are still Rwandans, especially those in self-imposed exile in The Congo, who are consumed with hate so I am not speaking about them. I also know the people we interacted with most are those who choose to care about & work with those in need & are the most mature & loving of their society, but I see the same kind of interactions when I walk down the streets of Kigali or drive by the mountain villages. I see true joy in children who appear to have nothing, not even shoes or clean clothes. There is something very special about Rwanda. I wonder if there is a way to export some to us here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gratitude

Children of Kigali for peace



10/16/10: I am returning to this reality, but it is not the same. I see things differently. So many things to be grateful for—push a button & warm my house, push a button & heat my food, push a button & have light, have so many clothes it’s hard to choose what to wear, drive to get enough groceries for a week & carry them 10 feet to the refrigerator, push a lever & have water to drink, rinse my toothbrush under the tap, eat fresh, raw fruits & vegetables, breathe clean air, trust my neighbors, sleep without insect repellent & mosquito netting, and so much more. I will have to learn where & when & with whom I can be as completely open & connected to others as I was at the orphanage. I didn’t know before that I wasn’t. I knew this journey would change me, but I don’t think it’s possible to be prepared for what you have never before experienced. All of the discomfort of the long, crowded flight, the running to make plane connections, the dust & diesel fumes, the vigilance about insects & water, the rollercoaster rides up the mountain, no toilets (except at the motel), not knowing the language, the early risings—they are like slight blemishes on an exquisite work of art, hardly noticeable in the beauty of the whole. I’m not sure where I will take my blog next, but I think I’ll focus on aspects of Rwanda & of the trainings & what the implications are for us here. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Beacon

Last day. Notice how the students connect & touch one another



10/15/10: Jet lag is insidious. I’ll be perking along just fine, & all of a sudden I can’t keep my eyes open. I set my alarm for a one-hour nap & just couldn’t get up for another 40 minutes.

I have been thinking about this trip. ProjectLIGHTRwanda is not just about helping people in abject poverty. It isn’t just about helping people heal from trauma. It’s about much more than that.

Imagine a family member you love dearly & is in your life daily dies. Now imagine (s)he is murdered. Now imagine you watch helplessly as it happens. Now imagine the murderer is your neighbor who you thought was a friend. Now imagine he kills the rest of your family, & tortures them as you watch, knowing he is coming for you next. Now imagine you somehow escape, & see from a distance that your house & the bodies of your family are burned to the ground. You manage to survive for months in hiding while the murderers search for you, calling your name. Then the exiled army returns & liberates your area & you go home—to nothing. No house, no family, no possessions, no family pictures or keepsakes, no friends. Now imagine you see the murderer living with his family in his house with some of your possessions. Nothing has happened to him. He denies he did anything—it was the soldiers. And nothing happens to him. You can’t sleep because you fear being killed or when you do sleep you are awakened with flashbacks to the night & days of terror. How do you cope? How do you move into the present & ultimately into forgiveness? If you live in most of Rwanda you are now safe. If you live in the far northwest, you may still be killed by Hutu Power bands crossing over from the Congo. You do not have money to go to school. You find other survivors & together you learn to survive, but never enough food & always simple carbohydrates when you do have food. As one survivor says in our video, “I cried every day. Tears were like my food.”

This is what ProjectLIGHTRwanda is about. It’s about giving hope where there is none. It’s about healing from the unthinkable, the unforgiveable & finding peace in your heart & forgiving because it is what you need. It doesn’t mean abandoning the call for accountability, but understanding that feeling shame & guilt, even though denied on the surface, is also living with trauma. When these people are able to reach this place with themselves—and they do, IT GIVES HOPE TO THE WHOLE WORLD. IF THESE PEOPLE CAN HEAL, ANYONE WHO HAS SUFFERED ANYTHING CAN HEAL. These children show the amazing power of the human spirit beyond anything I have ever experienced. They are the antidote to the virus of genocide, to the disease of war. It would take much less effort for me to work with those here who have been traumatized, but they would not be the beacon toward world peace that the children of Rwanda can be.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Choice

Community building an aqueduct; all ages participate




10/14/10: The trip home was a combination of joy, miracles & physical stress. Being awake for 48 hours (except several 1.5 hour snoozes on the plane) leads to an altered state by itself. The plane into Kigali was over an hour late (gave us time to have a laugh-filled goodbye party with the team) so that we left Uganda almost 2 hours late & arrived in Brussels over an hour late, giving us less than 30 minutes to make our Frankfurt flight. The passport officer at first frowned about us making the flight, but then said, “It’s possible,”—exactly what we have been saying since Alisoun created that activity for the kids. We literally ran (you have to go through security again) & they had to open the plane door to let us in. Our luggage didn’t make it, so it is supposed to be brought to us late today. The plane to L.A. was another one of those with 10 seats across & no room to move or stretch your legs. Fortunately it was a smooth flight & I could get up every 90 minutes to go to the galley to stretch. My body is loving having raw food again, but it is still quite stressed & feels almost like having a virus.

I feel as if I am back home, but not really here; I move between two realities & neither, & both, are real. One of the orphanage board members/interpreter e-mailed us a thank-you, & it increased my awareness that I am still connected to the people back there. It is extremely rare here that people are open enough to their own feelings & to others that you can create a true heart connection in a few days. That happened with most of the adults & kids at the orphanage. It is true that there are some people in Rwanda who put on a front of sweet accommodation to manipulate the Muzungas (rich white people) like our motel manager did, but that was not true for the great majority of the people we met. Even the children we passed on the street interacted with us in open curiosity, fun & connection. A few of them asked for money, one wanted to trade his toy for our flashlights, & many of them wanted us to take their picture & then show it to them. One group of 6 or 7 of ages about 3 up to about 8 entertained us with cartwheels, the peace sign, chasing goats, & running circles around us all the way to the motel (about 2 blocks). The contrast between the school children in their clean uniforms (they go to school until about 5PM) & the street children in clothes that often look as if they haven’t been washed in many months, often barefoot with that red dirt on legs, arms & face is stark. Still, we only heard a child cry once in all the time we walked or drove the streets. They are a clear example of happiness being an inside job, not dependent on external circumstances, & of the power of family & community. After Rwanda, I no longer fear a collapse of our economic system, because I have seen how community can take desperate poverty & make life joyful. That is not to say that they aren’t stressed & suffering because of having almost no resources at all. We cannot imagine what it would be like to have no money at all for months at a time, even years. I have thought that having to spend almost all of your time providing for basic needs of food, water & shelter would prevent having time to grow very much spiritually. What I observed was that being as connected to the earth & to one another as that requires is just another path to finding connection to the Divine. It is all choice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Impact

Rev. Thoms, Myself, Chris, Peace, Alisoun & Lori at the Women's Coop




10/11/10: We met the young woman from Butare today. She is a beautiful, intelligent person and came on a 2-hour bus trip just to see Lori, her clothes in a paper sack. Lori was in a meeting, so the 3 of us, the interpreter & the young woman went to see the National Genocide Museum here in Kigali. It was very different from the ones in the field. There were pictures, explanations of the history, videos, interviews, & hundreds of pictures of the victims before the genocide that their families brought in. The young woman from Butare was deeply affected & stood frozen in front of one of the videos. We walked all the way back (about 45 minutes) to help her release, & when we returned to the motel Lori was able to help her get back to her smiling self. When we expressed concern about her emotional state, she told us the genocide prepared her for anything & there is nothing that can happen to her now that she cannot handle, & that she knows God saved her because there is something she is to do. Create Global Healing gave her the money to pay her back rent so she can return to Kigali. She will be one of the young people the International Youth Healing Center will help when it opens.

Back at the motel we filmed the interpreter singing songs she wrote & will put it on YouTube. She has a beautiful, moving voice & is very talented, but no resources to pursue her talent. She doesn’t know how to read or write music & wanted to take a class but couldn’t get off work to go. I wrote out basics of music writing on a napkin & told her to find a music store & get a book. She has excellent English & is very bright & will teach herself.

Synchronicities continue to happen—one of the board members of the orphanage was just invited to be part of a government conference next week on vocational training programs so will e-mail the full report to Lori. A friend of Lori’s just lost his job while we were here & he has many contacts that will help set up the center & now has time to set them in place. We were going to walk the interpreter to the taxi stop but the dirt roads were solid mud puddles & we were headed back to pay the motel manager to drive her when a car pulled up & offered her a ride for free. The wife of the couple from Uganda who have a project to bring safe water to Africa & who are advising the orphanage went to UCSB & has mutual friends with Lori. The founder of the community coop who knows all the important political people just happened to come to the motel when our interpreter friend who needs a better job showed up & they made a good connection, etc.

It doesn’t seem possible that we leave Rwanda tomorrow. This will be my last blog from the field. I know it will be weeks, maybe months, before I realize the total impact of this journey. I have lived in a culture so different from anything I even knew to imagine that returning to life as usual is not an option. It remains to be seen how I integrate this experience into a new way of being. I now know that there are no differences great enough to divide people who come from love.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Children near Kigali on a highway between villages. Water needs to be carried even in many homes in Kigali




10/10/10: (This will show as 10/11 because the internet was down last night when I wrote this) Day of rest & reflection. Africa is a great teacher. In my last blog I shared some of my process in confronting my initial defensive response to being “paraded” as a source of money. It seems I did not clearly share the almost immediate lesson I learned—that my purpose here is to love & to give whatever I have to offer & the opportunities may come in forms I have not anticipated. I need to remain constantly present & aware of what is possible for me in light of the overwhelming need here or I can feel inadequate & defensive.

I uploaded the rest of my pictures & the pictures of children in the villages & along the road stood out. Most of the children are very thin, & so many are not in school. The government provides a free primary education, but it is not mandatory to attend, & many families need the children to do the work of daily living in order to survive. I have pictures of children carrying water jugs, firewood, baskets, etc. on their heads as they walk barefoot on the rocky roads. I have seen a few one gallon sized jugs, but most look to be either 2 or 3 gallons. Two gallons of water weighs 16 pounds. Children looking to be as young as 6 are carrying these on their heads. Our interpreter said it is a problem as many people have severe neck problems as a result. Children help carry rock for the walls & aqueducts, dig in the garden, herd goats & Rwandan cattle, and work in the rice paddies. One young man at the orphanage (18) works weekends at a rock quarry, hammering out huge chunks & carrying them to a wheelbarrow. Peace (from the women’s coop) said that most families know that beans are the highest protein of any food they can afford to buy, but they take so long to cook that the firewood cost (in the city) is more than they have & there is no refrigeration, so they can’t make a big pot & save it. She is teaching them to rotate foods.

There are also many success stories. Our interpreter that we took out for her birthday dinner started out living with her sister in a tiny room, crying every day & as thin as a rail. Tonight she is healthy, has a job & her sister has a job & they live in an apartment. She has hope to be a full-time interpreter & sing the songs she has written. She has a beautiful voice, & Lori is arranging to make videos of her singing & put on YouTube. Lori found another young teen hiding in a shed in a village with no food, water, sanitation or possessions. Lori paid a local charity to go pick her up & then paid for her to stay there until the money ran out. She is now in another city going to school. You already heard about the young man who graduated from the orphanage & is making films. They really do make the most of what they are given. For our interpreters’ birthday we went to a very nice restaurant (at least 4-star) with a delicious meal including complementary appetizers & soup. The hostess at that restaurant was a beautiful young woman who was an orphan graduate.

Part of the group at the cooperative. Children were to the right.


10/9/10: Today was to be our holiday—seeing the country. We went to the genocide museums at Nyamata & at Ntrama in the southeast part of the country. I cannot find words for the experience. At both museums I felt after about 10 minutes there that I could not breathe. I will not go into details about all the atrocities, but only say that the thing I find hardest to comprehend is the practice of taking children, even the fetuses they removed from pregnant women, & smashing their heads against walls. The perspective that in order to kill, one must make the victim into an animal does not explain it. The only explanation I can come up with is that not only were they animals, they were deadly, life-threatening animals like boa constrictors or black widow spiders, & all must be destroyed in order to remain safe. That is exactly the brainwashing that the government conducted, but what happened to the President’s wife & brothers that led them to that perspective?

After the museums we pulled into the driveway of a Christian Care Cooperative. It became immediately apparent that people were assembled there specifically to see us (we were not told that was going to happen). We were told of their compelling problems (HIV infected people, genocide widows, the extremely poor & orphan or HIV infected children). We were shown the crafts they made & told their prices. We were being put on display & paraded as money bags (my initial reaction—I understood how gorillas in zoos must feel & felt betrayed by our hosts from the orphanage). After a few minutes I found my greater wisdom & remembered that I was in Africa to bring as much love as I could into whatever situation I found myself in. As soon as I began to do that, I could feel the level of pain that led our hosts to try to help whomever they could, & that they knew us as compassionate people who did really want to help, so they likely assumed we would be happy to know about this group of people. I could also begin to feel the humanity of each person there. When they started singing & dancing & came up to get us to join, I experienced that instant heart connection that dissolves differences & causes love to flow. Had I stayed in my initial victim, used reaction I would have missed a beautiful experience & the opportunity to enhance that for others.

In the evening we were invited to the home of a family with 5 children. The oldest (High School) is away at a boarding school. The other four range from age 8 to 16. As soon as we arrived, they came rushing out to hug each one of us—they had met Lori before, but none of the rest of us. That’s another example of the open-hearted connection that is just part of their culture. We had a feast of avocados, raw vegetables with sauce, rice with cheese, beef with sauce, seasoned fried potatoes, & their plums, papaya, & passion fruit. Dessert was a delicate almond pound cake. In a twist from the West, the children sat at the table, & we adults sat in a circle in the living room. Our after-dinner conversation could have been happening in my living room at home except the husband occasionally had to interpret for the wife who’s English is not as good.

Tomorrow is a welcome day to sleep in, & we will take a friend (one of the interpreters) to dinner for her birthday.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Peace

Getting the students ready to do energy testing to show how their thoughts affect their body.


10/8/10: We are all really tired tonight. We have been getting in the van at 7:30 AM & going full speed every minute until we get back at 6 to 7 PM for 6 days. The ride in the van up & back involves holding on with one hand & covering our nose with a cloth with the other hand. It isn't what would be considered relaxing.

Tomorrow we will leave at 8:30 AM to go on a tour of Rwanda. This afternoon we met with a wonderful lady whose name is Peace. Her organization is Aspire. She started on her veranda by inviting the neighborhood women to come & talk about their conflicts (Hutu & Tutsi). This led to teaching them to read & write & then to creative microbusinesses & a community farm. She knows much about Rwanda & will consult with Project LIGHT to create job & training opportunities for the kids in our center. I’m falling asleep at the computer, so more tomorrow.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Love


Necessity is the mother of invention. This is the
sink for the outhouse. Step on the pedal &
water spills from the jug.

Most of our peer counseling group. I'm holding the big white basket they gave me.

10/7/10: What a day (no ants)! It was our last day training the peer counselors. They take in the information like sponges. We have to use simple language both because of the interpreters & the lack of life experience & proper education. They are so honest & so needing of love. At lunch Alisoun & I went up by the girls’ dorm. They swarmed around us, asking about our lives, touching our hair, bringing us dandelions, hugging us & telling us they loved us. They talk about believing during the genocide that no one in the world cared. When people like us come from far away to help, they know some people do care about them, & they are deeply grateful. What I have learned from them is that when human beings lose everything & face what seems to be certain death, what they are left with is either their connection with the Devine or descent into rage. When they choose connection, they have a capacity for love that seems boundless. The first day we were there, three of the girls reached out, brought me into their dance, & continued to maintain a non-verbal connection the entire time. This does not mean they never get stuck in competitive survival mode, but when brought to their attention, they recognize that they will not be able to solve their problems as individuals or as a country if they do not cooperate. To be able to forgive the son of someone who tortured & killed your family & tried to kill you takes incredible courage & willingness to trust in the Divine & yourself. These kids are doing just that. The orphanage has gone from 5 or 6 major trauma incidents per week in 2007, some requiring intervention by police, to not one incident in this last year. Lori started her trauma work in 2008, & the school staff attributes the change to her program. At the end of the day Christopher brought in a student who he had worked with who was ill with a blood disease (not AIDS) & probable depression. He could barely stand up. He asked the peer counselors for help, & over 30 of them volunteered. We worked as a group, & he then felt well enough to make the almost 2 hour drive to Kigali with the Headmaster. I do not believe there is any place where more help is needed, nor deserved more, nor accepted more gratefully, nor utilized more completely. These kids are in my heart forever.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Joy, Hope & Ants


Before class dancing--notice the lights where there are none.

10/6/10: Alisoun arrived from Scotland last night. We 4 are a creative & cohesive team. She brought a fun & very effective game to show how to keep our minds open to possibilities. We taught the peer counselors energy medicine exercises, used optical illusions to show different perspectives (the teachers spent all lunch puzzling over the images & asked that we leave them at the school), taught the 5 steps in helping others, & began teaching & using EFT to relieve their test anxiety. They created & presented a skit about how they were going to help their fellow students. It was very touching, as they showed how it is now, & how it will change after their training. They are so open & innocent in their sharing & in their questions, one’s heart cannot helped but be deeply touched. The teacher that was helping as an interpreter commented that the skit showed him how the teachers are not sensitive to what might be the cause of student’s lack of focus or resistance, & that they will be making changes. The students continue to thank us over & over again for giving them hope. So many come up to hug us afterwards that we are late to the van. Rwandan hugs are touching first the right cheek, then the left, then the right again, & you can add a little wiggle at the end if you really like someone. A teacher told us about one of the brightest students (he is 23 & a junior) who is a star of compassion in our class. He has paid 100,000 Rwandan Francs to take the test that will allow him to become a senior 6 (last year), but must come up with 20,000 more in two weeks or lose his 100,000 & have to take his junior year over again which he will have to pay for. 20,000 Rwandan Francs is about $45. I wanted each of us to chip in $12 & pay it. The problem with that is there are many other students with similar stories, & if we do it for one, we have to do it for all. If we make one student “special” in terms of money, there is a risk he might not be treated well by the other students.

We ended the day at the school by experiencing bites of the African soldier ants. They latch on & sting until you pull them off. The bites themselves are very small. They can crawl up your leg in a split second! I think they leap. The second day of rain has flushed them out of their nests, & they surround the “office” (outhouse). We can’t avoid them.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chin-ups & Frisbee

10/5/10: The first day with the group to be trained as peer counselors (after their own trauma healing). During their morning dancing our pictures show more orbs than I have ever seen, even in the movie about orbs. The dancing is pure joy, with students spontaneously drumming, starting a new song, making up moves together, and laughing. These are first & second year high school students. The youngest was 17 & the oldest 23. They are aware that they have missed many of life’s opportunities. By the end of the day, more than half of them said the most important meaning of the day was that they now had hope for their future. Like the older students, they listed as their biggest problems lack of materials, including no television, no internet, only 2 dictionaries for 500 students, no physical education, no recreational program or equipment, the remote location with nothing to do & no experience with life outside of villages. They also talked about loneliness, having no family and no house to go to, having to take care of younger children with no support from family, government or friends because their friends are just as poor. They worry about school fees & if the government will pay because they have no other source of income. They talked about how the trauma makes problems in relationships at school & makes it hard to concentrate & learn. There are 10 teacher/parent/counselors for 500 students, with one matron for the girls’ dorm & one patron for the boys’ dorm. Their dedication is amazing. Because of all the visitors, they ran out of toilet paper for the outhouse (a hole in the ground with a leaky-roofed shelter built over it). They will not be able to get any more until next week.

We saw the cow & goats provided by a donor. The goats are problematic because the school doesn’t have enough money to build a fence strong enough to keep the goats in, & they are easily stolen. Cows are better as they can provide milk & cannot get through the stick fence & can be easily tethered. Fortunately, the goats can be traded for 2 cows. We talked to Rev. Thoms about protein for breakfast before tests. There is not money for meat, eggs, avocados or nuts. There is no refrigerator for cheese or a supply of milk. They eat mostly potatoes, rice, bananas, onions, cassava, & bread & pasta. There sometimes are tomatoes, carrots & lettuce or cabbage. I had no idea of what real poverty means. It is amazing to me how these people work together, men & women, building rock aqueducts, sweeping red dirt every day, tilling soil with sharpened sticks, building homes out of eucalyptus branches & red dirt adobe, pulling weeds & harvesting on 45 degree or more slopes, carrying water & firewood on their heads starting at very young ages, walking barefoot on rocky roads for miles to get basic supplies, etc. Yet most of them smile broadly & wave at the Mazungas (rich white people). We have seen a total of 2 other Mazungas during our 6 days here.

Again, these students were so eager to learn. The government has just decreed that the official language of Rwanda will be English, so all of the teachers & students have to switch from French to English (Kinyarwandan is spoken in primary schools only). Of all the fun physical & game-like activities we did, the one they spoke of most as valuable to them was learning how to listen to their traumatized friends. Chris brought a Frisbee & taught them to use it. During lunch they played (only boys) in a lumpy field with the goats. Chris also found a pole that could be used for chin-ups & demonstrated that. None of the students had any idea how to do them. We end the day with such love, joy & gratitude in our hearts for these courageous, loving young people. They constantly tell us how much they appreciate what we are bringing to them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Amazing Kids



10/4/10: Our first day teaching the kids! I am so impressed with these young people. We worked with the 86 students in the senior 6 class—those who have to pass the government test in November or be denied entrance to a university which means virtually no options for work. We always start with high energy singing & dancing that they lead. They then began by telling us their concerns about the test. They have no materials to learn from (only a few maps for geography, not enough text books, no internet, only one ancient television & computer, & very, very few books in the library). They talked about how hard it was to learn about things they had no experience with at all, having never been out of Rwanda or just across its borders. They talked about how they freeze up on tests because of the pressure they feel to succeed & their belief that they do not know anything. They also freeze due to the fact that the test proctors are either police or military & it brings back fears from what they experienced in the genocide. They leaned forward in their seats & intensely listened to everything offered. They are hungry to learn. They laugh at awkward attempts at new skills & help one another & keep trying. Some students are triggered by exercises that quiet the mind & allow emotions. They ask what to do to help themselves, not to be “fixed.” There are so many needs it is mind-boggling. I include pictures of their entire library.

We experienced our first African rain today. It lasted about 45 minutes of such hard driving rain on the metal roof that it was impossible to hear the person next to you, let alone teach. It came down in sheets, & the temperature cooled about 10 degrees, but still pleasant. Afterward the red dust became red clay & stuck to everything, but I didn’t have to cover my nose & look like a Muslim on the ride home because the dust was settled. We are back, having a delicious dinner, planning for tomorrow with the 50 student leaders we are going to train in energy psychology & peer counseling. I think sleep will come easily tonight.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

TIA (This is Africa)

10/3/10: An amazing, adventurous, heart-touching day. We loaded in a van with 20 people (many choir members from Kigali) & arrived at the school in time for Sunday services. Besides the students, there were neighbors, former students & the choir. The Bishop of the regional church gave the longest sermon—there were 4 others. We had an interpreter for part of it. The singing was so full of uplifting energy & joy, and there were 3 parts where people got up & danced. It was 4 hours long. We again had a celebratory lunch with chicken. Rev. Thoms mentioned how grateful the students should be for having 2 feasts in 2 days thanks to the Americans (we pay for all of their food while we are there).

A former student who was class president & an outstanding young man was there. He did not pass his senior 6 exam. He basically has no future, as there are no training programs & almost no jobs. He has no permanent place to live. He is the type of student that Project LIGHT Rwanda is meant to help. Another former student got up to do a special presentation. He graduated last year & passed his test. Two years ago he was having many problems (from trauma) & was one of the students in Lori’s trauma healing training group. He had not been able to study or pass any tests. He promised if he passed the test the next year he would buy a goat & give it to one of the students left at the school. He brought his goat today to give away. They have never heard of pay it forward. There is so much they have never heard of. I will take pictures of their library—two 6’ x 8’ book shelves that are far from full for 500 students. No internet & one computer. There is still no electricity in the dorms or dining hall. Through all of this they are the friendliest, most loving, compassionate young people I have ever met. Their hugs are totally genuine. They call me “Mama Kathryn” & can’t wait to carry my things & be sure I have water, etc.

We have a new signal: TIA—it means “This is Africa”. We say it when 30 minutes turns into 75 & 3 hours into over 4, & 20 people in a 14-person van, & for our experience coming home today. The roads are indescribable & the bridges (one lane) are big logs placed vertically between the two side of the stream or gulch. We round a curve & see a ½=ton Toyota truck with 6’ tall stick sides full of big cabbages & it has broken one of the logs & it’s back tire is wedged between logs with the fender resting on one log. It isn’t moving! As the African women tell us is typical, the men are just standing around looking at it & saying, “Hmmm.” Christopher (with us—a muzunga) suggests they remove some cabbages. They put the tarp down & start throwing the cabbages to the tarp where they split. He again suggests they toss the cabbages to the men on the ground which they do. Then he just climbs up on the truck so there is more than one man throwing them down. Lori is expecting a miracle. The truck isn’t budging with what they are trying, but they finally figure out to rock it back & forth until the tire comes up high enough they can push hard enough to let it drive away. Most of us walk across the logs & let the vans drive over without their overload. We make it back hungry, tired, & very stuffed up due to the red dirt, but very happy.

Celebration in Rwanda


TOP: Dancers. Notice the lights in an unlit room.

BOTTOM: Our teacher/interpreter Christian, myself, Lori, Rev. Thoms, School Board President, Member, & Director of Social Programs for the district.

10/2/10: What an amazing day! I have never felt so welcomed in my life. The students were celebrating our arrival & the 5th anniversary of the creation of their association for genocide survivors. They had decorated with tree branches & toilet paper (a scarce commodity & the only thing they have—no crepe paper). Many local officials were there including the head of the school board (they call it something different) & the mayor of the district which is more like our governors. He gave a wonderful speech (everything is translated, of course) about the new Rwanda, that the government was completely committed to protecting all of its citizens, & even quoted the Bible. He thanked us profusely for what Project LIGHT has done to take a school from the brink of closing due to trauma incidents & lack of ability to educate, to a school with no discipline problems & successful student leaders. The country has a slogan: when a government official says, “Peace,” the people respond, “Tolerance, Reconciliation, Prosperity & Unity.” Can you imagine how that would go over in some parts of our country? The energy of the students was so loving & genuine. They are so excited to have Lori back. The students Lori has taught the trauma healing tools to before have not only taught other students at the school (there are 500), but have gone to other schools with survivors & taught them.

Lori brought gifts from the students at Pacific Grove Middle School (yarn bracelets) with a beautiful letter about being connected in heart. The students sang (beautiful harmony), danced (so graceful) & put on humorous skits. At the end of the dance the students came up & got all of the people on the stage to come dance w/ them—I copied what they were doing & was a hit. We were treated to a special lunch with meat (they have it 3 times a year) & hard-boiled eggs (a few times a year). It was very flavorful. Two young men, one a recent graduate & one a teacher at a neighboring school, tried to get me involved in either sponsoring them to come to the U.S. or giving them money. I was surprised that people dressed in suits with jobs were the ones who saw me as a meal ticket.

The ride up was 1.5 hours, mostly red dirt & rock roads with ruts & potholes several feet deep. The driver was a magician to get us there. I am blowing red dust out of my nose. We passed several villages & one where the market was in session. It is just like the pictures you see: women in colorful wrapped dresses, carrying all kinds of things on their heads from whole banana stalks to big water jugs to a suitcase. Babies are in slings on their backs. The terraced green hills & valleys are lushly beautiful. People do not expect many cars (all 4-wheel drives) on the roads & often completely clog them. The children love to be waved at by a “mazunga” (a rich white person).

I am exhausted, but so grateful & inspired & happy. Tomorrow we go to Sunday services at the school & do more exploring of options for how to help them.



Saturday, October 2, 2010

10/2/10: What an amazing day! I have never felt so welcomed in my life. The students were celebrating our arrival & the 5th anniversary of the creation of their association for genocide survivors. They had decorated with tree branches & toilet paper (a scarce commodity & the only thing they have—no crepe paper). Many local officials were there including the head of the school board (they call it something different) & the mayor of the district which is more like our governors. He gave a wonderful speech (everything is translated, of course) about the new Rwanda, that the government was completely committed to protecting all of its citizens, & even quoted the Bible. He thanked us profusely for what Project LIGHT has done to take a school from the brink of closing due to trauma incidents & lack of ability to educate, to a school with no discipline problems & successful student leaders. The country has a slogan: when a government official says, “Peace,” the people respond, “Tolerance, Reconciliation, Prosperity & Unity.” Can you imagine how that would go over in some parts of our country? The energy of the students was so loving & genuine. They are so excited to have Lori back. The students Lori has taught the trauma healing tools to before have not only taught other students at the school (there are 500), but have gone to other schools with survivors & taught them.

Lori brought gifts from the students at Pacific Grove Middle School (yarn bracelets) with a beautiful letter about being connected in heart. The students sang (beautiful harmony), danced (so graceful) & put on humorous skits. At the end of the dance the students came up & got all of the people on the stage to come dance w/ them—I copied what they were doing & was a hit. We were treated to a special lunch with meat (they have it 3 times a year) & hard-boiled eggs (a few times a year). It was very flavorful. Two young men, one a recent graduate & one a teacher at a neighboring school, tried to get me involved in either sponsoring them to come to the U.S. or giving them money. I was surprised that people dressed in suits with jobs were the ones who saw me as a meal ticket.

The ride up was 1.5 hours, mostly red dirt & rock roads with ruts & potholes several feet deep. The driver was a magician to get us there. I am blowing red dust out of my nose. We passed several villages & one where the market was in session. It is just like the pictures you see: women in colorful wrapped dresses, carrying all kinds of things on their heads from whole banana stalks to big water jugs to a suitcase. Babies are in slings on their backs. The terraced green hills & valleys are lushly beautiful. People do not expect many cars (all 4-wheel drives) on the roads & often completely clog them. The children love to be waved at by a “mashiga” (a rich white person).

I am exhausted, but so grateful & inspired & happy. Tomorrow we go to Sunday services at the school & do more exploring of options for how to help them.

The dancers. Notice what appears to be on the walls, etc. in an unlit room.

In this picture is the teacher/interpreter Christian, myself, Lori, Rev. Thoms, School Board President, member, & Director of Social Programs for the District.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Africa Time

10/1/10:

Slept well, and needed to. I saw that I repeated myself last night. I write notes in Word & then copy & paste here since you can never count on how long the internet will stay up. I obviously wasn't very focused.

Sleeping under mosquito netting is like being in a princess bed. The energy feels fresh & deep here. The hills are covered with adobe small houses, red dirt & a few trees. The American Embassy stands out immediately as being the largest & whitest building in this part of town. Breakfast was great with veggie omelet, African tea (like Chi), banana & something like a passion fruit (we didn’t eat the peeling).

We had our first example of Africa time—last night Ben had said we would all meet this afternoon. Rev. Thoms came at 10:15 AM with Lori still in wet hair. We ate breakfast at the meeting & she participated, complete with video, as she was. I learned that you do not brainstorm while using a translator. Be specific & concise or they get lost. All of the people I have met so far really want to cooperate & please us. Lori informs me that is not always the case here. I think part of the difference is that we make it so clear we want to hear what they need, not just impose our agenda.

Rev. Thoms was obviously moved by the gift of the computer, & amazed & excited about Skyping. There are many reasons his students do not do well on tests—almost no books & materials, no internet & only one computer, constant emotional reminders of their trauma, & having no schooling at all for the year of the genocide. If the seniors in high school do not pass the state tests, they cannot go to a university, they cannot continue to live at the orphanage & there is usually no work for them. They end up on the streets. In the past only 10% of them passed. We are going to work to do as much as we can in a week to improve their chances, and to set up more help at the school for future seniors. The Center we are creating is intended to fill the gap for those orphans who do not go on to a university. By the way, students at universities have to learn everything in both French & English.

One thing about Africa—there are many opportunities to be reminded about what we have to appreciate in the US. It takes two minutes to delete more than one e-mail & you never know when you are going to lose the internet altogether.

We met with Ben in the afternoon & he told of his sister-in-law & her severe problems due to PTSD from the genocide. She is not an orphan, but the whole family has issues that make their lives difficult which are directly a result of the trauma. He said there are so few counselors here that no one even thinks of getting help—there’s no one to give it. The churches are the main treatment centers. We go tomorrow to the mountain orphanage with Rev. Thoms for a celebration. I can’t wait to report on that.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I am here! I have never had such a warm welcome. There were 6 men & 3 women who met us at the airport, all speaking some English & most speaking English well. It is a clear, balmy night of about 80. These people are so open—they know Lori, or course, but also to me. The motel is clean, charming, with a fantastic view overlooking the city. The room is very small, but sparkling clean with lots of storage, a hand-held shower, & a cafe that you custom order 30 minutes before you want to eat. The driver, Ben, told about his wife going through the genocide & she was pregnant. The baby was born a month early because of her stress & while she was in an attic hiding. Her husband was killed. Ben also went through it, but he didn’t tell me his story yet. The country has made changes just since Lori was here last January, making it easier to start a business, buy property, get credit, etc. Roads are improved, although the last couple of miles to the motel were red dirt with huge ruts & potholes that Ben had to skillfully dodge. I would hate to navigate it in the mud. We may get to find out how that is.

I am exhausted, but excited & not quite ready for sleep. It has been 30 hours since we left the L.A. hotel & I got about 3 hours sleep from Brussels to Kigali. The flight from Chicago to Brussels was in a plane with no leg room & narrow seats & 250 packed in. That plus crossing 9 time zones had my body crawling out of its skin. I had kept up with the first 3 time zones using Dona Eden’s acupressure points jet lag energy system, but the next points were on the feet & legs & there was no room to move. When I finally bit the bullet & sat in the restroom & caught up on all the points, I immediately felt better.

We have had some anxious moments with jet-ways not operating, security staff strikes, etc., but every problem there was someone who went out of their way to solve our problem & the plane to Kigali waited for us. Brussels Air is amazing, serving gourmet food & snacks during the whole flight & very comfortable seating. It's been over 30 hours since we left the hotel in L.A. w/ about 3 hours sleep, so I'm ready to crash now--I hope I'm coherent. A happy good night.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reports from Rwanda

Muraho! ("Hello" in Kinyarwandan). It warms my heart so much to know how many of you are pulling for me to have a safe, exciting, fulfilling trip to Rwanda. So for any of you who are interested, I am planning on blogging from Kigali (when the electricity is on) about my experience there. You are welcome to come along! Murakoze (thank you) for your kind thoughts and support. In case you don't know where Rwanda is (as I didn't before I signed up to go), it is south of Uganda (which is south of Sudan), west of Tanzania & Lake Victoria (which is west of Kenya) and east of the Congo. It is only about the size of Maryland with both rocky mountains & rain forest mountains where the gorillas live. The capital, Kigali, is a large city of about 1 million. It operates on "Africa time" which is slower than Hawaiian time. When someone says they will meet you at 3:00, they mean anywhere from noon to 6:00. I don't know how that can work, but I will be finding out. More after the 25-hour plane flight & I get my bearings. I will be using Dona Eden's Energy Medicine method for re-calibrating my body to the 9-hour time difference. I'll see how that works.