Trauma Healing in Africa – June 2011

Trauma Healing in Africa – June 2011

Recently, our Audit Manager Vickie Young Beam traveled back to Africa to offer aid to their citizens.  Our employees honored her dedication with our own fund raising efforts and of course, a warm sendoff party complete with a giraffe print cake!  Please read the following excerpt from her trip:

Trauma Healing Training in Africa – June 2011
~ Vickie Young Beam

As some may know, I grew up in Burundi, Africa – a small landlocked country about the size of Maryland in the heart of Africa – just south of Rwanda, east of Congo, and north & west of Tanzania. This small, mountainous country of 9 million people has been ravaged by war and tribal conflict since the early part of the 20th century, the most recent of which was a civil war lasting from 1993 through 2005. In 2002, David Niyonzima, a Burundian childhood friend of mine, started a counseling ministry, “Trauma Healing & Reconciliation Services” (“THARS” – see www.THARS.org), to help the country heal from the many decades of fear and trauma and to provide peace and conflict transformation initiatives.

As it turns out, I am on the Board of a DE non-profit organization (Development & Research Innovations, Inc. or “DRI” – see www.D-R-I.org) dedicated to developing and providing community-based programs and services for under-served people in partnership with local organizations. After reconnecting with David in 2008, we began researching and planning how we could come alongside what THARS was doing locally in Burundi and fill in any gaps in training, supplies, therapeutic resources, etc. that we could. Hence the dream was born! It became a reality on June 9 – 26, 2011 as a team of 5 (3 clinical psychologists, 1 teacher/social worker and myself) made the adventurous trip to Burundi. We left the U.S. on June 9th and, after recovering from missed flights (due to bad weather) and jet lag, we spent 5 days of intense training with 19 Burundian counselors in Gitega, Burundi.  We played with the community children, the poorest of the poor, and saw their eyes light up as we pulled out the frisbees and soccer balls. We heard many difficult stories and marveled at the strength of the people telling them. We met former rebel soldiers, victims of nameless torture, wrongly imprisoned individuals who served long terms for crimes they did not commit, women who were ostracized from their communities because of crimes committed against them. Yet these were the very people we saw form self-help groups, meeting together to pool their meager resources, working together to raise goats or make soap and baskets, form support groups to share their stories, pray and find healing together.  We greatly enjoyed the interaction with these beautiful people and are amazed by the impact they are already having on their communities and country.

The following week, we travelled from Burundi to Kigali, Rwanda, to consult with the Friends Peace House (www.FriendsPeaceHouse.rw) as they sought to launch a similar counseling program. You may recall that Rwanda experienced a horrific genocide, which erupted in 1994. There is still much healing needed in that country as the wounds are deep and raw, even 17 years later. Visiting some of the memorials was difficult – they are not preserved as sterile, impersonal sites but rather reflect the raw humanity of the people that died there en masse. We were honored to contribute even in such a small way to the peace-building and healing efforts underway in Rwanda.

It was a whirlwind trip with so much packed into the 14 days we were there. We have received enthusiastic invites from the organizations in both countries to return and bring additional training, resources, expertise and encouragement. We hope to do just that!

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