photo: One of the large billboards around Rwanda warning youth of the danger of adults, shuga dadi and shuga mami, who give gifts in return for sexual favours.
Can we talk about sex, money and power?
What are you prepared to do to earn some money or to make sure that you stay in school? For many youth in Rwanda, the decision seems to be out of their control. Consider this story.
“I live with my sister and brother-in-law. My sister died and now he wants to always sleep with me. I cannot leave him before I finish my studies because he is the one who pays my school fees. So how can I live with him without conflict and without sleeping with him?”
Or how about this one. “We live in a horrible situation. My sister is a prostitute. I feel pressure to do this…I don’t know what to do.”
These are true stories.
Unfortunately, it’s not surprising to hear that 500 teen pregnancies were reported by schools in 2012. The number is higher. Many more have gone unreported. Some of these may be due to misguided young emotions or lack of proper sex education, but many are also the result of intimidation – teachers and others in position of authority or respect in the community abusing their power. “Sleep with me or you will be sent home from school.”
Then there are stories of youth violence, like a girl raped by friends of her boyfriend simply because she refused to have sex with him. And stories of exploitation – shuga daddies and shuga mammies taking advantage of youth, offering gifts of money, clothes, food, good times, cars, in return for some “loving” – a little sex for a little attention and nice things. There is no real love behind the shuga! Too many youth are selling themselves short and are at an increased risk of catching STDs and AIDS. God desires so much more for each one of these precious, young lives so full of potential. It starts with a love for God that helps us to love ourselves for who we are and then love others around us in healthy, respectful ways.
Abuse was a prominent theme in our first short film, Tears of Hope, created and performed by youth at one of our peace camps. It’s a powerful glimpse into the life of a young orphan taken in by a family. We thank Almond Trees Film Rwanda for helping us share this story. We hope it sparks more conversation. And to help youth know that they are not alone and that they have value and true love in God’s eyes. We hope they are empowered to realize their self worth, have personal dignity and treat others with respect.
We will continue to explore these and other issues facing youth today at the next peace camp including peer counselling and health sessions for more learning on healthy bodies, healthy minds, healthy relationships and the use of drama and the arts to be able to open up difficult dialogue.
It’s time to talk and listen to each other.
Help support this youth peace media initiative. Send a youth to peace camp.
Congratulations to the latest graduates of peace camp offered annually by A Peace of Life in partnership with AEBR Youth! The most poignant and meaningful activity of Peace Camp 2012 was the day we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (pictured above). It was a time to renew our commitment to work together to be a source of peace, hope and love in our world. After this deeply emotional day youth were encouraged to write reflections on their visit. We look forward to sharing some of their thoughts and writings in future blog postings.
Peace Camp 2012 brought together over 60 youth and camp leaders from across Rwanda as well as a team of youth leaders from neighbouring DR Congo and volunteers from Canada and Kenya. We enjoyed a jam-packed six days of interactive learning on conflict and conflict transformation, peer to peer counselling basics in mental health and trauma, art therapy, character development for radio scripts, and self-help group basics.
Our training involved a variety of hands-on-learning and games - including our very own peace olympics which featured team relays and challenges as well as an arts category with spoken word (peace poems) and dance presentations. Pictured: Dydine, one of our volunteer directors in Rwanda, was our “filmmaker in residence” at camp, capturing activities such as this peace poem performed on the last day of camp. Dydine is one of Rwanda’s up-and-coming talents and has started an organization, Umbrella Cinema Promoters, to empower and encourage more female participation in the film industry. We look forward to seeing more of her work and will be uploading some short clips on our YouTube channel in the coming months.
Popular night activities (besides staying up late in the dorms to talk!) included campfire night. Pictured left to right: Michel, our camp co-director, teaches William, our Kenyan volunteer, some Rwandan dance moves to the delight of campers. William also led a workshop on starting a self help group and shared some of his personal peace-building experience which includes food security and development in one of the most violent-prone and drought-striken regions of Kenya.
Another special night was the screening, in our makeshift outdoor theatre, of the latest short film, “Behind the Word,” by Clementine Dusabejambo, one of Rwanda’s rising stars in the film industry. She was on hand with other filmmakers of Almond Tree Films to answer questions and encourage youth to pursue their dreams and potential in the arts.
Pictured: Anthony, a former peace camper, returns as a leader. We were thrilled to have Anthony lead a session and share his personal experience in starting a peace club in his village. Anthony also facilitated an outdoor game that he learned this past year as part of trauma counselling training with pyschologist Paulette Baraka. We were also pleased to have Paulette join us once again to facilitate a session on spiritual and mental health after our visit to the Memorial Centre to help youth process their feelings. Read more about Anthony’s story
There’s so much more to report on from peace camp 2012, but that will have to wait till next month’s posting. Thanks so much to all of our donors and volunteers for making this event possible. You are terrific!
Photo credit (for all photos in this blog posting): Johnny Lam Photography
Pictured: The gafotozi exhibit at Love 4 Life, a youth arts event held by A Peace of Life in Kacyiru (Rwanda) as part of World AIDS Day 2010. Two of the photo essays focus on the personal impact of HIV and AIDS. They were created by 5 youth who participated in our first photography workshop in 2009 which resulted in the founding of Gafotozi by Johnny CY Lam, documentary photojournalist affiliated with A Peace of Life.
In December 2011, we returned to the same village where we held the first workshop and stayed with one of our gafotozi families most impacted by HIV. One morning, Johnny shot an incredible series of photos on the waking moments of the family – where mom and two of her children must take antiretroviral medication to remain alive and well.
The resulting photos became a powerful and moving photo essay by Johnny called 13: Living with HIV in Rwanda. The first 13 minutes of each day.
On March 16-29, 2012, his remarkable exhibit, along with photos from the gafotozi, will be on display at The Department, 1389 Dundas St. W., Toronto. Plan to attend. Contact us for more info.
As part of this special event, A Peace of Life will present short films by young filmmakers of Almond Tree Films Rwanda which show another challenge facing youth in Rwanda today – coping with the legacy left by the 1994 Tutsi Genocide which nearly destroyed their country. While much progress has been made over the years, trauma, mistrust and fear linger. These young filmmakers share stories of the pain, hope, love and courage behind peace and reconciliation. We also look forward to some surprise guests!
Pictured: Yves Montand, one of the young filmmakers of Almond Tree Films Rwanda, introduces the short film, Tears of Hope, at the opening of Peace Camp 2011. This film was produced from a script written – and acted – by youth who attended Peace Camp 2010. For the past two years, Almond Tree Films Rwanda has trained youth in filmmaking as part of the annual peace camps offered by A Peace of Life in partnership with AEBR Youth.
More news to be posted shortly on Peace Camp 2012!
Stay in touch on Facebook.
Today is International Day of the African Child. Sweet!
It’s an important day to commemorate the bravery of students who took to the streets in peaceful protest in Soweto, South Africa over the quality of their education and the injustice of apartheid. Their courage was costly as hundreds of students were massacred, June 16, 1976. But their legacy remains. The African Union has created this special day to remember – and to act – to improve life for all children in Africa. Some of the most vulnerable are those growing up as orphans and living on the streets. This year the International Day of the African Child brings urgent attention to the plight of street children, estimated to be over 30 million across Africa. Learn more
A recent film, Maibobo, poignantly presents life as a street child. It was created by a young Rwandan filmmaker, Yves Montand, who has a passion for using film to highlight pressing social issues. He and some of the other emerging talent at Almond Tree Films Rwanda have worked as volunteers with youth from our peace camp to create their own short film about the life of an orphan. We’re just days away from the release of Tears of Hope, the rough cut!
Photo credit: Anthony Munyaneza, one of the gafotozi, who participated in our first photography workshop in Rwanda. The photo was taken as part of his essay on village life. Last November, he was one of the participants in the peace camp and one of our official photographers. After camp, he went on to form a peace club in his community. He was recently featured in mosaic.
During April, Rwanda becomes the country of a thousand tears as the nation gathers to remember and mourn those tragic days when society failed – when over 800,000 (a conservative estimate) people were slaughtered in the Tutsi Genocide within a mere 100 days. The scale and intensity of this time remains unfathomable. And while today there’s an uneasy peace, so much remains unsaid. For some, it’s still too painful to put into words. For others, there’s a desire to try and forget and move on. And then there are those who still attempt to bury the truth, denying either their role or what happened. More truth-telling is needed for reconciliation.
It is not easy. There is no quick fix when trust has been broken. Reconciliation is often a slow and painful journey that differs for each person. Time and grace are the best gifts that can be offered - time and grace to allow each one to heal in his or her own way. Simply telling someone, “You must forgive,” is not helpful. Forgiveness emerges when one is ready and able to make peace with one’s own past. Once you have this inner peace, you are then able to reach out to others. It’s a journey that starts with love.
“Love is a catalyst for peace…it sets you free yourself,” commented one of the youth at peace camp. She and the other youth at camp were inspired by the story of a group of students who made a courageous stand for unity, at great personal cost, three years after the genocide. Love is at the root of their story. “We were training to love each other,” noted Phanuel, one of the survivors. Read more about the Nyange national heroes.
Memory is important to the peace process. Stories must be remembered and shared for more understanding and common ground. Commemoration, in spite of being so difficult, is an essential time to cry together, to remember together, but also to commit anew to working together. It’s a time to shed a thousand tears of hope for a better future where all may live together in true peace, recognizing the value and dignity of each person.
It’s the message behind Easter, where we encounter the source of true love, the God of all creation, who sent his only son, Jesus, to show us the way. Through his death and resurrection all may be reconciled to God and to each other. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis occurred on the eve of the Easter season. A soul-wrenching reminder of the battle raging between good and evil in our world. Are we complicit? Complacent? Or committed to not be overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil by doing good?
A group of youth have committed themselves to doing just that. They call themselves Youth Catalysts for Peace. Learn more
Help sponsor Peace Camp 2011 where we will be working with youth on skills development in conflict transformation including anger management and trauma counselling and sharing more stories through drama, song and dance.
Note: The photo in this posting is an outtake from a new short film, Tears of Hope, soon to be released by Almond Tree Films, Rwanda. It was produced from a script written by youth at our first peace camp (held last November) to highlight one of the issues they felt most strongly about: the plight of orphans who are taken into other people’s homes. Other short films from Almond Tree Films, Rwanda, such as the powerful Long Coat, are also available. Contact us to book your own special showing or peace camp presentation.
Friday Fun Foto: Hello, BBA – welcome to the world! We’re pleased to announce the launch this Saturday, Mar. 12, of Basic Brilliant Africa (BBA) the very first student peace club at INATEK University, Kibungo, in eastern region of Rwanda. There’s going to be lots of singing and dancing!
If you’re in the area, don’t miss all the fun. Guest artists to perform include nationally known musicians as well as new artists from the grassroots, a new film, Maibobo (highlighting issue of street kids) by Almond Tree Films Rwanda and the gafotozi exhibit.
A peace of life is proud to be one of the participants and sponsors of this event.
Peace and joy this Christmas, from Rwanda…
Pictured: Almond Tree Films, Rwanda, with Michel Nsengi (second from left, back row), one of our peace camp faciliators and our new volunteer consultant in Rwanda.
We were honoured to have some of these young filmmakers (Yves Montand, Musafili Kayambi, Clementime Dusabejambo, Jean Bosco Nshimiyimana and Richard Mugwaneza) at camp and have them talk about their passion for making social change through film. One of their most recent films, Maibobo, by Yves, powerfully portrays the life of street children, a very real, but often unpopular, issue in Rwanda.
We were able to show this film at camp and youth were very moved by the issue. Noted one youth in a survey on the first day of camp (before seeing the film): “people who dress poorly [those living on the street] are normally a thief or a crazy person.”
By the end of the camp, the same question got a different answer: “I realize that this person [poorly dressed] is the way he is and you can approach him and try to understand what he’s going through and maybe you can discover that he is traumatized or has other problems hurting him.”
Youth also strongly identified with Bamporiki’s film, Long Coat, which presents some of the issues faced in reconciliation today in Rwanda, as family and friends of both survivor and killer share the hillsides, attempt to live side by side.
During peace camp, filmmakers helped youth with scriptwriting and had them do a “creative pitch” to share their script with the group. A big surprise came when it was announced that one of their scripts will be made into a short film! We hope to have this film completed early in the new year. It deals with the crucial issue of orphans, more specifically, the kinds of mistreatment they suffer in homes/families that take them in.
See more of our photos from peace camp now on flickr.
A little bit of “glee” in Rwanda! Just uploaded: watch clips of youth performing their poems and songs including the popular amahoro song created at camp.
May you too have abundant peace and joy in your heart as we celebrate the birth of the one called the prince of peace!
We had our first official showing of the gafotozi exhibit in Toronto the other night, along with the screening of Munyurangabo, an internationally acclaimed film which helped to launch the start of a young film-making company in Rwanda, Almond Tree Films Rwanda. We will be working with both our gafotozi (young/small photographer in kinyarwanda) and Almond Tree Films Rwanda, at our upcoming project, a youth peace camp, November in Nyange. Any donations, equipment or cash, greatly appreciated.
Like the photos? You can help send these talented young photographers to peace camp where we will be using the film, Munyurangabo, to create live, interactive dramas, to explore conflict and other issues presented in the film and create alternate endings and sequels to the story. Please consider making a donation today.
The gafotozi exhibit is on display all this week at Merchants of Green Coffee, 2 Matilda St., Toronto. Special thanks to Johnny Lam Photography and Merchants of Green Coffee for your interest and support of our film and photo night. Johnny, Morgan and Bria, you are fabulous.
We’d love to share the amazing work of these youth. Please email email@example.com for more info on booking your own showing.
“You have to see it to believe it.”
Perhaps that’s the best message a day like today offers, as people around the world celebrate International Day of Peace. A glimpse of what could be that captures the spirit and the imagination.
Maiden of Peace
It’s only fitting today to share the story of young *Chantal Mujawamahoro (maiden of peace in kinyarwanda) and her classmates at Nyange Secondary School in Rwanda. *not pictured
In 1997, three years after the official end of the genocide in Rwanda, militia rebels continued in their mission to wreak havoc. One night, they burst into a school classroom where students had just finished homework and evening prayers. They demanded that students separate into Hutu and Tutsi. Their intention was clear – to kill all the Tutsi students.
But Chantal refuses. “All of us are Rwandans here,” are her last words as she’s shot dead. Her courage and conviction inspire her fellow classmates, and they too refuse to separate. Rebels continue to fire and even use grenades. In another classroom, the same story, and the same brave response. All in all, 6 students lose their life, and 20 wounded, rather than betray their friends and classmates. I wonder what impact the selfless act of students had on the rebels, deep down inside?
Peace starts within
This incident highlights the deeply spiritual aspect to peace – for it involves the necessity to love and forgive at some point in order to break the spiraling cycle of evil, hate, revenge, guilt and shame.
The path to peace is not in what I do, but in what I believe; that affects what and how I do things. ”The transformation that we should seek should not only be the transformation of our society, but also the transformation of our spirit because the inner transformation inspires the outer work…there is an intimate connection between our inner state and what we do in our outer spheres. This consistency is the foundation of being a fully integrated person.” (Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace, by Centre for Peace Education)
”The fundamental principle of peace is a belief that each person is important,” notes Jean Vanier in his book, Living Gently in a Violent World. “The vision of Jesus was extraordinary… he entered into this world to love people as they are…saying to each one, “You are important. You are precious…There can be no peacemaking or social work or anything else to improve our world unless we are convinced that ’the other’ is important.”
Nyange in November
When we stumbled across the story of Chantal and her classmates, we knew we had found the perfect location to hold our first youth peace camp this November. It will be in Nyange, at a school just a few miles away from the original site. We will also have one of the school survivors on hand to share their story. We will learn about conflict transformation, share personal stories, and even plant a peace garden for a lasting memorium.
Join us. Help encourage and inspire youth who are committed to working for peace in Rwanda. Make a donation today.
Upcoming Special Events in Toronto:
Oct. 2 - Bowl-a-thon
2 – 4 pm, Newton Brook Bowl A Rama, 5837 Yonge St., Toronto
Join New Faith Youth Ministry in their sweet quest to have fun and raise funds to help youth at risk in Rwanda, including those courageously dealing with HIV/AIDS, go to peace camp, an inititiave of a peace of life and AEBR Youth.
Oct. 5 - a peace of life photo exhibit and film night
7:00-9:30 pm., Merchants of Green Coffee, 2 Matilda St., Toronto
Join us for the screening of Munyurangabo, a beautiful film that was also the first feature film to be produced in kinyarwanda (with English subtitles). It presents some of the issues youth face today in peace and reconciliation. Also on hand: gafotozi – photo exhibit from our village workshop last November with youth at risk in Rwanda.
Admission: suggested donation of $5, or pay what you can. We are very grateful for the generous support of Merchants of Green Coffee for providing the space for this event. Our evening will include an opportunity to make a donation for the youth peace camp in Rwanda. For more info, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Chantal Mujawamahoro (maiden of peace) truly lived up to her name. You can learn more about her story and what happened at her school in Catherine Larson’s book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda. Or check out the short film, “We are all Rwandans”.
These are difficult days as Rwanda enters a time of commemoration. Crucial to remembrance is the sharing of stories in ways that can bring healing and build peace. We will be exploring storytelling, including the power of film, at our youth peace camp in November.
Pictured: Edouard Bamporiki, one of Rwanda’s talented, young filmmakers, offers an interesting, fresh perspective on reconciliation with his new film, Long Coat, which was shown as part of the official commemoration at Amahoro Stadium in Kigali last year. The film also received honourable mention at Hillywood, Rwanda’s up-and-coming film festival held around the country.
We’re planning our own “Hillywood” event in Toronto to raise funds for the youth peace camp. Stay tuned for more details!!!
Special note of thanks: We are so thankful for the recent outpouring of support from two small groups on Vancouver Island (you know who you are!) and Chemainus Calvary Baptist Church. May your commitment encourage others to invest in youth working for peace in Rwanda. Donate today or post a comment. We’d love to hear from you. Email us at email@example.com.
We leave you with a reflection: “The horror and brutality were extreme in Rwanda. That’s why when we talk about reconciliation, when we talk about forgiveness, we are not talking about an easy thing here. We are talking about shedding miles of tears before one is able to forgive. And to repent of such cruelty requires divine motivation and the divine presence just to attempt it. It cannot be done without God.” – John Rucyahana, The Bishop of Rwanda