“Home” is a powerful theme in Anthony’s work and life. Perhaps it’s because he’s experienced life as a refugee when he was a child. Anthony is one of the original Gafotozi and he took this shot of a family in his village while developing a photo essay on village life in Rwanda.
After attending his first peace camp, Anthony started a peace club back in his village. He was selected by A Peace of Life to attend a series of peer-to-peer training in trauma and counselling – an opportunity graciously offered by Paulette Baraka (of Gate of Hope Ministries) who led one of the workshops at our peace camp last year. See photos
Here is Anthony’s report from the most recent training (held earlier this month):
We each presented a report of the cases we had encountered after our first level of training. Then we learned about sadness, about shame and self condemning, and about violence – sexual-based violence and violence which takes place at home. One big thing which I learned about is the need to understand yourself. I hope it will help me to be a good counselor.
But even though I was trained to counsel others, I have been counseled too because we had sufficient time to share about our life with others at the training. I now understand how much my life had been destroyed (impacted). For instance, I met one young boy whose brother died and the boy had a problem of depression. It has been so difficult for me to know how to help him because I realized his background history was the same as mine.
I’ve just helped two other people in my village with their problems and I’m really looking forward to attending the next level of training which will take place the end of July.
We really thank you for how you care about the soul of Rwandans and looking for all possible ways to heal injuries (trauma) including those left by the Genocide Against the Tutsi in 1994.
May God bless A Peace of Life, and bless Baraka. She is a real counselor and trainer. Truly you may not have an idea of how peaceful my heart is after these workshops. I have made many steps towards my healing, and I’m ready to help others to reach the healing stage I’m at.
A Peace of Life is now helping Anthony to work on a book to share his life story. He will also be sharing his learning with youth at the next peace camp to be held in November 2012.
Pictured: Hope lights the way. Club Unity (a peace club started by youth in Rwanda) ends a day of community service, repairing homes of Genocide orphans and widows, with a time of testimony, prayers, songs and a commitment to peace, as part of their 18th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi where an estimated 1 million people were killed in a 100-day period (April – July, 1994).
Club Unity was started by youth who attended the first peace camp (Nov. 2010) offered by A Peace of Life in partnership with AEBR Youth. Today anywhere from 100-200 youth meet on Saturdays at the small, local Baptist church in Mubago and they have started a variety of peace-building activities including microcredit. As part of the 18th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi, they planned a special day of community service and testimony.
Anthony, one of the Club Unity founders, forwards this account of their commemoration day, held Sat, Apr. 28, from 6 am to 10 pm:
Today, very early in the morning, we went – almost 37 people, most of us youth – to the hill located in our village to dig and transport sand to use to repair houses of Genocide orphans and widows.
After noon, at 14:00, we met in the garden at Mubago Church with many people to have dialogue about our Rwanda history. After this time of sharing, 4 widows of Genocide received the gift of one goat each from our Club. We did this action as a sign to show that we have taken up the challenge to change from our country’s bad history to a new future. We want to treat each person as created in the image of God. Commemoration During the 100 days of Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi, our Club Unity will collect money to buy three more goats to help three more widows (for a total of 7 to be helped). We will also have a voluntary day of work each month during this time to keep helping the Genocide survivors. We do all these things because we want to look to the future – to go ahead without stopping – to heal the grief of our relatives.
See more photos from Club Unity’s day of commemoration and community service.
Trauma continues to be big issue faced by youth, and people of all ages, in Rwanda. A Peace of Life has arranged to have Anthony continue to receive training in peer-to-peer trauma counselling (graciously offered by Paulette Baraka, one of our volunteer professionals who conducted a trauma and mental health workshop at last year’s peace camp). See more photos.
We are so inspired by the courage and commitment of youth like Anthony and his Club Unity members. We hope you are too! Fundraising is now underway to help more youth like Anthony have an opportunity to attend Peace Camp (the next one is scheduled for the last week in November 2012). Please help us today.
Another Friday Fun Photo – Guess what happened split seconds after this photo was taken? Lots of fun – and soaking wet bodies – as camp leaders and youth splash the water around, enjoying some refreshment after an afternoon of planting trees and picking up garbage on the grounds of our host school. It was all part of a workshop on peace and the environment at last year’s peace camp.
Planting trees is an important part of helping to conserve the natural, beautiful environment of Rwanda as well as replace trees used as firewood for cooking. Every November, Rwanda launches a national tree-planting campaign to encourage environmental conservation and awareness.
Many youth peace clubs, including Club Unity in Mubago, are including the planting of trees in their peace-building activities. They are finding that it’s an easy and practical way to bring everyone in the village together to do a community activity as well as open a way to talk about other crucial issues they can work on together. Sometimes there is even a sharing of personal stories and an opportunity to offer forgiveness and build reconciliation among neighbours. It’s inspiring to see youth lead the way in this ground-breaking work.
The peace camp is an annual event offered by A Peace of Life with local partners such as AEBR Youth. Plans are underway for Peace Camp 2012. Help sponsor youth peace-building in Rwanda by making a donation today.
As part of celebrating World Water Day, we’re also pleased to present a multimedia presentation on water. It was created by youth who participated in a photography workshop at peace camp 2011. The workshop was facilitated by Johnny Lam, a professional documentary photographer who volunteers his time and expertise with A Peace of Life. Johnny has launched Gafotozi, to help empower vulnerable youth to use photography in peace-building and storytelling. Enjoy the show!
*Photos in today’s post taken by some of the youth from the photography workshop
Little things make a world of difference!
I love this photo of a child cleaning the path in front of his house. It was taken by Anthony, one of the youth in our programs. It reminds me of the importance of caring about the little things – and little ones – that often go unnoticed. Ironically, it’s the little things in life that can make the biggest difference, good or bad, over time. What we say and do makes an impact on others. Through our projects, we strive to encourage youth to be a positive influence in their world. To understand that a big part of developing their own potential is in how they treat and care for others along the way.
Anthony is such an example. After the first camp (in 2010), he went on to start a peace club back in his village - Club Unity. On any given Saturday, anywhere from 100 -200 of the club members meet at a local church. Most have grown up in child/youth-headed households. They have become known in the community – even asked to help resolve difficult issues, such as a recent land dispute.
This past November at our second annual peace camp, Anthony and several other youth gave presentations on the peace clubs they have started. They shared their plans and progess as well as the challenges they continue to face. Top of the list was the need for more training and opportunities like the peace camp where they can meet, share and learn from each other. We have started planning for peace camp 2012!
After peace camp, Johnny Lam (a documentary photographer and partner of A Peace of Life) and I were thrilled to spend a week with Anthony and his family and the gafotozi back in the village where we held our first photography workshop. While we were there, we also had the chance to meet with the new peace club, Club Unity and hear of their plans which include expanding the savings and loan group they have started.
Anthony and his sister, Princess, were among the first group of young photographers to be trained by Johnny – who has since launched Gafotozi (which means young or small photographer in Kinyarwanda) to promote peace and youth empowerment through photography. The Gafotozi continue to be mentored by one of our amazing local volunteers, Timotee, a young teacher who assisted in the photography workshop at peace camp as well as led a session on entrepreneurship. We look forward to posting more of the work of the Gafotozi throughout the year!
Sneak peak: A photo by Johnny Lam of the Gafotozi at work on their peace camp project – a multimedia presentation. Stay tuned for our premiere of this piece during World Water Day!
In addition to photography, other workshops at peace camp included drama, film, sports for peace, community development and trauma/mental health. See more peace camp photos.
But the most powerful workshop at camp was the trauma/mental health session facilitated by Paulette Baraka.
“I thought I was the only one who had such big problems,” later shared Olivier, one of the youth. “At peace camp I was amazed to hear that others had the same problems in their life. It was really such a big help for me, you can’t believe how much. It changed me so much.”
Olivier is an example. Like his friend Anthony, he has had to cope with the impact of AIDS on his family. He dropped out of school to work and help support his mother, a widow who is HIV positive. He recently started his own small business and is one of leaders of Club Unity. He is also one of the youth trained as a Gafotozi. His first photo essay was on the impact of AIDS in the family.
Pictured: Impromptu computer class in the home of our hosts (Anthony and Princess, top right)
The gafotozi loved learning some computer and social media skills - thanks to Johnny’s training, wonderful donations of laptops and cameras, and the recent arrival of electricity in the village! We simply loved being with them and learning more about their daily life. We can’t say enough about their impact on us. They opened up their homes, and their lives. From early morning walks for water, to afternoons scrubbing the red mud off shoes, to hanging out late at night talking, we now have a deeper understanding and love for each other.
It really is a privilege to work among these youth. They inspire us. We’re proud of all that they have already accomplished. Their energy and hope is contagious as they persevere in the midst of big challenges. We hope they inspire you too.
We are now working with Paulette to develop and provide a workshop on trauma & counselling for youth. We hope to offer it to Anthony, Olivier and Club Unity in March, in the weeks leading up to the National Commemoration of the Tutsi Genocide, a time when much trauma and painful memories resurface.
We are also planning for the next peace camp to be held later this year and continuing to help fund and promote some of the events and media in the works by our local partners and youth peace catalysts.
Please make a donation today and help to support us in all of the little things we attempt to do this year among all these courageous youth in Rwanda. Together, we are making an impact!
Posted by Laurena Zondo, founder, A Peace of Life