Rwanda_DRC_July08 204 I just wanted to share a few more themes that cropped up in my interviews with HROC participants in DRC that I found instructive.

In the Mugungu I IDP camp, I sat with a group of HROC participants in a room made of plastic tarp. As we talked, gravel made from lava crunched underfoot and children looked in through the holes cut in the sheeting for the wind and giggled. People told me their stories in a straightforward, deadpan voice, even when they described terrible events that happened less than a year ago.

In some ways the strongest emotional inflection came when people discussed their hope for retuning to the good old days before the violence and ethnic stereotyping became pervasive. Some people wanted HROC trainings to help people to return to the world in which ethnic division and its attendant violence was not an issue. A variation on this was a longed-for return to their home village in a newfound peace and understanding between people:

I came from a place called Mweso. Before we ran away, we used to hide in the bushes – if you see someone coming, even if it is your relative, you hide…Later on we heard that other people also fled Ngungu so we also had to run and follow them. In Ngungu the fighting went on and they killed my husband. From Ngungu we came up here to Mugungu. When we got here in the camp, people used to come and deliver food, clothing, water, but no one had come to assist us with teachings like those of HROC. If we had received these teachings earlier, we would maybe have had different thoughts and would have known how to handle things or situations… More people need to be trained, so that by the time we go back home, we will go home like comforted people, and so that the tree of trust is planted within us (one of the themes of the workshop). That way we can go home with that knowledge and at least try to put the war behind us and get along with each other.

Rwanda_DRC_July08 164Some people received HROC or AVP trainings before the violence occurred, and they reported that it in a sense protected from being re-traumatized and thus better cope with the situation:

Before the training, we saw trauma as just a very strange thing that we are not even supposed to undergo. After receiving the trauma training here, the war again broke out…[this time however] we were not affected inside, which is how trauma effects you; we were able to manage and to handle the situation better because of the teachings. And that was where we saw the usefulness…we need more trainings because people are still experiencing or having the effects of trauma.

Another participant I interviewed in the town of Sake reported that in the past people fleeing from violence would only flee with people of their same ethnicity, while after a training they were able to flee with others. So helping people heal from trauma is not me backward-looking, but can help people to deal with ongoing violence and life difficulties. I learned of a woman who before a training was being beaten by her husband, even as she was the breadwinner for the family. Through the confidence she gained in the training, she decided to speak out for the first time, with the result that her in-laws intervened on her behalf and removed her husband to another area, allowing her to live in peace with her children.

Rwanda_DRC_July08 059 Others suggested that HROC trainings convinced them to abandon plans to join a militia to get revenge on those that had killed their family members. One person related how when he first arrived to the IDP camp he was so angry that he had plans to “start his own militia,” which got a good laugh out of the other people present.

Finally, one participant spoke from a belief that access to healing from trauma is a right:

People are no longer stable, they run away if someone just calls out “”hey!” So the [HROC] teachings can help us at the grassroots level, and at the same time reach the leaders. For we can be denied everything else, but we need peace, the peace that comes from putting our trauma behind us.