Help Rwandan orphans overcome a violent legacy

by Stories For Hope Rwanda


June 14, 2011

 Dear Friends of Stories For Hope,

Thank you for your continued support in lifting the veil of silence in Rwanda, for the sake of the next generation. We are jumping for joy!  Young people in Rwanda said they liked the project as they bid goodbye to us, CDs in hand,  but we didn’t know why—until now.   After spending all winter transcribing tapes following up inter-generational dialogues, we feel more confident in saying, “It works!”

In November, 2010 a team of Rwandan professionals traveled to Byumba to hear from 24 youth participants about why they chose to take part in our dialogue program, and about the differences it has made in their lives.

 Scroll through these comments. Make your day by hearing how your continued contributions helps. If you can find a way to keep donating, I can assure you with great confidence that you are making a difference in Rwanda.


At first I was not doing so well in school and through listening to her story she encouraged me to do better in school and I now feel as though I have the heart and guts to go on and do well in school.

 From the story I got to know how I was born, the way I was born, how I grew up, and this has helped to make a difference between how I was behaving at first and how I behave afterwards and this will help me to help others that are in the same situation.

 Before I was afraid of asking my guardian about things. Now that I have come to the storytelling I feel more free to talk to her about my questions; I am very grateful for this.

 I wanted to know about the lifestyle of my dad when he was younger...It is very important because if I encounter the same problems I will be strong enough.

 I have listened to my CD many  times... Because our parents passed away when we were so little my sister was very happy that she got to listen to the story from my aunt, something she had never been able to do before....

On special Sundays when Jean Rene does not have to go to school we listen to the CD-we have listened to it at least 3 times per month every month since the storytelling. There has not been a month that we haven’t listened to it....Actually we listen to it because it gives us the strength to go on-it gives us the strength for the future, to go on in the future. My brother, Jean Rene, really loves the story and sometimes he calls his friends and says come listen to the story with me and my brother. He has become an outgoing person-he used to be really in his shell and not talk to other people but now he is free and talks to other people.

 Immediately after sharing my story I started feeling flexible towards the people I had issues with. Before we were going to court because the people were destroying the properties but after the sharing he started understanding them and gaining hear and forgiveness towards them....Yes because I had opened up first I now started sharing with them and even with the children of the parents who had destroyed the property; these children are now my friends and we share together.

 After the discussion we now talk more about the past …I wanted to show her, though, that people in authority are not always correct and use tools to trick you into following their rules. You don’t have to follow these rules and by recognizing these tricks you can live a life free from discrimination.

 I got more knowledge about the family history and after the storytelling I became more optimistic to ask questions because now that I have the basic knowledge, I feel more confident to ask questions

 I regard the S4H project as an uncommon event-it was so uncommon it was unusual for me and I went and started sharing my story with other people. I told them I saw a good project, a good event.

 For example, my children did not know that I once had another wife and we divorced, so now I tell them this story

 Yes it opened up a platform between us; it removed the fear I had because at first I was fearful trying to protect her because I wanted to know how do I tell my daughter about the genocide...Other stories were about telling her to protect herself so that she won’t get HIV or AIDS and how she can live in harmony with other people.

 Previously the youth had the perception that it was of no use to talk to the elders because the elders had old ways of thinking and so it didn’t make sense to ask the elders questions because they are out-dated people. But, after hearing the story I now knew that it’s good to hear from elders s=because they have a lot to tell to others so that in the future it prevents you from just saying what you want because now you have a reference-this story was a great reference for me...

 The storytelling was important to me because I started feeling a recharger of myself-it gave me curiosity to ask questions and write it down which is like in the developed countries because in developed countries they like to write everything down so someone who has more knowledge add on it, they don’t go back to their roots, they add and add. Immediately after hearing the story I felt like a person with great knowledge and wanted to do research to learn more.

 The difference it made in my life is after revealing the truth, after telling my son about the past, I felt as a person of great importance. The difference it made is that I was able to transmit the knowledge to another person-but I am now on the right track and other people will come forth and share.

COME FORTH AND SHARE.........great works.  Best,  Patricia


Orphan I see traumatised children and I ask myself what causes that, because they were not alive during the genocide?  

 Victoire:  Yes, we see young people getting traumatized and feeling upset because of the genocide. This especially happens when we approach the days of commemoration and the mourning weeks of the genocide. Trauma in general can start from the early days of creation. The person is created from the first day of conception. He may get the trauma from his mother’s womb because of what happened to his mother or what she saw during the genocide.

 Another reason why these young children are traumatized is that they may be like you, who is twenty years old now, which means that you were four, almost five, when the genocide happened, so they could have experienced it themselves. Another reason could be that they hear the stories that old people normally say in the presence of young children regarding what they saw themselves. There are also shows about the genocide that are aired on television.  Then then when he sees people laughing and loving, he asks himself how his neighbour could betray him and even kill him. That’s the main reason why young people get trauma.

Orphan:  Another question I need to ask….In Rwanda, most families that you see are poor cannot afford school dues so their children fail to go to school.  Is genocide the cause, or was it like this even before the war?

 Victoire: Thank you. Poverty is a problem that has always been here... but after the genocide the problem worsened. You  would find families in poverty before the genocide, but because people were still cooperating and there was not so much hatred, there would be a way that they could all cooperate and they could teach their children. I remember that if a student would pass their class, a family would work together tofind school fees for him or her. If there were functions or weddings, even though there was poverty people would come together as families and communities to help each other out of any difficulty.

But then after the genocide, people started suspecting each other and there was not cooperation anymore, and most people had died. Those who used to come together as a big society were very few and very desperate, which made it hard to cooperate. There were no more families and everyone was lonely. This is what differentiates the poverty before and after the genocide.

There have been several programs to teach them about unity and reconciliation.Perhaps it is from here that you find that people are starting to realize that cooperating is important. They are being taught to work together, love each other, see each other as real human beings without looking at each other from different ethnicities, and help each other. It is from here that people have started to care about one another and help themselves to reduce poverty

 Facilitator:  Thanks to the madam. Is it possible that in these days, young people are traumatized and showing other signs of such upsetment because of the poverty that resulted from war and genocide

Poverty has a big role in trauma in both young people and in mature people because there are times when someone remembers everything he had before the war that was taken away from him, and then he becomes traumatized. He might have had properties that he lost during the war. At times, a child may know that they were well off before but now he has no school fees for schools and he even goes to school on an empty stomach. This may provoke somesentiments and trauma in young people thinking about  if his relatives, who could have helped him,  were killed. In Kinyarwanda there is a saying that your family is your arms, so if your family was killed it’s like your arms were taken off. With the help of your family you can rebuild yourself with their help, but if no you are left without even someone to grieve to, hat also brings trauma to people. Another reason is that people stay in sadness and do not have the morale to work because they keep remembering what they had and what was taken away from them. This also brings trauma to all people.

 Orphan:  Using the explanations you have given me about trauma, is there any way that I can help a friend if I see him traumatized, given my capacity as a student?


Victoire:  Thank you. There are many things you can do. If a parson is traumatized and if you have really confirmed it, then this in itself is a big achievement. There are people who are traumatized and live with it and try to hide it, but still you can see the signs, like keeping a distance, being desperate, and not being very talkative. You can approach them and show them that you care and try to make them your friend. Try to show them that they are not alone. There are others you might find who are always crying, so you should reach out and comfort them. If the problem is poverty and if your fellow student does not have a book to write in or if their uniform is old, you should help them if you can afford to. Through that, youwould be bringing back the Rwandan culture where people helped one another.Even to have that spirit that cares and sympathizes with others without saying that it is only their business, and to have a heart that wants to help and listens to others is good.

Our Kigali-based team, in Byumba
Our Kigali-based team, in Byumba

Thanks in large part to donors who have generously supported us, the past four months have been successful for Stories For Hope.  With our new funds, we have been able to assemble two  groups of girl orphans from Byumba and Nyamata (12 each).  We are recruiting a group of 6 young advocates who have already participated in Stories for Hope.  They will approach the young women, and a set of elders in each community who are willing to answer their questions about their families, and about the genocide and war.  These elders will also talk about their own ways of surviving the conflicts.

In February, the Director will make a return visit to Rwanda, to meet with youth/elder pairs chosen by the advocates and community leaders, and implement our project.  The second phase, to enlist these elders to help sponsor young girls into education and training, will be planned on that trip.

The New York Times (see link below) became interested in us, and a long article appeared about Patricia Pasick, our Director.  This attracted the attention of several publishers who are looking at helping to publish some of the inspiring stories told and recorded, a total of 100 to date.  More to come about that.

In December, we collected follow-up data from the group who participated in the project. An all-Rwandan team traveled to Byumba, to meet with those we recorded in June 2010.   These young people, many of them orphans, have been exposed to much violence, and we are eager to learn whether hearing stories from their elders, has been helpful to their capacity for resilience, goal-setting, and family communication.  That quantitative data is still being analyzed.

However, we have the impressions and more qualitative information from those who interviewed them. What they report is that all of the participants showed up for the follow-up; all report using the CDs of their stories to play for family members and neighbors. All describe very positive outcomes. 

One young man, and his elder report that every Sunday after church, their friends and family members gather in the sitting room of their home, to play the CD again.  That story contains a lot of talk about Rwanda's history, and how the genocide evolved.  It also is a story about the need for reconciliation, and unity in the country.

We directed about $1000 toward this effort.  Another report with the findings will be issued in the next month.

The other important news is that the 99 stories collected and recorded by Stories For Hope will now reside within the National Archives in Rwanda, available for any ordinary person to come and listen to.

Getting ready for a recording with a youth
Getting ready for a recording with a youth
Young girl and her elder
Young girl and her elder
A girl and her elder after storytelling
A girl and her elder after storytelling
Listening to the storytelling session, right after
Listening to the storytelling session, right after



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Organization Information

Stories For Hope Rwanda

Location: Kigali - Rwanda
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Patricia Pasick
Ann Arbor, Michigan United States

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