Help Rwandan orphans overcome a violent legacy

by Stories For Hope Rwanda
Mar 15, 2011

'On Trauma and Poverty:' A woman's wise words to an orphan with some burning questions

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.


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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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