A NEW 2012 REPORT from a series of extensive evaluative interviews of 7 participants has helped us know more about WHY Stories For Hope is being helpful to youth in Rwanda, including girl orphans.
Not asking questions of parents and elders is a common experience in Rwanda where, traditionally, children are 'seen and not heard.' Post -genocide social tension and the high level of trauma in Rwanda made these pre-existing gaps between the generations much wider. Elders don't want to pass on their own trauma to their children; children don't want to re-traumatize elders by asking for their stories about 1994.
WHAT YOUTH SAY HAS CHANGED
“I feel that people care about me.”
Orphans, especially girls, often feel like at the bottom of the rung in an adoptive family, or adript in society, as if they deserve to be there. It's especially uncomfortable asking questions to help calm fears and provide guidance. After participating, young orphaned females say they feel less alone, and more confident in trying to improve their lives through work and education. Being able to discuss how they are treated leads to affirmations by elders that they need not feel shame for their situation, and opens the way for ongoing mentorship and sponsorship.
“I feel bolder about asking questions which I once feared asking.”
A Stories For Hope dialogue gives young people direct permission to speak with elders, who have also agreed in advance to share stories about culture, personal experiences, and the past. Youth still use proper cultural conventions (not making much eye contact, letting elders speak first, expressing gratitude for the stories), but having a facilitator present and a set of guidelines for talking, helps overcome fears.
“Now we talk freely, and I talk to others.”
Young women and men participants feel a door has been opened for them to continue conversing with their elders, and this 'open door' has widened to include other members of the community.
“My peers come up and ask me questions they are afraid to ask.”
New information from elders leads some youth to feel like learning more about Rwandan culture and history, and some are becoming local junior historians. Other ways to get this information have been unavailable, like a history curriculum (still being revised at the Ministry of Education).
“Before I was using drugs, and just seeking pleasure. Now I see how I must act for the sake of my country, and my family.”
After hearing from elders about the 'proper' ways of living in a post-conflict society, young people have a firmer platform from which to decide how they want to behave. A moral education from elders who feel dispirited and marginalized from society, has been lacking.
“ Since my elder spoke and treated me like a member of society, I have some new hope and new plans for how I will raise funds for my education.”
All these changes in the relationship with an elder engenders youth with new purpose and confidence, to think more positively about their individual futures and the future of the Rwandan nation.