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Your location>Home>Publications>PeaceWays>Fall 2009

   
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Editorial Comment

Why We Should “Love Thy Neighbor”
By Angela Forcier

Why I Do What I Do: Life in Bududa, Uganda
By Barbara Wybar

HROC and the Batwa Ethnic Group in Rwanda
By Theoneste Bizimana

Living Abundantly
By Deborah Dakin

A Bumpy Road to Mediation By George Brose

Applying These Teachings: Testimonies from Congo
By Zawadi Nikuze

Reconciliation?
By David Zarembka

Reaching a Common Reconciliation
By Adrien Niyongabo

Welcome Back
By Dorcas Nyambura

 

 

Why We Should “Love Thy Neighbor”:
Excerpts from Report on HROC Workshops in Gisenyi, Rwanda

By Angela Forcier

Angela Forcier, a graduate student from the United States studying for her Master’s degree at the University of Cape Town, had the amazing opportunity to visit five HROC workshop female participants in their homes for a day each. This allowed her to observe the interactions among neighboring women and highlights the important benefits of the HROC program as antagonists learn to trust each other again. Click here to read her full report.

To be neighbors involves more than the proximity of your homes, it means sharing your lives. Neighbors watch each others children, they check in on each other in the morning before going to work, they rest together in the afternoon, wash clothes and prepare food together at night. They ask each other for help when it is needed. Help is always needed, whether it is borrowing salt or water to cook, a hoe to dig, or money for transport to visit a sick family member. To be excluded from these interactions, for any reason, means being cut off from your most immediate network of support. There is a Rwandan proverb which states, “a neighbor is better than a distant relative”. In theory, family should be your primary support system, but, in reality, it is those who are closest to you whom you depend upon. However, when you do not trust those living around you, the interdependency that you rely on for survival is impaired.

After the initial interview process to review HROC, I selected five participants to spend time with in order to learn more about their lives. I was interested in the composition of the daily life of participants; an ethnographic investigation includes not only what people may say in an interview, but what they do and how they do it, where they go, who they speak to and under what circumstances. It seeks to understand the meanings and values that dictate interaction. Fully aware that I could only gain a glimpse into all of this in the short time I had, my selection was based on several factors. Some participants expressed a keen interest in me visiting them so they were more likely to be willing to participate; some were chosen simply on the basis of good rapport. Others interviewees were not selected for logistical reasons, such as location or lack of time.

Before beginning this exploration into their lives, I visited each of the five participants in their homes to explain my research and the relationship I envisioned between us. All of them eagerly agreed to accept me into their home – working, eating, visiting and resting alongside them. I learned through this exercise how much people value someone visiting them in their home; it demonstrates a mutual respect, caring, and interest in their life. In the weeks that followed, I spent full days with each of the five participants, digging in their fields, peeling what seemed like millions of potatoes, learning to cook sombe (cassava leaves) and ugali (cooked cornmeal), visiting with neighbors, going to the market, and snacking on sugar cane.

Since neighbors constitute social support networks and depend on one another both as daily companions and in times of need, if a person does not trust those around him or her, it becomes much more difficult to meet the needs of his or her family. One of the HROC participants I visited, Mama Samweri, told me that before the workshop, she did not trust the people living on either side of her home. Yet, during the time I spent with her, the women in those households were ever-present companions. When we washed clothes, they were also washing and chatting. When we were preparing food, they were also preparing food, in fact, they shared a kitchen. When Mama Samweri did not have water to cook beans, she asked these neighbors. One of them gave her a pair of shoes for her children. When Mama Samweri went to work in her field she left her children under the care of these neighbors, who did the same when they left home. Now she describes these neighbors among the first she goes to when she needs something. She said this is because she learned in the workshop that it is possible to be friends and to love a person from the other group again.

Next article: Why I Do What I Do: Life in Bududa, Uganda By Barbara Wybar