First International HROC Training of Facilitators
By David Zarembka,
The First International Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC)
Training occurred in Burundi from August 9 to 27, 2011 with twenty-four
participant trainees. The diversity among the participants was exciting.
They were from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo (North Kivu and South Kivu),
England, and the United States. Training began with participants taking
part in one of four HROC basic workshops conducted in various parts
of the country. International trainees were participants in the workshop
so that everyone had experienced a basic HROC workshop firsthand. As
happens in HROC workshops, many emotions were released and shared.
Comment on basic HROC workshop by Florence Ntakarutimana, HROC trainer:
enjoyed being part of the three day basic HROC workshop in Rutana.
The group went back and forth from Rutana Center to Giharo every day,
a trip of one hour each way. They did not complain about the long journey
on a dusty and bad road. In the workshop, all participated including
the international participants were not only observing but contributed
a lot to make the basic workshop a success. All the participants shared
their stories and the international ones were happy to jump in quickly.
that for the first day of this workshop, the local participants were
closed but, as they continued to hear international participants
sharing, they became more comfortable. They said, “We were thinking
it is Burundi only that needs help.” The local participants began
to open up more as we moved on with the workshop.
Outside of the
workshop sessions the interaction with the local participants was
still remember the first day when we ate food with our
hands as we had forgotten the forks at the Center. I asked the friends, “How
is to eat with your hands?” I remember one of the international
participants saying “Even in the US it happens that we eat with
hands.” Also, the fact that the internationals were learning
some Kirundi words and trying to memorize the names of the local participants
helped Burundians feel connected to the internationals. There was dancing
At the end of the workshop, one international participant,
Santa Sorenson said,
I am happy I got this time to come to Africa. I told Florence when
I met her in the US in 2008 that one day I will knock on her door.
I am happy I could come. What I have learned from you is awesome. I
give a piece of my heart to you.
The training itself was held for the next two weeks at Burasira
Seminary, a Catholic retreat center, built a long time ago by Italians.
one can easily imagine being in Italy (until you eat the food). It
is in a remote area and largely self-sufficient since they grow most
of their own food. In order to connect with the Internet, one had to
go to a particular building and climb to the second floor and face
out the window for reception.
The training was
conducted by Adrien Niyongabo and Florence Ntakarutimana from Burundi,
Theoneste Bizimana from Rwanda,
and Zawadi Nikuze from
North Kivu, Congo. These are HROC’s most experienced lead facilitators.
were positive about the experience. Here is what Jean-Pierre Mfuni
from World Relief in North Kivu, Congo, said:
As a Peacebuilding officer,
this training means a lot for me. Coming from a country, which has
experienced violent conflict for many years,
this training has helped me to acquire more skills on how to deal with
trauma and, thus, how to help communities to reconcile. Before attending
the training, I had organized various trainings on Conflict Resolution
and Transformation, which are important in empowering communities with
techniques in promoting peace, but how to deal with internal wounds
was unknown to me. Now I am able to help communities to deal with internal
wounds, which is a very important aspect to bring sustainable Peace
Joyce Victor from Seattle, WA commented:
The HROC International Training was a tremendous experience for myself
and our group of participants. Most of the participants were already
deeply involved in peace-building work, often under difficult and sometimes
dangerous circumstances, and many had suffered trauma in their personal
lives as part of living in communities traumatized by war. Our learning
occurred on many levels: In order to help others we had to each assess
our own experiences of trauma and to speak openly to others about our
personal lives and ways in which we are working to be healed. Our exceptional
trainers modeled and taught us how to lead community workshops.We learned
from one another as each member of our group brought unique insights
Of particular value to myself, as an American, was being
with Africans involved in peace work and getting to see the context
in which HROC
works. For example, the centrality of Faith, the practice of shared
prayer with song and movement and the pivotal role of churches in peace
work was evident. For a person of quiet Quaker ways, this outpouring
of devotional expression was a special experience I might hot have
had in a training in the US where Faith is often more privately expressed.
There are many other things I absorbed by being in Burund. I learned
the central importance of sharing food together as part of building
community. I saw some of the reminders of war and atrocities - a memorial
to school children burned alive and the shells of destroyed house.
I witnessed the extraordinary capacity for forgiveness as well as the
presence of military checkpoints and heard the stories of terrible
as well as heroic deeds committed by citizens. I was able to hear about
the work of other participants as well as to learn about the work of
NGOs run on a shoestring and the deep desire to do good. If we had
been in the US, most of our Africans participants would not have been
able to afford to come to the training. Best of all, by being in Burundi,
surrounded by Africans, I was able to build life-time friendships which
will allow me to travel and to maintain contacts with this special
group of exceptionally warm and caring people.
The main problem
of the training was that one person from South Kivu did not know
Other participants had said that they would translate
for her, but this did not work out well so she missed a good deal of
the more difficult aspects of the training. The Kenyans complained
that there was not enough ugali, a corn meal mush that is the staple
food in Kenya, while some Americans complained that the food was the
same every day – long ago I realized that the ability to have
different foods each day is a luxury.
Elin Henrysson, Quaker Peace and Social Witness peace worker with
During one of our training sessions, Theoneste Bizimana quoted a saying
that relates to the African philosophy of Ubuntu. He said, “I
am because we are.” This, to me, is where HROC finds her heartbeat.
In his book No Future without Forgiveness, Desmond Tutu explains the
African concept of Ubuntu as follows: “A person with Ubuntu is
open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened
that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance
that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and
is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others
are tortured or oppressed.”
As each group of participants goes back to their home countries and
communities, some to contexts of relentless poverty and war, some to
highly individualized, violent societies, I hope that we take back,
not just new skills, but a sense of Ubuntu. A heart-sense that in the
midst of great suffering we find healing though community with others.
A sense that
I am because you can accept, hold and honor my story.
I am because I can listen to, value and remember your story.
I am because you see the humanity in me and I see the good in you.
I am because I can see that you have suffered, like I have.
I am because we are.
I attended the last day of the training and led the discussion on the
way forward for each group – Kenya, South Kivu, North Kivu, northern
Uganda, and the United States. The next step in the process is for
the newly trained facilitators to apprentice in a number of HROC workshops
with an experienced HROC trainer guiding them. Here are the plans from
the various groups:
Bukavu, South Kivu, Congo - These three participants do peacemaking
work in Bukavu (the main city of South Kivu) and some nearby communities.
They are not well funded so they will have to do workshops that are
low budget with the participants perhaps bringing their own food for
lunch. The HROC program in Burundi will be able to mentor these new
Goma, North Kivu, Congo - The three participants were from World Relief
and their leader, quoted above, is an experienced AVP facilitator,
which is how he learned about the program. Their new fiscal year begins
on October 1, 2011 and they plan on conducting their apprentice workshops
then with help from Theoneste in Rwanda and Zawadi in Goma. Their major
peacemaking activities take place north of Goma in a place called Rutshuru,
an area where conflict was intense and HROC-North Kivu has only held
Northern Uganda - In this area impacted by the brutal Lord’s
Resistance Army, trauma is especially high. Quaker Peace and Social
Witness in England had been working with a group in this area called
Empowering Hands for a number of years. Three members of Empowering
Hands attended and, if they can get support for the apprentice workshops,
the HROC program can send mentors for the workshops.
- Two participants were from Nairobi, where Theoneste has already
introduced the HROC
program. One is the coordinator of the program
who had never taken the training; the second is an HIV+ woman who
wants to use HROC with those who are HIV+. Since the program is ongoing,
there should be no problem developing apprentice workshops. HROC
also been introduced in western Kenya, but one of the two main facilitators
obained a job in Nairobi and a second was hospitalized for over a
month and is still recovering. Consequently there is a need for additional
people who could become lead HROC facilitators.
United States - There
were nine participants from the United States; three came from the
Richmond (VA) Peace Center; and another three came
from Arcadia University near Philadelphia. The final three participants
were from various places.
Richmond, VA -
Two experienced AVP facilitators from the Richmond Peace Center had
taken the HROC manual off the AGLI
webpage and begun conducting
HROC trainings with a peace building organization for African immigrants
from seventeen different countries. Since they have already conducted
some workshops, they are geared up to do more with African immigrants.
I find the international aspect of this African organization to be
unusual; as is their realization that African immigrants have experienced
considerable trauma – usually in the country where they originated
- and definitely in their entry into American society, which, I am
sorry to say, is not always very eager to welcome them.
Philadelphia, PA - The three participants connected to Arcadia University
know each other well (two are married to each other) and already have
plans to conduct apprentice workshops. They indicated numerous sub-groups
in America that could use the training, including the prisons where
AVP is established. One of the members is involved in peace work in
Northern Ireland and, when she is fully trained, would like to introduce
the program there. Her comment was that during the ten years of “peace” in
Northern Ireland the peace has been kept by building more and higher
walls and fences between the groups – hardly what we would consider
hoping that the participants will conduct at least four apprentice
in the next six months. If the trainees do their “homework” of
four apprentice workshops, we will offer the follow-up one-week training
at the Gisenyi Peace Center in Rwanda, perhaps in February 2012. The
lead facilitators will be available as mentors with Theoneste coming
to the United States in October 2011 after the AVP International Gathering
in Guatemala to mentor the newly trained facilitators
recent three-month tour in the United States, I found extensive interest
in HROC training
for the American context. We are also planning
to hold the Second HROC International Training in the United States
from June 13th to 30th , 2012 at the Stony Point Conference Center
north of New York City. In August 2012, we plan to hold the Third
HROC International Training in Gisenyi, Rwanda. We are in the process
working out the details. If you are interested in either one of these
trainings, please contact me at email@example.com.
The HROC training laid to rest my search to understand the visual violence
that took place in the Great Lakes region, especially Burundi. Since
I am on a healing journey myself, I was amazed by how much a community,
so hurt in the past, could reconcile their differences. In addition,
I was elated to hear some of the stories that were told by the members
of the community. Those stories were very soothing and a promise to
the fact that Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities works. After the
training, I felt a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.
Elsie Okpu, Richmond, VA, but originally from the Cameroon.
seven thousand miles in my journey towards peacemaking. Even though
there is enormous need close to home, it was very valuable
for me to spend an extended period in an environment that was hugely
unfamiliar. This helped me to see the common humanity of people around
the globe, which includes people in my own neighborhood. I know I won’t
fully appreciate what I have learned here [in Burundi] until I return
home and our experiences settle into my mind and heart. But I am sure
I am forever changed. Every American should experience Africa or other
developing countries. Many of us simply don’t understand how
difficult life is for an enormous part of our world population. It
will give me a new appreciation of diversity, difference, and of the
service I am expected to embody and practice as a global citizen.
Anne Swoyer, Philadelphia, PA
I am Pastor
Marcel form the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I have work for
World Relief since 2001. During the war, I lost my
who was killed by unknown armed people. I love very much my brother
because he resembled me. It was difficult for people to distinguish
him from me. Since that time I didn’t have any opportunity to
speak about that. It was a wound, a burden in me, but I was able to
share about this for the first time during this HROC basic workshops
in Rutana, Burundi. I felt released by sharing about that traumatic
Pastor Samuel Serubungo, Goma, North Kivu, Congo