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I'm honored to be traveling to Rwanda next month to co-lead a training at a nonprofit that provides support to genocide sexual assault survivors. I have dreamt of volunteering in east Africa since my college years, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring together this personal goal with my passion of my new career in mental health and perhaps even granting space for personal growth and healing in my own life.
During the first part of the trip, I'll become a certified global Mental Health Facilitator, learning from a curriculum developed by the World Health Organization. During the second part, I'll collaborate with local mental health professionals to lead a training designed to provide fundamental helping skills in areas that have limited access to mental health care. I am both thrilled and humbled by this incredible opportunity that has just surfaced in the last few weeks. The trip and the program are oganized by the National Board of Certified Counselors, of which I have been a member as a National Certified Counselor since graduating from UNR graduate school in 2015.
Goals & Intentions
Since I currently work at a local nonprofit to provide therapy to children who have experienced sexual or other types of violence, this trip will directly impact the population I serve back home . I am excited about learning from local Rwanda mental health professionals about their training, philosophies of healing, beliefs in how people change, day-to-day life, and their own existential understanding of human existence and life's meanings. I hope to bring back to our community some of these ideas and inspirations of approaches to healing and both understand our commonalities as well as learn and grow from our differences.
The reality is the trip is expensive, and I work at a nonprofit in a small mountain town with a high cost of living. I will be volunteering my time and paying my own way. I recognize I am asking for financial support when so many of you are already supporting those who have suffered from the fires, hurricanes, other natural disasters, mass shootings, local fundraising events, and other causes you care deeply about supporting. Indeed, there is so much need in our world. This is perhaps what little I can do in a world of perpetual suffering - it is my commitment towards healing and helping others heal. Any amount to support my journey, however small, is greatly appreciated.
More about the trip & Rwanda
During the genocide, thousands of women were targets of sexual violence as a war tactic. Since it remains a social stigma to discuss, the physical and psychological injuries suffered by Rwandan rape survivors can be intensified by a sense of isolation, ostracization, and even guilt for surviving. Our hope is to provide additional, culturally sensitive training to staff who already are working to increase access to mental health and providing the possibility of healing from these unthinkable traumas.
From the reading book list we were provided to prepare for the trip, I have already grown to admire the resiliency of the people of Rwanda after a genocide of almost 1 million people (the total number is not exactly known). Since this widespread loss, the country’s economy has strengthened with subsistence agriculture and its government stabilized with a multi-party democracy under the current president Paul Kagame, who has been elected to leadership starting when the war ended. The complex history of this country is challenging to surmise; if you’re interested further, you can join me in reading the same books:
Kinzer, S. (2008). A thousand hills: Rwanda’s rebirth and the man who dreamed it
Crisafulli, P. & Redmond, A. (2012). Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World
Hatzfeld, J. (2010). The Antelope's Strategy: Living in Rwanda After the Genocide
The approximate cost breakdown of the trip includes ~$5,100 for the program including lodging, basic meals, transportation, wildlife viewing, etc.; ~$2,500 for the international airline tickets; and ~$400 for the mandatory vaccinations and travel visa. Any amount raised above these listed costs will be donated.
Thanks to each of you for being a part of my life and a part of this journey. Your support is deeply appreciated.
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