28 Nov 2016
Surviving the Rwandan genocide: "Now there is hope in our life again"

I was six years old when my family was murdered. I was in my first year of school, and everyone was afraid. When the killers came we hid under a bridge. My mother had my sister on her back and said she was going to get food for us. I stayed under the bridge with my grandmother and other siblings. When my mother came back to bring food, the killers saw her and butchered her with machetes in front of us. My little sister survived

Surviving the Rwandan genocide:

“During the night we searched for grass and covered my mother with it to say goodbye. We went to the church and found other family members, including my father.

“When we were travelling through Musambira the killers came back. They took my father and started to beat him. Others were beaten too and then they started killing everyone with machetes. There was blood everywhere. The biggest problem, even now, is that I have never found the corpse of my father. My four brothers and sisters, my aunt and my grandmother survived.

“When the genocide was over, we went back to the village. Everything was destroyed. There was someone who took pity on us and took us in his house. I went back to school but everything was so difficult. I was 12 when my grandmother died and as I was the oldest of my siblings, I became the head of the household.

“In 2010, I got to know Uyisenga Ni Imanzi through other orphans who were in an association. I travelled to Kigali and asked the Director of Uyisenga Ni Imanzi to create an association for us.

“In my village there were 15 families like mine, where children were the head of household. We got together and started a bee-keeping project. In 2012 and 2013, Uyisenga Ni Imanzi gave us two million Rwandan Francs and trained us in bee-keeping and how to use sewing machines. With our profits, we bought a piece of land with trees. My brothers and sisters could all go to school, and we had enough food every day.

“Uyisenga Ni Imanzi divided us in little groups: discussion groups, cooperatives and involved us in other projects. Before Uyisenga Ni Imanzi came, I had so many problems in my head. During the social counselling sessions I cried, I laughed, I danced… I cannot find the words to say what Uyisenga Ni Imanzi did for me. I thank God.

“One brother is at university and is studying journalism. My little sister who survived on the back of my mother got married recently. Before Uyisenga Ni Imanzi came I was disgusted with everything and didn’t think that life could go on. I thought that I was dead. But now there is hope in our life again. Now that my brothers and sisters don’t depend on me anymore, I hope that I can start my own studies and get married. But I know that whatever I do, I can always come to Uyisenga Ni Imanzi, that their door is open, and they will be here and always ready to listen and help me.

J.I., 26 years old, Kamonyi, Southern Province, Rwanda

In 100 days, over 800,000 people were killed for being part of a different ethnic community. On numbers and timescale alone, the 1994 Rwandan genocide remains the largest of modern times. Since then, local IRCT member Uyisenga Ni Imanzi has helped many victims of the genocide, particularly orphans like J.I.

"Mental health practitioners in general can convey to others stories and knowledge in such a way that the listener can identify with the torture victims."

- Dr. Karen Hanscom

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