My name is Ngambe. I am 46 years old. I live in Bugesera district. During the genocide, I lost almost all my family members. I used to volunteer at the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission in the counseling and reconciliation program at community level. Then, Duhumurizanye Iwacu Rwanda (DIR) and some local leaders asked me whether I was interested in becoming a sociotherapist. I was happy that the local administration chose me for this program. I accepted.
I must admit that in the beginning I did not take the program seriously as it was my first time to hear about it. Gradually, I started to take it more serious. When we were practicing sociotherapy in small groups, one of the trainees shared her experiences during the genocide with us. I carefully listened to her. Her story made a very big impact on me. In my mind I went back to 1994, and for two hours I was thinking about the genocide and my personal experiences. I tried to get rid of these thoughts, but without success. As the Executive secretary of my cell knew I suffered from trauma crisis, he phoned me asking how the training was going. I admitted to him it was not easy. When we started facilitating socio-groups, I felt tears coming up when people shared their experiences. The colleague with whom I was facilitating the groups had the same problem. In order to control my emotions and to avoid crying in front of the group, I introduced a game. From then on, I managed to better control my emotions.
The different sociotherapy participants and the DIR staff empowered and strengthened me mentally. For a long time I had been haunted by memories of the genocide. When I heard commemoration songs, I felt as if I was dying. Throughout the whole commemoration period I could not talk at all. My voice disappeared. However, since sociotherapy I am able to talk again during that period. Apart from my improved mental health, my economic situation advanced. I managed to buy three goats. Later I sold one, so I could pay for mutual health insurance. I can now pay for the school fees of my child and for electricity at my house. People now regularly come to my house to watch football.My empowerment, the enhancement of my economic situation and the trust the local population now has in me, I owe all to sociotherapy.
It is not only me who has experienced a big change. After sociotherapy, some survivors approached perpetrators and informed them that they forgave them for their wrongdoings. Young people that used to be in conflict with each other have now reconciled.Three women that were married to the same husband are now great friends, while previously they always fought. Most of the people who went through sociotherapy are trusted in the community, while some have been elected as local leaders. They help to identify and solve problems. Finally, sociotherapy has improved people economic situation. People that used to be beggars now rent a field to grow tomatoes. Others have started saving associations, and again others engage in small trading. People have changed significantly. It may be our leaders that are the greatest witnesses of the change that sociotherapy has brought about in peoples’ lives.