From drinking to investing: A change of mind, a change in life

20 april 2017

My name is Vincent. I am 57 years old. I am married, and together with my wife I have three children. From 1995 to 2010 I was imprisoned because of my role during the genocide. My initial sentence was longer, but it got reduced as I confessed in the Gacaca courts. 


Rejoining the community after my imprisonment was very tough. I was very angry at my fellow community members, especially at the survivors who had testified against me in Gacaca. I had wanted them to keep silent about my crimes during the genocide. As a result, I could not speak with these persons. Also, I used to think that whoever was talking with or about me only saw me in the light of the evil that I had done. In addition, my wife and my children mistrusted me because of the crimes I had committed during the genocide. Knowing how immoral I had been that time, made it very difficult for them to trust me again. Also, in conversations with me they used to avoid any subject that could possibly frustrate me, out of fear that I would become angry or aggressive again. 


My past experiences made me not talk smoothly to anyone. In this way, I tried to avoid that they would ask me questions about my past. I had no peace of mind. I started drinking alcohol in order to comfort myself. Eventually alcohol became my best friend. Instead of waking up and going to work, I went to the bar and stayed there until late at night. WhenI came home afterwards, my wife and I always used to fight with each other. We not only fought because I was drunk, but also because my wife was very aggressive. I assume her aggressiveness was a strategy to protect herself from my insolence and my violent behavior. The two of us would not last a week without fighting. As a result, I was detained by the police multiple times. The whole situation very much affected us economically. My wife was the only breadwinner, while I spent most of our money on drinking. I could not support my family in any way; I could not even buy a small domestic animal. 


When I was invited to attend sociotherapy, I hesitated to participate. I decided to join only to see what was going on there. Initially, I attended the sociotherapy sessions being drunk, but after passing the phase of safety and trust I started to change. I shared my experiences with my fellow sociotherapy participants. I learned a lot from their experiences and their advice, and I decided to change my behavior and my family life. I learned to love my family and to take care of them. Although my wife is still a drunkard, I now know how to deal with her behavior. 



Sociotherapy opened my mind and enabled me to support my family economically. After finishing the fifteen weeks of sociotherapy sessions, we decided as a group to start a saving cooperative. I borrowed money from that joint savings so that I could buy a pig.This allows my family to fertilize our land and to increase food production at home. In addition, I and my wife make decisions jointly. Whenever I earn or borrow some money for example, we discuss together how we can best use it. For instance, we decided to save money to buy a solar energy system. We used to live in the dark at night as we did not have electricity, but now we do not have to live in the darkness any longer. In addition, sociotherapy helped me to understand the relevance of paying mutual health insurance for me and my family. Before, I had never paid for it. Because of hurting each other in these fights, my son had to pay 30.000 RwF for health care. Now I pay for my medical insurance.


Another benefit of sociotherapy is that other family members who had rejected me previously because of my misbehavior started to approach me again. Especially the relationship with my children improved significantly. They did not trust nor respect me because of the frequent fights I had with their mother. They thought that our family could not develop well because of my misbehavior. Two of my children are married and moved out of the house, but the third one still lives at our house. I could never really interact much with my children-in-law, as they did not trust me either. However, since I started changing, they trust me again. My son-in-law was very happy with my positive change. He decided to give me a traditional cow to support my progress. Before sociotherapy, no one could give us a cow as they did not trust us because of our bad manners. Now, my family has got enough money for our plot. Therefore, our agricultural productivity increased. If things go well, I will buy a modern cow a few years from now.