My experiences during the field visit I had on 23rd March in Muhanga District, Nyarusange sector was another opportunity to understand the value local leaders give to sociotherapy program. The program has been working with local leaders since 2014 and from my observation their commitment shows how much the community is benefiting from the program. During this informal visit, about which the local leaders were not informed, I appreciated the comments I got from them in the one-hour-round-table I had with them. Though they were not informed before about my visit, and despite their busy schedules, the Executive Secretary of the sector organized a meeting where he invited the Social Affairs Officer, the Finance and Administration Officer, I and himself to discuss how the program outcomes and activities can be sustained.
PICTURE 1: The social affairs Officer of Nyarusange sector helping sociotherapy graduates to mulch pineapple plantation
The discussions in the meeting indicated that they much appreciated the achievements of sociotherapy. “The program has reduced the level of social mistrust, increased solidarity and reconciliation, which fueled economic development” one of the local leaders said. They added that though sociotherapy has achieved a lot, genocide ideology and hatred among citizens are still observed which encouraged them to recommend that the program should continue since it is difficult for them to deal with some reported problems. “There is a problem I dealt with for seven months and I failed because we used to look at it in its very superficial picture. There are some rooms people do not open for us. They perceive us as people who make decisions for them, not as healers.” a leader stated. In that meeting, where the ownership of the program was discussed, they said that the advisory committee of the sector recommended that sociotherapists should remain agents of social change and should continuously support the community’s initiatives of conflict resolution. They finally recommended that if leaders get opportunity to go through sociotherapy, it can not only help them in the healing process but also equip them with skills and better understanding on the program which can facilitate the follow up of groups of graduates and new groups by leaders.
PICTURE 2:One of the group members took us to another plantation
After the meeting I had with local leaders, I visited a group of sociotherapy graduates which has initiated an income generating activity after fifteen weeks in sociotherapy. The group is called “Abadatezuka ku murimo (these who never give-up)”. By the name itself one can question where they got energy from but when they narrate stories about changes from sociotherapy, the name makes sense. The group has 17 members with different historical backgrounds, 11 of them participated directly from sociotherapy and 6 others benefited indirectly by being linked to participants and decided to join the group. As the social affairs officer was interested to visit the group, he postponed other commitments he had, and went with me to the field. We visited two impressive local plantations of pineapples grown by the group and we joined them in the mulching activity they had planned that day. They meet every Thursday for that kind of activity and after working in their plantation, they share personal experiences, their joys and difficulties of their lives. The social affairs officer encouraged them to stay cohesive and to not forget the past. “We need to remember where we came from and the steps forward we made due to sociotherapy, which have made it possible to be working together in the pineapple plantation today. When peace is achieved in our families, the development is possible.” The social affairs Officer told them.