People who were a problem in our community before have now become the solution to the problems of others. (umudugudu leader)
The 9th of February 2016 the sociotherapy program in Muhanga District was honored to receive the Ambassador Frédérique de Man of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Rwanda and Mr. Pim Wientjes in charge of Political Affairs of the same Embassy. The day was filled with memorable events: an enlightening meeting with sociotherapists, a conviviality meeting and a quick but edifying glimpse to some sociotherapy groups operating in Muhanga District.
The journey of the delegation accompanied by CBSP staff started in Shyogwe sector. On the site we met some of the sociotherapists facilitating groups in that sector. They provided rich answers to the questions asked by the Ambassador Frédérique de Man – questions which included what motivated them to join sociotherapy, what they see as the main challenges they encounter in their work, their view on the problems they help to address and what according to them has been accomplished so far by sociotherapy. For example, they shared that what motivated them was the necessity to restore the good relationships that once existed among neighbors and their drive to contribute to that, as they had noticed the increase of problems and conflicts in their communities. Subsequently they were given the opportunity to ask their own questions to the Ambassador. For example, how she sees the difference between the wars in Rwanda and in Mozambique, a country where she worked before she came to Rwanda six months ago.
During a deserved break in which a representative of the district, one of the military and one of the police force joined us. Each of them shared his reflection on what sociotherapy means to them and what they hope will be accomplished.
The delegation then attended a conviviality meeting in Kibangu sector. In a mixture of testimonies and speeches, we walked with the sociotherapy graduates through their past lives and heard about the efforts they are making to improve their quality of life. One woman, for instance, who suffered from serious depression due to rejection, narrated that she is now a proud owner of two motorbikes and hopes to buy a mini bus in the near future. “I have a brighter vision of my future thanks to sociotherapy”, she stated. Another graduate (a man who was recently released from prison) narrated, “Sociotherapy made me a better person, I asked forgiveness from those I hurt and I was forgiven; now we live together and share everything".
In her speech the Ambassador said that in the past six months she has spent in Rwanda she experienced firsthand how not sharing one’s pain leads to social isolation and loneliness. She wished the graduates prosperity and encouraged them to hold onto their hope for a better future. The Ambassador also expressed her happiness about the support her country the Netherlands provides to CBSP and the pleasure of being among them.
Local authorities took the floor to acknowledge the positive change they witnessed in their community due to sociotherapy and thanked those who brought the program in their respective coummunities.
On the way back to Kigali we paid a short visit to sociotherapy groups operating in Rugendabari and Mushishiro sectors. “Sociotherapy is helping us to reintegrate into society, it helps us to understand those who accused us and learn to forgive them”, said one of the participants (an ex-prisoner) who was recently rehabilitated.
All in all it was a journey full of discoveries and admiration for the people who came from so far and now experience a significant increase in their psychosocial wellbeing as a result of their participation in the group-therapy process. They were able to (re-)connect with others in their community, which resulted in impressive income-generating initiatives that the groups themselves had started.