Often, when someone from the global north asks what Network for Africa does, we are told, with a wistful smile, that people in Europe and America could also benefit from the services we offer. This is true now, during the pandemic, more than ever.
We train people in Africa, living in difficult circumstances, with simple ways to manage their stress and trauma. Never has our support been more needed, particularly in Rwanda, as local women struggle to care for their families during the lockdown.
Moving to Telephone Consultations – Increase in Numbers Seeking Support
Our partner in Rwanda, SURF, provides trauma counselling to genocide survivors. During the pandemic the counselling sessions have moved from group therapy to telephone consultations. Everyone has adapted well, but there has been a noticeable increase in the number of women seeking our support.
Any parents of young children reading this will probably identify with the toll it takes, shouldering the extra burden of keeping cooped up youngsters entertained. Add to this the need to also take care of your elderly relatives, all under the same roof, as is the way in traditional societies. And then bear in mind that many Africans in cities live in cramped conditions, where the threat of infection is a clear and present danger. There may be additional family stress because the main breadwinner is unable to go out to work.
On top of all this is the ever-present trauma of being a genocide survivor, and still living in the country where the genocide happened. Unhappy memories are triggered by the strange atmosphere during lockdown: security services patrolling empty streets; people fearful about the future; confusion and misinformation. That is why it is so important to have a counsellor at the end of the phone, knowing you are not alone.
Our Counselling Provides Real Value
These are messages we received from three Rwandan women – all survivors – who have taken part in our counselling programme:
After the genocide I was not able to think about my life, I felt useless in this world, and I was praying to God to take my life. I was surprised to see people taking care of my needs, thoughtful acts of visiting me and giving me a solar light. I feel that all people are not bad. I am so happy to see people who care about me.
I have joy, strength and peace in my heart, I am so thankful for a cow I received from SURF the gift means a lot for me, having a cow is a big deal because my father used to say that a home with a cow is a complete home. The cow is important to me because it reminds me of my parents and siblings. It brings joy to me.
My thinking was that after losing my family no one else will take care of me, but something has changed into positive way as SURF brought us back in the community where we meet and share our problems with my colleagues, now I have a new family and feel loved.
Expanded Programmes Come at an Expanded Cost
Thank you for helping us provide this essential support and counselling at such a challenging time. Your help is making an enormous difference in the lives of people far away, whom you may never meet, but who share the same anxieties about the current situation.Help Support Our Counselling Programme