In 1994, during a period of only 100 days, over one million people were brutally murdered during the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The horror of the genocide was intensified by the fact that the crimes were perpetrated by people the victims knew and trusted—their neighbors, friends, and family members. The end of the violence in July of 1994 presented the newly established government with an inconceivable challenge—how could the country and its citizens heal and overcome the trauma caused by the genocide? The healing process for a collective trauma is long and complicated—individuals have to come to terms with their own trauma and manage the physical, social, and emotional pain they have experienced, and society has to heal and re-create constructive ideologies and harmonious relationships. These issues are at the heart of an AHRC-funded research project at the University of Nottingham—The Rwandan Stories of Change Project. Principal investigator Dr. Nicki Hitchcott and her team members Professor Stephen Joseph and Dr. Laura Blackie have partnered with the Aegis Trust to analyse the testimonies of survivors and perpetrators for signs of psychological and social adjustment.

This month, the team welcomed Dr. Laura Apol from Michigan State University to talk about her role in facilitating the healing process among survivors. In 2005, Laura first traveled to Rwanda to lead a series of therapeutic writing workshops with high-school age survivors. Laura’s experience reaffirmed her faith in the healing power of writing. She witnessed survivors use their poetry to work through questions, struggles, anger, and loss. The experience was so inspiring that Laura wrote her own poetry to understand what she had witnessed, and to try and inspire readers and listeners into social action.

For more information, check out our website and follow us on Twitter @RwandanSOChange

If you are in the U.K., please join us to hear Laura present on the writing-to-heal project on 16 November at 5 PM – A11 Highfield House, University Park, Nottingam.

Or catch Laura on 17 November at 7 PM at Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham, to listen to her latest collection of poetry: Requiem, Rwanda.

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