History has taught that silence does not heal; it only breeds distrust and despair.
The tone of his voice was heavy with conviction almost close to emotion, he spoke with a slight shudder but the words came out so clearly and you could tell that what he was speaking came from his heart to a person who is close to his heart.
The facilitators and the recording crew were attentively listening and the whole process went on effortlessly, with the expression on his face you could see that Augustin Kajuga was breaking free from the culture of silence which had gripped him for long and was now telling his son Ignace Nkurukiyimana a story of his life and a story of his heart courtesy of Stories for Hope Rwanda.
When Patricia Pasick a trained psychologist, visited Rwanda in 2006 and observed the Rwandan history and all the efforts people are involved to heal from the cruel past, she decided to come up with an initiative as part of her contribution to the process.
Stories for hope, embraces the approach of story telling as a way of healing from the past and forging a positive way forward, it brings together the old and young in story telling sessions where the young listen to stories from their elders with an intention of positively positioning their lives.
The stories told cut across various aspects of life which feature as the vast good and bad experiences encountered by a person right from childhood to adulthood, listening to one of the stories I was reminded of a documentary on Elvis Presley’s life and exploits which I had recently watched on TV.
Like Elvis’s documentary, the story was packaged with the highs and lows of Kajuga’s life right from childhood up to when he was old enough.
The essence of story telling in this case is to loosen up social relations in Rwanda such that elders open up to their children, neighbors to talk to each other significantly in a cross generational setting because the elders have a lot of wisdom and experiences which can give proper guidance to the young.
In an interview with Patricia, she revealed that the project is about bringing together the elders and the youth through story telling.
“Our method is called narrative psychology which emphasizes the importance of stories, special qualities and strength of people, which are manifested in their stories.”
She added that in her analysis of Rwanda’s past, she stumbled onto a problem of silence “elders want to protect the young from what happened in the genocide and the young also don’t want to freshen the pains of what they went through by reminding the old of their cruel past, so they end up not talking about the past at all” she added
She observed that this does not heal but ferments the realities, it is out of coming out and talk about it that the pain will slowly go away.
Stories of hope has so far conducted over 50 story telling sessions and these stories and there has been a significant change in the behavioral patterns and relations between the givers of the stories and the recipients.
This initiative is based on a premise that unless one knows where they are from, they cannot know where they are going and many have people involved in this have changed in their perceptions of life.
“Hearing about my fathers struggles and dreams settles me and brings new determination to work hard and achieve my goals, how else would I ever know this if not for this session” pointed Nkurikiyimana
He narrated that ever since his father broken free and told him how his real parents died, how he survived the genocide and all that he has gone through in his life, their relations have changed.
“There is always a happy and open flair in our home ever since my uncle told me his story, I feel more bonded to him and his life experiences have given fresh energy and lessons on how to live responsibly and productively” added the stern faced Nkurikiyimana.
This arrangement coincides with a Kinyarwanda proverb which says “utaraganiriye nase ntamenya icyo sekuru yasize avuze” translated as a child who does not talk with the father can never know what was said by the grandfather.
The benefits of story telling are two way, the teller gets relieved of the long-held secrets and the listener learns the cultural realities and background of his family, not mentioning getting clues on how the elder must have overcome the various life challenges in his or her life.
There are other stories which are hard to tell like telling your child that he or she was born out of rape but through psychological preparations which can be offered by stories of hope these stories can be told and they at least give strength for both of the victims to fight together in counteracting the aftermath.