VILLAGE-URUGWIRO-A group of postgraduate students from New York-based Long Island University yesterday paid a courtesy call on President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro to get a first hand account of the country’s reconciliation and development path.
The Master’s students in Counselling and Development, led by Dr. June Smith, discussed with President Kagame, among other things, the country’s recovery from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and forging a development path that has put it where it is today.
In an interview with the press, Dr. Smith said that this is the second group of students from the American university, the first group having travelled to Rwanda last year, and that the experiences they take from Rwanda go a long way in facilitating their studies.
“We have an opportunity to come to Rwanda. This is the second group consisting of 17 students. Last year, we had another group of 20 students. They had such a wonderful story to tell,” Dr. Smith said.
“They went back and shared awesome stories with fellow students. This group came to see for themselves and experience the warmth and beauty of Rwanda and Rwandans”.
Smith said that the group of mental therapists also came into the country to form a partnership with Kigali Health Institute (KHI) to provide training and support to mental health centres and clinics across the country.
“Our goal is that we will assist in staff development and in creating opportunities in internships and all the other possibilities that exist. This is a sustainable relationship and we are very thrilled,” Dr Smith said.
“We had an opportunity to meet President Paul Kagame and we are totally inspired by his vision, his accomplishments, having an experience of the trauma this country has gone through. We have learnt the resilience that people can have and we are looking forward to take this message back to America,” she added
In an interview with the press, Jarret Rubin, a mental health and counselling student, said that from his interaction with the Head of State, he managed to learn a lot that will benefit his studies.
“As a whole, we got to learn what the President thinks of this country and his vision and how he wants everyone to have the same opportunities, the same benefits and that’s the driving force behind this progress,” said Nicole Tucek, another student.
The students were amazed by the country’s all inclusive approach where everyone plays a role in the development process and shares the benefits equally, something they said is impressive.
According to the Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, the group came to Rwanda to have a first-hand experience of the country’s development process and how it managed to overcome challenges to be where it is today.
She noted that the University will enter into an understanding with local universities to support counselling and mental health education in Rwanda.
“We are going to work together to set up a centre of excellence for counselling that will be part of the bigger education we have for mental health,” the minister revealed.
“Today we have A1 nurses, we have clinical psychologists, we are soon going to have a postgraduate program for psychiatrists and we also have all the training of trainers from the community at all referral hospitals”.
Dr. Binagwaho said that the projects are part of the bigger government program to provide better mental health care to the population.
She noted that a survey carried out by a renowned international expert, shows that 30 percent of Rwandans require mental health services.