Becky Resnick is a volunteer with The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF) who lives in Seattle, Washington. She recently helped facilitate the first Peace Education Program (PEP) in Rwanda. Here is her story:
I traveled to Rwanda for the first time in the fall of 2014 to do some volunteer work and have made two return trips since then. Rwanda is a small country in east central Africa about the size of the state of Maryland, widely remembered for the horrific genocide of 1994, when 750,000 to one million people were killed in a span of only 100 days.
Now, just over 20 years later, much of the nation remains gripped by poverty, AIDS, and loss. What has drawn me back to this place, however, is that despite such deep and pervasive trauma, every person I’ve met has also expressed a strong sense of hope and healing. It’s touched me more deeply than words can express.
Just as I was planning to return to the country, I heard that a Rwandan woman named Diane Mushimiyimana had organized a pilot PEP through RICAD Rwanda, an NGO she formed to improve local communities. I was so happy when a friend put us in touch and she invited me to help her as a volunteer PEP facilitator.
Diane is a native Rwandan and, like other members of the RICAD team, is a professional journalist with connections to many movers and shakers in the country. She secured a commitment from a secondary school in the town of Kigali to host the inaugural PEP. I helped by raising nearly US$1,000 in just a few weeks via an Indiegogo fundraising tribute to purchase the audio-visual equipment and materials needed to offer the multimedia course to hundreds of students.
When I landed in Rwanda, I was immediately struck by the amazing enthusiasm Diane and the entire RICAD team had about PEP. One organizer travelled about four hours each way from his home just to be at one of our planning meetings.
The first session got off to a slow start. The school didn’t have an adapter we needed for the sound system to work, so the class was delayed while we tracked one down. When we tested the DVD player, smoke poured out of it, so we ended up using a laptop. The image from the projector was very dim because we couldn’t completely darken the room, and the sound system produced pops and crackles. But despite those technical glitches, approximately 250 students from the upper grades at the school filled the room, listened intently to the message, and were actively engaged in the reflection times.
I was completely blown away by how well PEP was received. After the first class, I could not believe how many participants came up to me to thank me, ask questions, and express how much they enjoyed it. Participants remained enthusiastic as all 10 PEP workshops were conducted over the course of the next five days. We offered them on an accelerated schedule because the students were due to take a two-month holiday break.
Journalists from several magazines, radio stations, and a TV station also interviewed me about PEP. So almost the entire Kigali region probably ended up becoming aware of PEP through their reports.
The course culminated with a heartwarming celebration of everyone’s participation, and we received inspiring feedback. Here are a few samples of what participants had to say about the impact of the course:
This program is good, and it has been a pleasure to take a voyage into myself, discovering myself truly.
This program is so helpful. I wish that it could be offered in all Rwandan schools.
This program is really special. I enjoyed it very much because it helps me feel peace inside myself.
All of Rwanda and all of Africa needs this. My life was transformed!