Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) is a community-based trauma healing approach developed in the African Great Lakes region to help participants examine and discuss the consequences of violence in their lives by bringing together people from opposing sides of conflict.
This three-day workshop focuses on understanding trauma, loss, grief, and mourning, how to deal with the consequences (such as anger, depression, isolation) and rebuilding community trust. HROC includes a basic workshop with a follow-up day and a community celebration, an advanced workshop for healing companions, and healing companions to serve as local outreach workers.
HROC slowly builds trust within the group. It is common for participants to be wary of attending workshops fearing they might be a trap where they will be attacked, sent back to prison, or killed. Through experiential activities and cooperative exercises, participants begin to relax.
There are two Rwandan proverbs that emphasize the importance of speaking out about one’s pain: “The family that does not talk, dies” and “The man who is sick must tell the whole world.” Traditionally Rwandans and Burundians talk about their losses and talk through their grief with family and neighbors. Broken trust and dismantled families have impeded that intuitive process of healing, but it is widely accepted in the cultures here as an important step in the journey toward healing.
In the workshops a forum is created for participants to pay tribute to their losses and to share their grief with others. This process helps to humanize the “other” thereby laying the foundation for the third and final stage, “Reconnection.” Many program participants report having felt very isolated in their grief and their reactions to the trauma they have experienced. The workshops become an important first step in realizing that they are not alone. Those who seek the second level of training to become healing companions begin to see how they can use their own painful experiences to help others.
Key Elements of a HROC Workshop
HROC believes that in every person, there is something good. This is a radical notion in societies where most members have witnessed neighbors and even family members committing gruesome acts of violence.
The program is based on the belief that each person and society has the inner capacity to heal, and an inherent intuition of how to recover from trauma. Healing from trauma requires that a person’s inner good and wisdom is sought and shared with others. It is through this effort that trust can begin to be restored.
Both victims and perpetrators of violence experience trauma and its after-effects.
The violence in Rwanda and Burundi was experienced at both a personal and community level. Therefore, efforts to heal and rebuild the country must also happen at both the individual and community level.
Healing from trauma and building peace between groups are deeply connected; it is not possible to successfully do one without the other. Trauma healing and peace building efforts must happen simultaneously.