The project was launched one month ago in Mbyo Village of Unity and Reconciliation located in Bugesera district.
The village accommodates perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, survivors and other Rwandans that lived inside and outside the country before and during the Genocide.
The societal healing program is a joint project between Rwanda and the European Union, implemented by Prison Fellowship Rwanda through Inter Peace, an international organization purposed to strive for durable peace.
Under the project, residents resettled in the village were brought together to form different groups involved in different income generating activities namely ; handcrafts of making pointed baskets, growing tomatoes and vegetables among others.
As they do daily activities, residents dedicate specific time for discussions to reflect on the past and tell the truth which helps to heal wounds.
It also is a moment for perpetrators to ask forgiveness and survivors to pardon offenders to promote unity and reconciliation as they continue to move together along their business growth.
The Chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Bishop John Rucyahana has said that the project is meant to promote efforts to heal wounds of Genocide.
“It is a new approach to heal wounds and engaging in profitable businesses at the same time. People have understood the relevance of such activities that we are running quite a number of vivid projects. We also involve the youth and have optimism that these activities will continue contributing to the healing process and improved wellbeing as well,” he said.
Rucyahana explained that the project is expected to reduce trauma, promote unity and reconciliation.
“These groups help to heal wounds because members interact and heal each other through their discussions at work. Besides, they share fruits of their work and make future plans together. It is a powerful medicine soothing their hearts to continue living, working together and discuss the dark past whereby offenders can repent, apologize as they move on with life,” he said.
The mayor of Bugesera district, Richard Mutabazi said that the initiative helps residents to live in harmony and consolidate gains in unity and reconciliation.
“This project came in handy to reinforce Rwandans’ efforts to uphold unity and understand that peace is attained through sitting together to reach common ground and go beyond to do income generating activities,” he said.
“Whatever we do, building infrastructures, peace and security cannot not last long when people turn against each other. Unity is a strong foundation upon which the sustainability of our achievements relies,” added Mutabazi.
Residents who received seed funding to implement their projects revealed that these initiatives not only give hope to spur economic growth but also help them to stand united.
Hilarie Niyongira, is a resident of Byimana village, Kimaranzara cell of Ririma sector.
She would often get isolated in the society and called ‘Interahamwe’ because her father’s role in Genocide.
“I grew up with stigma because neighbors used to call me Interahamwe but I have been integrated in the society that I live without isolation,” she said.
The management of Prison Fellowship Rwanda has revealed that the program will be extended countrywide depending on available means.
Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR) is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the government of Rwanda and its relevant agencies, local and international organisations as well as UN agencies to foster interventions that support psycho-social healing, peace building and reconciliation, restorative justice, crime prevention, human rights promotion and legal aid, intervening in emergencies as well as nurturing socio-economic empowerment in Rwanda in the wake of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and its aftermath.
Prison Fellowship Rwanda was founded on 01st July 1995, affiliated to the Prison Fellowship International in 1997. It was officially registered and recognized by the ministerial order no 037/17, of 23/10/2002, by the Ministry of Justice as a non- profit organization, published in the official gazette of the Republic of Rwanda in 2002.
Since 2014, Prison Fellowship Rwanda in partnership with Prison Fellowship International (PFI) have been supporting the children of prisoners by providing services and activities which meet the four most vital needs of children, namely education, safety, health, and spiritual engagement. A new and innovative program was launched in July 2021 as a result of seven years of field experience, and best practices developed to meet the needs of children with incarcerated parents through the implementation of the program entitled ‘The Child’s Journey’.
The program pairs each enrolled child with a trained Caseworker.