Bio: Robbie is the director of refugee ministry for International Teams Rwanda working to improve education in Kiziba refugee camp. He enjoys reading, walking in nature and playing card games with his wife.
For almost two years I have been working alongside a community of incredible people. They are refugees from DRC, hidden in a camp of thousands high on a hill near Lake Kivu’s eastern shores. On a clear day you can see the hilly farther coast of Congo, once their home.
I say these people are incredible because they are choosing to look beyond their brutal pasts and strive for a future of hope and promise. As one of my friends there says, “We are refugees, but we are not useless.” And so I help as they are developing education in the camp. They work for those young and old who want to learn and improve themselves and to reach those young and old who are heavy with apathy and hopelessness.
As we work together I hear pieces of their stories, where they came from, what happened that forced them to flee. They are rough stories; rape, lost family members, leaving people behind to certain death, some who still don’t know if their families are alive or dead. While I don’t sit down and do counseling with them, when hearing their stories I think often of the tools and skills gained when taking the Live Again course. I have to listen and I have to be there as they process through the thoughts and emotions. And somehow after the story is told and all the hard feelings are still floating around in the room like a lazy snow, I need to help gather the pieces with them. These moments of honesty from my refugee friends are hard sometimes, and I doubt and don’t always know what to do or how to respond, but they are open with me and I with them and through such conversations our friendships grow.
We have started a project in which the refugees will tell their stories and I will write them down. These are also not counseling sessions, but they are always more than just someone telling a story. There is much to be processed.
Looking back on the counseling course, on those sorts of heavy conversations, I am glad for the awareness of how counselors work and the need for people to be able to let another human really hear them. As the refugee camp is a small city of people with these kinds of stories, we are working towards bringing counseling training for the refugees to be able to counsel each other. Through education and listening we believe we can offer something for all beyond the hopelessness of the refugee camp.