Dear Family and Friends,
This email may be the first some of you hear that I am going to DR Congo for 2 weeks this spring to treat trauma in women and children whose lives have been devastated by war. I apologize for not telling you in person, but the project formed quickly, and I thought this the best way before things develop even more.
I’ll be working through the Buhavu Women’s Trauma Healing and Care Center in the Great Lakes region of eastern Congo. As paramilitary forces continue to fight in the northern provinces around Goma, refugees flee south to Buhavu. As many as 375,000 people have been displaced in the past year, at least 160,000 since October, 2007. The sexual violence and brutality against women there is the worst in the world.
But there is some good news. In December, a large rally was held in Buhavu to protest these atrocities. Hundreds of women and girls marched through the streets demanding an end to sexual violence, culminating in a rally at the Panzi Hospital where many of the victims are treated. Just having the rally is a huge coup, since rape has tacit approval there, the government not until now even acknowledging that it is a problem.
I thought you might want to see the photos of this demonstration, since they capture the spirit of these amazingly resilient women and girls. http://ga4.org/ct/Np_A5V71kmok/gallery>
Development of the Buhavu Women’s Center is being coordinated from abroad by a number of people, who volunteer their time as I do. The Center is not yet connected with any large or small charitable organizations as it just opened its doors in August, 2007.
I recently spoke at length with two gentlemen (both named Kevin) who were in Buhavu before Christmas. The elder Kevin was sponsored by World Mission; he and 14 other men and women spent 3 weeks building a hospital in Nygazie. The younger Kevin is a Harvard student into microfinancing who is helping the women create sustainable income sources. Both were extremely helpful telling me to what to expect and how I could be of most service. Their main points were:
1) I will be safe in the big cities where I plan to go (Buhavu and Bujumbura).
2) NGOs working in the field have little or no trauma training (woefully lack therapeutic skills).
3) The women will benefit greatly from trauma therapy and training, as well as learning how to support one other.
4) The vision of what I want to accomplish is right on target.
5) Drink lots of bottled water, bring dollars, and don't carry expensive electronic equipment (video camera, laptop, ipod, digital).
6) Take some nice clothes since they dress up in Africa!
No doubt some of you are wondering why I’m doing this. Simply put, I’m going to Congo because I have been called forth, not in a Christian sense, but morally . . . and because I can at this time in my life. My heart breaks to know these women are raped and tortured, then left to fend for themselves, traumatized and alone. The secondary trauma of having nowhere to live and no way to feed their children is as bad as the initial trauma. They wonder why no one from the west comes to help them.
I learned a trauma therapy process named Holographic Memory Resolution (HMR) about 10 years ago and, ever since, have wanted to use it to help women who are victims of war. It’s a body-centered technique that changes the emotional charge of a memory—works great, is the most effective therapy tool I’ve learned in 30 years. It’s also simple to teach and easy to learn, an excellent way to help these women remember that part of them that walks in beauty and loves to dance, the part that can never be defiled.
It is my belief that women in the Congo are no different than women everywhere. It is my great hope that learning about these profoundly disturbing events will awaken a “fierce compassion” in you to take a stand against them, as it has me. We must remember that every action we take, large or small, makes a difference to every other living creature on the planet.
It is entirely possible that by working together to stop violence we can expand consciousness to a critical mass, shifting from a culture of world violence to one of peace. I want nothing less than an end to violence against women and children worldwide. Working collectively as an international community, we have the power to do that. We have the power to change the world.
So I’ll be leaving mid-March, staying with my dear friend Jose Maria in Madrid on my way to and from the Congo.
I whole-heartedly encourage anyone interested in this project to get involved, as you feel moved. I’m attempting to blog this trip, so hopefully you can follow along. I welcome your thoughts and feedback. Always.
With love and gratitude,