How a Small Man with a Large Dream and a Large Heart Helped Change His Country
“Come and help us—we need you to come,” the voice on the phone demanded. Alone in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, I was taken aback. I was leaving Kigali in two days. “We will send a car for you,” came the voice at the other end. “Wait! Who are you?” “I am Father JMV from the Diocese of Byumba. You trained a Brother who teaches up here when you taught the tapping in Kigali. You must come.”
I couldn’t give in to this demanding priest on this trip, but I never guessed then what good would eventually come from this initial, unsolicited phone call. Father John Marie Vianney (JMV) remained persistent and it payed off. In 2009, a TFT trauma relief team was sent to Nyinawimana Parish in Byumba, a rural sustenance farming area in the Northern Province. The rest is history.
By the time our team departed Rwanda, we had our second random controlled energy psychology study, thanks to the superb organization of this beloved, five-foot-tall priest.
It was also, thanks to this determined leader, the beginnings of the Izere TFT Center. By the time we left, this newly formed TFT Center was staffed full-time by a newly trained Rwandan clinical psychologist who was soon joined by a half-time TFT clinical social worker. The original office was tiny, but their work was powerful. These dedicated workers continue to serve the people of the Northern Province to this day, their salaries being paid for by the TFT Foundation, headed by Joanne Callahan.
Other trained Rwandan therapists join the Izere TFT Center’s small professional TFT team on scheduled occasions, where they offer mass community trauma relief. Their work has been so successful that it wasn’t long before the International Red Cross was demanding that the Rwandan therapists trained in Byumba, along with those trained in the capital city of Kigali, be present at the Genocide Memorial Services to prevent hospitalizations.
There they set up TFT tents, or rooms, depending on the venue, and treat participants who become overwhelmed with their memories of the 1994 genocide. Thousands of people have now been treated by the Rwandan therapists in Byumba.
But it was not just individual survivors of the Rwandan 1994 genocide who benefited from their tapping treatments. Entire families and entire communities became more vibrant and productive. During one trip to Rwanda, one mayor told our team that when he first became mayor, “The people were sad and not productive.” Now, after being treated for their trauma by the Rwandan therapists, he stated that, “people are smiling and they are becoming productive again.”
Now under the watch of an equally persistent priest, Father Augustin Nzabonimana, this initial effort has grown! The Catholic Bishop of Byumba, Bishop Sevilien Nzakamwita, established a second TFT Center, the TFT and Psychosocial Diocesan Service. This hard working leader recently wrote that the Rwandan therapists “conducted a TFT training and provided treatment to inmates and staff at the Miyoye Prison in the Gicumbi District.” He reported that, “The Rwandan Correction Service staff at the national level requested the Rwandan TFT team to bring TFT to all prisons in Rwanda.”
The success of the TFT and Psychosocial Diocesan Service has led to a TFT program in the Mutete sector, a region heavily affected by the 1994 genocide.
Because of their past work, many international NGA’s and governmental organizations want to work with them. Fr. Augustin tells us that, because of their work in societal transformation, the TFT and Psychosocial Diocesan Service has been chosen by the international NGO OXFAM to receive a grant for a program supplying livestock, pigs, establishing a co-op and a savings association to the poor people, especially smallholder women farmers.
The TFT team members who have worked in Rwanda during the six trauma relief deployments to that country can be proud that the small seeds they planted have helped Rwandans in so many ways. But it is really the Rwandans who are making all this happen. For example, in another area of Rwanda Rev. Celestin Mitabu, of Kigali TFT, has trained over 700 university students to use TFT to help others.
We are proud of how the Rwandans trained in TFT have taken this EP tool and are changing their country.
Suzanne Connolly, LCSW, LMFT, has trained over 2,000 people worldwide to use TFT and to integrate TFT in clinical settings. Her presentation venues include the United States, Rwanda, Israel and Kuwait.