My Journal About the TFT Foundation Film-making Trip to Rwanda

There was a trip to Rwanda earlier this month,  to film a documentary on the work the Rwandans are doing using TFT. The Rwandans hope to serve as a model for other countries who have suffered large-scale traumatic events.  The filming went well, and of course, after hearing the stories of healing, the documentarians want to learn TFT!  I am attaching a journal of the 11 day trip for any of you who would like to hear about it. Suzanne M. Connolly, LCSW

The TFT Foundation efforts to make a film documenting the use of TFT in Rwanda got off to a superb beginning.   We landed in Kigali Rwanda the evening of the 8th of January.

Bob Stone, our documentarian, Diana Gross, his assistant and I were greeted at the airport by Father Augustin, organizer of the Byumba segments of the filming; Darling Clementine, organizer of the 2008 research and 2010 follow-up and this year’s TFT training; Billy Gatete, old friend and translator; and Jean de Due, former resident and now supervisor at the Rwandan Orphan Project.

We hit the ground running and by 8am the 9th, Diana, Bob and I were in a car headed to meet some of the new TFT trainees, trained by Celestin Mitabu. We entered the training room, located in Stella Bar, a local restraint/bar, and I was surprised to see many so many familiar faces.  Most of the new trainees, recently trained by Celestin, were former 2008 study participants from the AID’s group, the Widows’ group, and the older orphan groups.  What a pleasant surprise!  Their experience of TFT was such a positive one; they wanted to help others using this technique.

The stories were amazing!  One by one the trainers gathered at the Stella Bar, told their own personal stories.   In a separate room Robert Stone, our documentarian and his assistant Diana Gross got four moving stories on film.  In the larger room, others wanted to share their amazing stories of recovery with the help of TFT.

Each one started with something like: “I thought this was crazy. How could tapping help MY problems?”  But they did follow the instructions of their Rwandan therapists in 2008, and they did tap.  One by one, as they told their stories of trauma and recovery, I heard things like: “I’ve had a sad life.” “The first time in my life that I felt happy was after I joined the Widows group and then we did TFT.” “Now I have a life, a business.”  “Now I have hope, where before I had no hope and thought I would just die and my children would be orphans.” We were all inspired and encouraged by these stories of recovery.

The next day Father Jean Marie Vianney, the organizer of the 2009 study, picked us up early morning for a celebration in Father Augustine’s home village, up in the mountains among tea plantations.  It is the custom of a newly ordained Priest such as Father Augustin, to celebrate Mass at his parents’ home within a year of his ordination. Father JMV pulled a vestment out of his computer case and dressed as we walked up a steep hill to the celebration. There was singing, much dancing, food and spirits.  A warm introduction for Bob and Diana to Rwanda.

The next day, we all received the traditional bucket of boiling hot water to bathe in, hastily ate breakfast and spent the day visiting and filming officials who are enthusiastically embracing TFT in the course of their official duties.

Saturday was Community Day and the Rwandan therapists gathered to treat people in the community and be filmed. On Sunday, we took off to Kigali once again. Father JMV had kindly leant us his car and Diana proved to be a skillful and fearless driver as she negotiated the Kigali traffic with its taxi’s motorcycle taxis, pedestrians, buses and cars.  She’s been living in Cambodia where she rides a “motto”, so her experience and daring paid off.

Monday we attended the first day of a two day training conducted by Rev. Celestin Mitabu. The first day the film crew stayed and filmed.  The second day, while I stayed at the training, Bob and Diana did in-depth interviews with the four people they began filming on the 9th.  Most of these thirty-six new trainees were working with vulnerable groups.  Five Nuns worked with severely handicapped children.  There were twelve therapists from the Deployment mobilization, a group that works with former soldiers who were wounded in the 1994 genocide. I answered many questions about alternative tapping points for those who have no arms and how to tap with people who are paralyzed.

One nun, Sister Donatille Mukasekuru, a clinical psychologist started the Mpore Mutima W’Urugo Center, a home for abused women in the Kabagabaga section of Kigali, and we visited her at her facility later in the week.  She was here because she had clients who asked her if she did TFT. TFT is getting popular in Rwanda! She got curious about this and found Celestin.  She wants to use this as she works with abused women and with couples who need help.

Bob and Diana reported that the interviews went superbly.  They were touched as they heard the stories and visited the people at their homes.  One young man could not believe that his mother told her story.  He told Bob and Diana that, while he was a young boy, his mother could not even think about her past without completely falling apart. Another man came back from his training and apologized to his wife for being a “bad” husband and always blaming his problems on her.  Another woman talked about how, after doing TFT, she forgave the man who murdered her family.  This man now walks her home from her bus stop after work so that he knows she arrives home safely. Bob and Diana were really getting interested in TFT by this time and so impressed with the good work the Foundation has been doing in Rwanda.  We celebrated the end of the training by eating at our favorite Indian Restaurant with Darling, Celestin, and Celestin’s wife Joyce.

Next day, was already Wednesday and our short stay in Rwanda was soon to end.  We spent the morning interviewing at Gasimba Orphanage where I and other team members had treated a few troubled children in 2010. An interview with the young man I had treated went especially well.  The young man had been through so much and Ilephonse, the director of the orphanage reported that his grades were failing and he fought with the other children.  After being treated with TFT his attitude changed.  He soon had friends and good grades.

He is now launching his own business, a driving school, which he began with a micro loan. Our Interpreter and friend Prosper Ishimwe is thinking about becoming his student.  Seeing Diana drive Father JMV’s car around Kigali has given Prosper encouragement to learn to drive. We spent some time at Catholic Social Services as Diana had an appointment with the director to explore how Diana could bring her media class to Rwanda.  While waiting in the reception area, an old friend, Pascasie Musabyemungu, strategic initiatives manager at CRS, happened to pass through.  We hugged and made plans to have dinner together at the Republique that evening. Pascasie has organized three trainings for us in Rwanda in previous years.  Bob and Diana fell in love with her bubbly personality and infectious laugh.  Before the dinner, we fit in a filming session with Sister Donatille at Mpore Mutima W’Urugo Center  for abused women.

Early in the morning we say Good-bye to Jackson, our friend and desk-clerk at the Presbyterian Guest House where we stay when in Kigali.  It’s off to Byumba, and interviews with Father Augustin, Father JMV and Prosper.  Then it’s off to have dinner with the Bishop and Diana is still at the wheel of Father JMV’s car. The Junior Seminary by the lake will be our home tonight and the next night.

Our last day at the lake we feast with some of the therapists on Tilapia caught in the lake served, heads on with a delicious crispy skin. It is eaten with the fingers and served with fries.  Yum!  Gifts are exchanged.  Dinner later with a group of priests.  More food.  More beer and wine and off to bed.  Our last day and we meet in the morning with the Rwandan National Ethics Committee.  More to do to get our approval for the film.

Jackson lets us stay at the Guest House and use a room at no charge until time to catch planes.  Diana leaves first and we see her to her cab.  Prosper rides with her and says good-bye at the airport.  A few hours later, she surprises us.  Somehow she missed the plane and she gets the room for the night.  She can catch the same flight to Cambodia the following day. Prosper arrives again and rides with Bob and I to the airport and says good-bye.  It is hard to leave.  Old friends and new friends. Twenty nine Hours of Film to be condensed into a one-hour documentary.  Bob is known for his editing and has co- directed two Emmy Award documentaries.   He can do it.  After boarding our connecting flight in Belgium, we sit on the tarmac for six hours before the weather clears enough to take off.  Customs at JFK.  Finally at LAX, Bruce picks us up and we drop Bob off at a nearby Hotel.  He catches a plane to Maui in the morning, is home one day, and then leaves for Cambodia for the Cambodian Film Festival he and Tom Vendetti started three years ago. When he is back in Maui the film will need to be formatted in a way that Prosper can translate the text in both Kinyarwanda and English.

Bruce and I get in car and drive through LA and into the desert.  We stop in Indian Wells at 5:30am and get a little sleep.  I tell stories into the night about our wonderful trip to Rwanda.

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