Remera Mbogo School, Kigali
Remera Mbogo is a secondary school located just outside of Kigali, Rwanda that enrolls approximately 300 children, many of whom share a common story—losing parents (and in most cases, numerous family members) during the tragic genocide in 1994 that ended the lives of 1,000,000 Rwandans in 100 days.
Even many years later, these orphan students continue to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and the overwhelming majority have, and will continue to fail to earn the marks necessary to enter college. This throws the already uncertain security of their future into further question, since a college degree is a near prerequisite to employment and a life lived out of poverty.
The school is able to meet its basic operating expenses, yet does not have sufficient funds to afford all the proper school supplies. As such, the moderate quality of learning creates a situation with the graduating seniors (who did not directly experience the genocide) where they, too, will not earn the marks to go to college. Come next year, they will be looking for jobs where there are few, and likely be forced to take casual labor or other such low-level types of jobs.
On the plus side, the Government of Rwanda, under the leadership of Paul Kagame, is doing an outstanding job of implementing community solutions that work, and that consider the needs of poor citizens. As an example, the administration is saying that if you can't find work, start a business, and has credit programs available to do so.
Since 2009, Christopher Lowman has been visiting the school providing trauma care through Jin Shin Jyutsu to some of the most traumatized students.
From Christopher, "Take, for example, a young girl who had been hospitalized due to a trauma episode. When I arrived, she had been laying on the floor in her room for 3 days in a dissociated state, unable to speak or interact with anybody meaningfully. 30 minutes into our treatment—to our amazement—she came to, laughed even, stood up and was then escorted back to school. Another who had not been able to cry since witnessing his parents’ murder, broke out in tears during our only treatment and brief time together."
Christopher visited again in 2012 and led a group of twelve orphan survivors through a three-week program. Each received a number of full length Jin Shin Jyutsu treatments, and as a group, they were encouraged to understand that 'living well'—choosing to live a good life—is the best way to honor their loss, families, and even their country. Typically what happens in the case of tragic loss is that we purposely choose to not live well—do poorly in school, stop caring about our life and stop participating in it meaningfully. Read more about the 2012 program here and here.
2012 marked what will likely be the last such therapeutic program at the school. The number of orphan survivors is rapidly reducing (down from 75% to 25% since 2009), as 18 years have now past since the genocide. And those that remain are mostly stabilized to the point where no outside intervention seems needed.
Hands on Learning
The much more pressing situation now is the likely fate for the graduating seniors—not passing the final, national exam, and so not going to college. This will make finding work in a tough job market almost impossible, to the point most will likely face lives in poverty, having to take low-level casual labor.
Entrepreneurship, and the according mindset is the beginning of a solution to this dilemma.
Also in 2012, Christopher started an experimental leadership program with about 60 (a little over 50%) of the graduating seniors for them to get a visceral experience, as opposed to theoretical learning, for the creative/entrepreneurial process—by designing, building, and completing a handful of improvements to the school's compound (e.g., painting, fencing, building clothing lines) on their own. This program is written about in detail here.
The main theme and learning of the program was 'creative momentum.' We saw several instances of how when you take action, even if all the resources aren't there, somehow, someway resources show up when you need them to assist you in your goal. This is always the case, and a much needed message—how fortune favors the bold. The students were encouraged during lecture time to know that insufficient anything (especially money) is not a legitimate excuse for abandoning a dream.