Hello readers. I have been living a nomadic lifestyle, mostly in tents for over 3 years. After having my Achilles operated on last winter, we lived in a one bedroom cabin for 6 months to help me recover. Most recently, we have been volunteering at The Cabin, an Appalachian Trail hostel in Western Maine. Today we are moving across the country so I can go to college fulltime.
I come from a Southern U.S. family. My genealogy is 50% comprised of Scots-Irish families. My step-grandmother was born into an IRA family and crossed the Atlantic with her parents as a baby. In her words, “My parents were tired of bullets flying through the house and visiting my uncles in English prisons to feed them so they wouldn’t starve.” She told me this despite my Protestant father’s demand that she never speak about Catholicism, growing up in the Northern U.S., or the IRA. After all, U.S. Southern folkways are a continuation of the Ulster-Scots set in a North American context. Please see my background video on Swann’s Model of Radicalization and Polarization, as well as my other videos on the Holy Roman Empire and another on the Ulster Plantation. They are listed in chronological order here, but the last video explains the concept of my model the best. Thanks for reading. PLEASE leave your thoughts in the comments below or on the videos themselves. I hope you enjoy watching the Holy Roman Empire’s “Long March”.
Above is a link to my tattoo removal. Below is an article about intergenerational trauma and race reconciliation. At the bottom is an apology.
Dear Ancestors, Earth, and her Inhabitants,
I’m sorry y’all were conscripted into a rich man’s war. I was taught to give you honor for yall’s heroic efforts in defending the South from the aggression of the North. Is that what they told y’all too? Is that how y’all made it through those nights where y’alls comrades died of exposure? I know y’all told y’alls-selve’s a story.
Grandpa Swann, I’m sorry you died from exposure in Alabama in 1864. Is that how little the Confederate government thought of you? How awful. They caused your 4-year-old son to grow up without his father. This makes me so angry because it is part of the disfunction of our family! It makes me so angry that your grandfather disowned your father and then the patriarchy of the Confederacy caused your son to not have his father. This is the real crime in war. Grandpa Swann, sometimes I think about what it must have been like to die in your own home state from exposure to the elements amongst a group of men who shared a similar fate. How bad were these conditions? Grandpa Swann, it wasn’t just your son. It was your Grandson! He didn’t have a father either. Because he didn’t have a father, he left my great grandmother and MY grandfather grew up destitute, without shoes, and his mother signed for him to join the Navy in World War 2 so he could be exposed to the same trauma as you. I call this man my “Grandaddy”. Grandpa Swann, I want to update you on the family. My grandaddy, your great grandson, guess what? He made it through his war alive! He left the military after his conscription, became a schoolteacher just like you were before you died for the Confederacy. He became the first man in our direct line to raise his children and be there for them until his death of old age. He didn’t glorify war. I miss him.
Grandpa Leadbetter, I’m sorry you lost your 4 brothers at the hands of the conscripted Union soldiers at the Battle of Lookout Mountain, TN. I have walked the ground they died upon in the early morning fog, watching a park ranger come towards me like a ghost of the past. I went up there real early one morning, Grandpa. It is a park now. It was closed, but I knew the park ranger and he let me in. I paid homage to my uncles who died. I paid homage to you. I even stopped and took a mental photo of the yard that you stood in, that I know of from your letters home. It was passed down to me, orally, that your father could hear the cannon fire and wrung his hands at the sky and yelling, “MY BOYS ARE DYING. My boys are dying!” And they did die. It must have been so awful. Grandpa Leadbetter, I know you tried to do the right thing. The family sold their slaves right before the war and used the money to send you and your dead brothers to college. How did that work out for our family? You were religious people, preachers, and teachers, but you sold the slaves because you did not agree with slavery? If you didn’t agree with slavery, then why didn’t you just free the slaves? You thought it was good enough that you sold entire families instead of splitting them up because of your, what?? CHRISTIAN MORALS? NO! That is wrong. You didn’t just do that to the slaves, you did it to us. My dad beat me with a leather strap, just like your dad beat slaves! Do you know how bad that messed me up? The worst part of it is that this behavior was passed down by YOUR grandson who beat my dad for the simple act of crying. He was a teacher and a preacher, well respected in the community! My dad copied him! What did you teach your kids, Grandpa? You were named after a famous preacher, Richard Baxter. Is this what religion is? Our family paid for it, too. Four men dead after going to college, funded by the selling of slaves. What good was that education? It’s a crying shame. That was in the 1860’s, now it is the year 2021, and I carry your scars. I guess it costs to learn.
Grandpa Buchanan, it must have been awful to grow up dirt poor and living a subsistence lifestyle, only to be plucked off of your piece of land and into the conscripted Confederate Army. I don’t know as much about you, but I know you valued justice. After all, you became a town marshal after the war. It must have been painful to walk around town with your cane after being run over and having your leg crushed by an artillery wagon. Grandpa Buchanan, I don’t know much about you, but I am curious. I wonder how different you might have been from my other grandpas. Your great grandson was a farmer, mill worker, Sunday school teacher, and single father for a time. He was a man of character, though we do not share the same religion, I am still inspired by the stories of his devotion to the Bible. You will be proud to know that he raised a house full of children against all odds. My hair line would look just like his if I still had my hair, but the effects of stress and aging are creeping upon me. He raised a daughter, my Maw Maw. She opened a hair salon and employed men and people of color during a time when that was still unusual. She spoke highly of Grandaddy Buchanan. No one is perfect. I wonder how a man like you reconciled with what went down from 1861 to 1865. I bet you felt powerless. I wonder if becoming a marshal after the war helped you to feel empowered again? I wonder how you used your new power. It worries me to see so many combat veterans joining the police force today. I wonder what you would say about that.
Grandpa Joiner, you are famous in my family for something that could be quite embarrassing. I have heard my mother laugh about it, but it must have been awful. I have walked from the South to the North through a path in the woods. I can only imagine what it must have been like on your march with dysentery. After getting conscripted and falling ill, the opposing army attacked while you were crapping your guts out. They captured you and took you to Rock Island, Illinois, where you were a POW. I can’t think of a worst fate than getting conscripted, falling ill, becoming a POW, and then having to walk a thousand miles to your home and fields that were probably burned in Shermans March to the Sea. I once walked 100 miles on a broken foot for love. But I can only imagine what you went through. My body is going numb typing this.
Grandpa Kelley, you were the rich man, and it was your war, but you didn’t fight it. I don’t want to disrespect my elders, but I have more than one elder and not all of them agree. My 4th great grandpa on my dad’s side was an abolitionist who went down in infamy in the family. What makes you the hero? You didn’t even fight! You joined the militia like the other cowards. Oh, you thought you were respectable? No. I represent this family now and I say you were not respectable. I can’t respect a man who owned 12 slaves, helped to finance the Confederate army, and joined as an officer in the militia so you could stay and guard your own property. I am trying to be less judgmental, but you were wrong! You were mean! You know how I know you were mean?? Because my Paw Paw, a warrior, wrote about his direct line of ancestors. His dad, your grandson, used to take him and his siblings to the woodshed, strip them naked, and beat them with a stick. That was some shit that you passed down! Dude, you married your cousin. Your grandson, he married his third cousin, another one of your relatives! I’m still paying for that shit cause my sister molested me when I was a kid! F___ YOU! OK. I’m sorry. That was disrespectful, but for a long time I felt this deep rage and never knew why. Now, white people, collectively, are getting a bad name because of people who performed the same actions as you. I don’t know why you did what you did. The why matters. Was it because of what England did to you and the Scots-Irish? Was it because of the trauma that your grandparents faced in fleeing Europe? Did they just perpetuate that same model? There are no excuses, but we need to know why so we can save humanity. Grandpa Kelley, you left descendants who are very tough and resilient, but we all bear your scars. I don’t know what to do with you. You are my family. I ask for your forgiveness when we take down statues. Despite the outrage that I just yelled at you, I don’t want to disrespect you. I want my family to be whole. What you did was wrong, and I am putting a stop to the cycle. I accept that you were no more or less human than me and I have made awful mistakes, but I am the one putting an end to it. I am no coward. Grandpa Kelley, I am helping people in Africa. Would you have enslaved them? My chosen family is Black and Latina. We have to reconcile Grandpa. Like it or not, the family history was passed down to me. I am the one who writes the family narrative now. I wont spit on you, but you have been dethroned. The new hero of the family was a drunk who spoke the truth. His name was George Reynolds, a Unionist in the state of Alabama. OK, yes you were sober and hard-working Grandpa Kelley, but your morals were backwards and Grandpa Reynolds – I think he was just drinking America’s pain away. Also, Grandpa Kelley, another one of your backwards ways is hating drunks when you were a moonshiner. You hated your own son for being a drunk, but why was he a drunk? Because you produced the stuff. Grandpa, I have a moonshine still tattooed on my arm and a rebel flag. They were both in honor of you. One is getting laser removed (the flag), the other is staying as a reminder of my roots.
Dear Grandpa Brandenburg, you were my Paw Paw’s favorite grandpa. He was impressed by the Yankee pocket watch you carried throughout your life. I was told that you got it off of a Yankee soldier. I can only imagine how. It must have been terrifying being a 15-year-old at the infamous Andersonville Prison. You wanted to be a man of honour and join your neighbors in the fight, but your family did not want you to go. A compromise was struck, and you became a prison guard with the other young boys and old men, not considered fit enough to fight. Atrocities happened there, just the same as in the northern prisons. I have been there, you know? Actually, I closely identify with you. Your name is Brandenburg. My name is Brandon. I was also a teenage guard for the military in Georgia. I was in the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps and worked for the U.S. Navy Police. After our country was attacked when I was 14 years old, I was locked and loaded with a shotgun at the Main Gate of the Naval Air Station in Atlanta. There were machine gun bunkers on each side of me. You know Grandpa, sometimes I wonder if I have relived your trauma.
To my grandpas with no story for me to share: The reason that I don’t know your story, is because our family developed a culture of war. Were you the peaceful ones? Are you the only ones actually resting in peace? What were my great great great grandmas like? I wonder what my great great-great-great grandma Rattlin-gourd, a Cherokee, was like? I was once told by a white supremacist that these white people who are proud of their small percentage of indigenous blood are misguided for honoring 1% of their DNA, but I think quality is better than quantity and I am not putting one race or ethnicity over the other. I am talking about systems. Why would I honor the 99% that perpetuated a broken system over the 1% that honored our ecology? I hope this letter helps to heal the systemic fragmentation within the family of humans. From now on, the history of war and trauma only matters to heal from it and prevent it. The heroes are the ones who create peace and justice.
To my adopted Great Grandma “Big Mom”: Big Mom, I didn’t get to know you that well before you died. I remember meeting you when I was letting go of racism. It was difficult for me to help lift you from the chair to the bed, in your old age and frailty. It felt strange being so close to an elderly Black woman. I remember your skin, hair, wrinkles, and voice. You didn’t say much to me because you were past the point of talking much. Your granddaughter became my mother. She taught me how to care for family. You taught me a language beyond words. Your pain was so great that everyone could see and hear it. Your love was so great that it melted the blockages in my soul. It must have been painful to not be allowed to be raised by your White father for fear of him being lynched. What great insight he had to stay alive and take care of you financially through a lawyer, until you ended up being a Black woman who inherited land in the 1930’s South. I suppose he could have also moved away from the South with you, but what happened happened. I’m just glad you got Something. I know you grew up with a lot of rain, but now your family is a rainbow in the sky. Everyone who comes in contact marvels at their beauty of heart and soul. Thank you.
To everyone alive today reading this letter: We often attribute honor to war in the guise of honoring our ancestors. To truly honor our ancestors, we must aspire to be more in character, not in material.
To the boys and girls that I grew up with in the Deep South. If the South is to rise, it will be because of her commitment to peace, justice, fairness, love, and reconciliation.
To the people who still stigmatize the South: I am writing this letter in New England. I often hear you say things about race relations in the South, but where are your citizens of different races and ethnicities? Maybe you don’t have as much conflict because your system more effectively holds minorities down to the point that you don’t have many to have conflict with?
To the United States of America: I don’t want your civil war or this polarized climate.
To the world: Please forgive me for, at one time, perpetuating hate. I recently wrote a letter of apology to the ladies of the reconciliation cooperative in Shingiro, asking for their forgiveness for being a former extremist. I will attach this letter below and ask all people everywhere for forgiveness and reconciliation to the human race. Thank you.
Dear Damien and the Ladies of the Reconciliation Cooperative in Shingiro,
You have inspired me to be more forgiving and to seek more forgiveness. I have been on a long journey to discover humanity. I was born into a family that was keeping the American Civil War alive in my culture, heart, and mind. There was a video made of me when I was only 4 or 5 years old. We were at a battle reenactment. My dad was dressed as a Confederate soldier, and I was yelling and cheering for him to shoot the Yankees. They were all people of the same country, killing each other over economics and slavery. I was taught to be on the side of slavery over 100 years after it ended here. It was confusing because my family also said slavery was wrong. They told me that everyone was the same. We never used vulgar words in the home I grew up in, but I was not allowed to have friends who were not white or Christian. I even went to a private school that was designed to segregate. As a young teenager, I convinced my parents to let me go to a regular public school where I was in the minority as a white person. I went to school with mostly Black and Hispanic people. I was often bullied for being white. It is true that I did not play football as well as my peers, but for that I was harassed for the color of my skin. An adult told me a racist joke to say to them when I was being bullied. I made a racist statement and was pushed. I hit the other kid. After football practice, I was jumped on by 2 boys, with 50 others in a circle around me. I was covered in blood from head to toe and had to have my lip sewn back on my face. My father, who taught me to hate, didn’t even notice that I was drenched in blood or that my lip was hanging below my chin. He took me to church where the pastor called my mom to take me to the hospital for stitches. She scolded me for making my dad look bad. I was labeled racist from then on. I joined the army to escape home and carried my prejudice with me. When I became scared from the amount of Black and Hispanic people, along with the Interpersonal violence between soldiers, I joined a racist organization called the Ku Klux Klan. I got out of the army during the housing crisis of America in 2008. I was homeless but began collecting food for other homeless people in my camp. Eventually, I became a preacher, but continued to be racist. One day, I met a Black man who became my brother. His mother became my mother. They gave me compassion when I didn’t deserve it. They showed me love when no one else would. They treated me better than the family I was born to, who abused me and taught me to hate. They showed me the love of God that I did not find in church. Even the churches I went to had hidden racism. My only religion now is love. It took me a few years to let go of my racist ways. They were there for me through the journey. Now I have a Black mother and brother, and my wife was born in Venezuela. I have made my apologies and my peace here in the United States. Now I ask for forgiveness from you. I’m sorry that I used to not like the fact that you existed. I’m sorry that I ignored your suffering as human beings. I am asking to reconcile to you and the world by letting the world know about your Reconciliation Cooperative. Let’s join hands beyond nationality and show the world that we are just humans who need to forgive and love. Also, in the spirit of reconciliation, a group has sponsored me to have a racist tattoo removed from my arm. I also want to thank you. I am studying peace and conflict in university, but I could not find a way to forgive my parents until I witnessed your example through the story Damien has shared with me. I am a 34-year-old former soldier and former extremist. I am also a current university student and hope to gain support for you through my studies combined with my partnership with Damien. Will you forgive me and accept my cooperation?
This is an interview between Damien Nkubana and I. Damien is the program manager for PEARLS Rwanda Rehabilitation Centre. This is the story of the incredible work he is doing. All I can do is pass along his story and his words and hope that you will support my friend. The video is for context if you are unfamiliar with Rwanda.
What is the purpose of your organization? What is its mission?
The Center will be a multidisciplinary behavioral health care practice. Our organization will be a community-based counseling and outreach center that offers individual, couple, family and group counseling services to clients in Rwanda.
MISSION: To promote the well-being of the individuals and families, as well as peaceful cohabitation of people by providing accessible, quality mental health and substance abuse/addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and their families, utilizing a service system that emphasizes trust, respect, confidentiality, compassion, peace and reconciliation.
VISION: Our vision is of a world where people with mental illness receive the mental health care they need, and go on to live productive, fulfilling lives free from trauma.
The people of Rwanda were affected by the genocide in many ways. Some suffer severe post-traumatic stress as a result of the events they witnessed, many are struggling with grief at the loss of friends and family, some turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with that loss. Even those who have successful careers and families of their own might experience depression or unwanted thoughts from time to time, but feel as though they can’t talk about it. Our center will be a safe space for anyone who needs a little support provided by qualified, trained staff and experienced in dealing with the full range of conditions specific to genocide survivors and all affected people. We provide group therapy sessions, one-on-one counseling and a range of holistic activities to complement their recovery.
Who do you intend to help? • COUNSELING A. Individual counseling services For people with issues like: -Depression -Refugees -Veterans -Anxiety and stress -Relationship issues and difficulties -Alcohol and substance abuse -Family issues and conflicts -Sexual assault/trauma -Spirituality issues -Self esteem issues
B. Couples, family counseling services -Relationship issues and conflicts -Couple and marital enrichment -Premarital counseling -Couple communication and conflicts resolution -Separation and divorce issues -Domestic violence and physical abuse -Addictions and substance abuse -Grief and loss
C. Group counseling services
To resolve issues like: -Stress or anger management -Trauma recovery, or -Life after divorce -Divorce -Anxiety -Relationship or self esteem problems • TRAUMA RECOVERY AND THERAPY The organization will provide quality trauma therapy services for children and adults who have experienced traumatic events.
Emotional and psychological trauma The center will help people to recover from issues such as: -Post traumatic stress disorder -Emotional abuse, neglect and domestic abuse -Sexual assault and abuse -Having trouble functioning at home or work -Suffering from severe fear, anxiety or depression -Avoiding more and more things that remind you of the trauma -Using alcohol or drugs to feel better
• CAREER COUNSELING AND LIFE COACHING We will develop services to benefit our clients with their career direction and job/employment preparation.
-Increase motivation and satisfaction within various parts of life -Receive expert guidance on achieving personal goals -Developing clear goals and setting an action plan -Learning coping skills necessary to manage life stressors and daily anxieties -Enhance self confidence and living a greater balanced life -Effective networking strategies and interpersonal communication skills
-Career counseling and guidance -Career interest assessments and interpretation -Links to job shadowing and internship opportunities -Workshops and events
Job creation preparation
-Entrepreneurship workshop -Business mentorship -Business coaching -Resume and cover letter writing -Interviewing skills -Various training workshops -Job search strategies
• PROFESSIONAL TRAININGS The center will collaborate with Dr. Kenneth Dennis (Clinical Psychologist), of the United States, through the programs for ARMHS (Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services). The healing center will partner with individuals, international public health schools, and international organizations.
• COMMUNITY OUTREACH The center will also partner with local community and nonprofit organizations as well as public schools to provide mental health awareness seminars and psychotherapy treatment services.
What experience do you have in this sort of work?
Before becoming a Roman Catholic Church priest (I left later) I did Philosophy, Theology, Psychology and Sociology studies. I also did Entrepreneurship Development Management studies (Bachelor’s degree) and Postgraduate diploma in Education. I am a certified counselor by the University Of Washington School Of Public Health. Since 2018 till now I have been working with the PEARLS (Program to Encourage Active and Rewarding LiveS) in research and International Rehabilitation Psychology Practice.
What life events led you to this sort of work (your story)? N.B.: Damien NKUBANA: “I am not genocide against the Tutsi survivor”.
During the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, I was 17 years old. I saw a lot of bad things, atrocity, people killing innocent people! It was awful. We suffered a lot. People’s lives and hope were completely destroyed. I assisted in the “Homo lupus homini” (A man is a wolf to another man) scenario! Later I had a chance to survive and continue my studies. I became a priest in Roman Catholic Church. But I had high depression and trauma hidden! Being a priest worsened my situation. I left. After joining the TCP group, I met a friend, Kenneth PhD psychologist. He supported me and now I feel better. Helped — I am committed to help others experiencing the same like me in the recent past.
Why is it important for people in Rwanda to have access to a facility like this?
Anyone that is struggling with depression, trauma or anxiety, any type of mental disorder, extreme poverty, an addiction to drugs or alcohol, will benefit by going to the rehab center. Those who have suffered from such situations know how hard it can be to overcome it alone, and the healing environment of rehabilitation offers the support needed to make a successful recovery. In addition, those attending mental health treatment will also learn the necessary tools for building a productive, healthy, and happy life. Rwanda Rehab Center — Secret of Peace.
How will they access it? Will it charge a fee to clients or will it be free? Will peoples therapy be subsidized by donations?
As we are targeting vulnerable people, with zero or little income people, we do not expect charging a fee to our clients. Provided services will be subsidized by donations.
What is your grand vision? If you had all the money in the world for this project, what would you do?
I have seen the impact of reconciliation and forgiveness, how this is powerful! My vision, my dream is to have this “PEARLS Rwanda Rehab Center” where people come and someone is there to listen, where they speak the language of Peace, Reconciliation, and Forgiveness work together for healing. A home for suffering people, as many as possible.
What do you think you need to get started?
The work has already begun. This is the beauty of PEARLS, our main program. It can be done in peoples homes, but the dream is to build a center where we can have a true community rehabilitation center. I am currently working with almost 20 people. I need more people to join my vision. Togetherness is our strength. We need to buy land ($15,000) and raise funds for buildings with equipment ($50,000).
9. How is the work you are doing impactful?
PEARLS RWANDA PROGRAM: Healing the invisible wounds of violence in Rwanda
KAMPORORO Seraphine is a mother and wife who lost her family during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. She was 16 years old, when armed men attacked her home in MUSANZE, a town in Northern of Rwanda, and brutally killed her parents, siblings and friends.
KAMPORORO Seraphine, TESTIMONIAL
“I lost all. It was hard to move on. I was so much wounded; my heart was bleeding.
When the killings stopped, I struggled for years to live with the harsh invisible wounds of seeing my father, mother and brothers murdered by neighbors.
Imagine seeing the wife of someone who killed your family, take food to him in prison while you are starving with nothing to eat.
The traumatic experience left wounds too deep for me to heal on my own. I was not alone to suffer some form of physical or emotional hardship because of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
By June, 2019, Damien NKUBANA, PEARLS-RWANDA program Manager, came at my home in Musanze. He was conducting a research on depression, anxiety or trauma cases among genocide survivors and young single mothers in Musanze. He interviewed me and collected all data related to initial evaluation: PHQ-9(Physical Health Questionnaire), GAD-7(Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and NSI (Neurobehavioral Symptoms Inventory). After the conversation he started counseling me for several months and sessions. After that my life started to change a bit positively”! I appreciate his hard working to help me.
Later, Damien NKUBANA invited me for a societal healing event organized by PEARLS-Rwanda program for Ruhengeri/Musanze prison aiming at forgiveness and reconciliation between genocide survivors and perpetrators.
I eventually got the courage to overcome my trauma after participating in that societal healing event. However, it was not an easy journey for me to heal from my distress and extreme paranoia.
First, as genocide survivors, we were not happy when the perpetrators confessed and were released from prison. We thought they will come and finish us. When we were brought together, I was afraid. In this reconciliation village event, survivors and genocide perpetrators collaborated in bricklaying. I often had fears that in the process, one of them [genocide perpetrators] will hit me with a hoe from behind. But with time I have forgiven them. No one forced me to forgive. Despite what they did, reconciliation is possible. We are the story.
It was hard to look eye to eye with someone who killed my family.
On his part, Jean Pierre, an ex-genocide prisoner said:
“I was scared to face the families of people I killed during the genocide. But with counseling by PEARLS-RWANDA PROGRAM, I decided to open up and confess what I did. I also confessed to my wife, to whom I had lied all along that I was unjustly imprisoned. I told her the truth that I killed our neighbors. She was shocked. My wife and children were traumatized after learning the truth’’.
END of testimonial.
The researcher, Judith Herman, wrote a seminal book called: “Trauma and Recovery: the Aftermath of Violence – from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror”. She believes there are three elements involved in the healing process: Survivors need to reach a place of safety, reconstruct the trauma narrative and restore the connection between individual and community.
The adverse impact of the genocide still weighs heavily on Rwandan society today. The country still grapples with a burden of trauma and mental health conditions. The reason why Rwanda Rehab and Career Center is a need as investment in mental health, address trauma and enhance social cohesion in Rwanda for better future.
10. Wow! This is incredibly moving. I am wondering more about the former combatants…
The story of Lambert, an ex-combatant
After nearly 20 years, deep-rooted trauma from the Rwandan genocide still haunts many.
Through PEARLS work in Rwanda, we bring together victims and perpetrators of the genocide by providing microfinance, trauma counseling and dialogue clubs.
This programme helps the communities to move forward and rebuild their lives together, avoiding the risk of renewed conflict.
The story of Lambert, an ex-combatant
“I was just 17 at the onset of the 1994 genocide war when my family was forced into a refugee camp in the Congo by the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) soldiers. The camp was dismantled but I suspected some of my family members would betray me so I decided to join the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the Congo to fight the RPF from 1998 to 2004.
I was badly wounded – I thought I would die and decided to return to Rwanda and hand myself in to the authorities to get medical treatment for my worsened physical condition.
After treatment, I was sent to an ‘integration camp’-MUSANZE in the north of the country and joined by other friends who were fed up with and depressed by the daily hammering of war. We were given US$350 as a stake to begin a new life. I wasted my money on alcohol to relieve my depression, sense of isolation and loneliness.
A few years ago I heard about Damien NKUBANA PEARLS programme for ex-combatants, about other men suffering from depression. The first step was trauma counseling – my hate was reduced, for the first time in many years I no longer felt isolated and lonely.
Through the programme, after the counseling I participated in a micro-financing project to create a farming project. This time the money was not wasted on alcohol.
One successful project has led to another – I am now married, have a family and we are building a life together filled with hope. This could not have happened without the support of the dialogue club and counseling.” Thanks to Damien NKUBANA.
End of testimonial.
If you would like to help with the healing, please contact Damien Nkubana at email@example.com
The trees, buildings, people, and cannons Tower over my three feet. Smell of gunpowder. Sight of lanterns. People in the street Fear slices from my throat to my tummy. Where’s my daddy? Where’s my mummy? A sea of people taller than me. Where’s our tent? I can’t see…
There you are! I hear my mothers voice. She comforts me under the stars. We had no choice.
They told me it was fun to camp. I cuddled up with mom in the tent. She read me Bible stories under a lamp. ‘Til dad came back from battle – energy spent.
I watched my dad march off the next day. He left me with a stranger. He told me to stay. I felt danger. Booms and Bangs. The clashing of war. Scared to my core. Smoke all around me. Searching for my family.
I coughed and I cried, Having left the strangers side. My dad was nigh But I watched him fall After the exploding of a cannonball. I bolted back to the silent stranger But I couldn’t remember his face. I blacked out and my heart began to race. That night we sat by the fire and talked about gods grace. But there was no love in that place.
I can’t remember more, But still hear and feel the reverberation of war.
(C) 2021 GB Swann
In my culture, it is Memorial Day weekend. It is a holiday to honor American servicemen and women who died in war. I believe that those who left children behind would rather us think about their living children who were affected by militarism through the loss of their caretaker.
May we all have a reflective Memorial Day and consider what actions we can take as individuals to keep the children from the horrors of war. There are sights and sounds that one can’t unhear or unsee. It is hard enough for a willing warrior to live with. How much harder for someone who stands three feet tall?
I wrote this poem based off of an experience I had as a child. My dad was an American Civil War Reenactor and there was a time during a battle reenactment when I didn’t know where my family was and was scared. The poem was my experience, but I sat down to write it with the specific intent of empathizing with war children and refugees. My mom used to try to prepare me for the battles. She would tell me not to be scared because it was all just play and not to worry if my dad died on the battlefield. I can only imagine what it must have been like for an actual child during that war. What would it be like to have this same experience in France or Finland during WWII? What was it like to be a German child during WWII? What is it like to be a Syrian child who left home because of war? I’m glad that I can only imagine.
Occasionally, I may change the photo to honor a different group of children. Thanks for reading.