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SmileBlog

SmileBlog

Living Well

Miss the previous update about my work at the Remera Mbogo School? Read it here.

I am currently in the midst of facilitating a therapeutic program with a group of students who all lost their parents (and many family members) in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, who still, many years later, grapple with PTSD symptoms, impacting their ability to learn at school.

The overall theme we are working with as a group is "Living Well." What can and usually does happen with survivors of severe and tragic loss, is that they choose not to live well, in a sort of honoring of those who did not survive. They can feel that because others in their family suffered a difficult fate, they should not have happier lives. It's blind loyalty.

The truth is, living well is the best way to honor family members we have lost, who were close to us, and is what they silently wish for us to do.

Admittedly, it's hard for me to say if this pattern is actually in operation with the group given the language barrier and our short time together. Still, I felt strongly this was the theme to work with and earlier this week we did a basic art exercise around it.

I started the exercise off by going over the "blind loyalty" concept and added that every one in the group has full permission to choose to live a good life in honor of those they left behind. All the teachers at the school give their permission. I give permission. Certainly, their family gives permission.

It was a good moment — something opened — as the words by-and-by went through the translators and into Kinyarwandan.

All the students were then given some colored pencils and paper and instructed to think about what living well means to them and visually represent it, in order to get the idea stirring in their minds.

Some ended up copying one another, while others came up with unique ideas. Just about everybody had love, a house, and a family. Again, it's more about exposing the group to the spirit of the theme to get a taste of it—I wasn't really looking for masterful pieces of artwork.

I was happy to see all the smiles going around...

Here's the entire group together with their completed posters.

We all have our own story of loss. It is my sincere hope that the concepts you read here and the example of resilience being set by these students, may help you to see your own challenges in a different light.

Continue to the next update about my work at the Remera Mbogo School.