"Seven weeks to look, see, learn, and share some skills in Conflict Resolution…
For over a year this journey has gradually been coming together. But the seeds were sown over 40 years ago when serving in Tanzania with the Peace Corps."  

July 15-17, 2007

What would Oprah and Paris Do?

July 15 -coming to Kigali from Kigali to Gisenyi. There were at least twenty mutilated children working the bus station in Gisenyi. They were too young to have been injured in the war that ended in 1994. They were constantly putting their arms into the mini bus to ask for money. I gave what seemed like a lot , and they kept coming to me. One little girl, blind in one eye and probably with some congential defects, several boys leading her to the travellers to behold. I also noticed she had several fingers missing. I don't know if the boys used her and kept her money or not. There are survival skills here that you don't find in western texts. The arms and feet that were missing on these children were the result of clean cuts, not the tearing and shredding of industrial accidents. These were wounds of an intentional nature.

I asked people in Kigali how this still happens. It is the war in the Congo and the militias that cross into Rwanda to make a point, who cause these wounds. Maybe the parents have to watch and then are killed aftewards. Some women are raped and when the baby is born are forced to kill the baby. Some have been able to flee before this happens.
Rachel, a Rwandan Quaker, works with these women, many who also have Aids. She tells me these stories. No single organization or organizations can take care of all these victims.

I rode to Kigali with those images in my head.

July 17 5:00AM  I'm awake two hours already. The memory of the children is still there. I wonder if I am on the right mission. Should I drop everything and go back to Gisenyi til I'm broke? Will some temporary relief be worth it to them? It certainly would not be permanent. I would leave and they would be back on the street and my house at home might be in foreclosure. I know that photos of children like these have been seen around the world , but when Katie Couric goes off the air, we go back to Jeopardy or Entertainment Tonight and float into the fantasy world of Paris and Oprah. I know that not a single world leader would ever be subjected to five minutes alone in the Gisenyi bus terminal. I dout that a world leader would be allowed such exposure by a host country out of its own shame and embarrassment. An a world leader's people would decry the impossibility, the lack of security. How many world leaders would be allowed within a few miles of a UN peacekeeping mission?

Paris Hilton, for a reasonable exhorbitant fee, disclosed to Larry King, that ten days in jail transformed her. A two thousand dollar plane ticket and a three hours bus to Gisenyi could have transformed her in a lot less time and for a lot less money.

Would Oprah build an ostentatious school for a few hundred carefully selected children in South Africa, that they might someday become part of the ruling elite in their countries and host a visiting PM's wife to a Mercedes chauffered , heavily secured, red carpet tea party?

I know it may not be practical for a future or current PM or President to spend a few days away from her or his handlers getting to know what the bottom end of the ladder offers thos without hope. I know too that what I am offeringin mediation training will provide some hope and a better way of resolving conflictin the future. But what about those who suffer everyday in a misery only the most thoroughly depressed person might imagine. the big projects may well do some good but they support a lot of well paid westerners as well. In this country there are many unemployed people who could manage mini projects, much like the micro financing that has worked so well. Maybe this could be the answer. There certainly is need for development and preventive programs, but there remains the need of those children so injured and without hope, without caring adults who can comfort them. I need to talk more with Theoneste who survived the genocide at the age of 12, to find out what he would suggest. He is 26 now, a psychology student, and responsible for the victims of trauma program run by African Great Lakes Initiative. I will tell you more when I think I know.