Melinda Kerr

Melbourne, Australia

G’day all, my name is Melinda but my mates call me Mel, so feel free. I live by the beach in Elwood, Victoria, Australia. I...

Rwanda

Balancing work by day and trying to organise an exhibition by night is definately challenging! But the militia continue to reap havoc in D.R. Congo, whilst those in Rwanda crying out for help with their trauma continue to bubble away at my conscious. 13 years ago the genocide in Rwanda claimed over 1 million lives in 100 days. These are not people who live in grass huts and practice witchcraft. These are professionals, students and seemingly regular citizens. It’s mind boggling to think it happened at all. The Rwandans dislike the film Hotel Rwanda (a Hollywood production) and condem it as a lie. Their opinion is that the so-called ‘hero’ was not a hero at all. I have been told he charged up to $500 for a glass of water. If anyone is interested in the true story, locals recommend watching a DVD called ‘Sometimes in April.’ It follows the story of 2 brothers during the month of April – when the genocide began. Every April is a month of mourning in Rwanda when many people re-live the nightmare of the genocide. During this month it’s possible to get a knock on the door only to see a prisoner standing there under armed guard ready to confess how and where he killed your love ones. He then leads you to the spot he killed them and their bones are dug up and given a proper burial. For this he gets a reduced sentence. It’s part of a reconcilliation program. For some people this is enormously traumatic. One of the guys we were working with had this happen to his wife when we were there and she completely collapsed. He was desperately trying to get her into a psychiatric hospital but sadly for a country full of literally millions of orphans, widows and trauma victims there are only 20 psych beds. Incredible. The people of Rwanda asked me to ask anyone I knew to send volunteer counsellors to teach them how to deal with the trauma. I can’t think of a bigger challenge for a Psychologist/Trauma Counsellor. I visited the genocide museum. We walked past 3 large slabs of concrete (about half the size of a tennis court). They were mass graves. One of our group asked the guide how many people were buried there. I cringed as I thought she was going to say something hideous like 800 or 1000.
Her answer? 257,000. And counting.

Journal Comments

  • Steven Zan
  • Jean  Burke
  • Melinda Kerr