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Genocide Survivor Becomes Community Counselor

Published 10/03/2014 by Global Communities


Genocide Survivor Becomes Community Counselor
This story originally appeared on

Catherine Mukagasana took her personal tragedy and turned it into something positive by becoming a community-based psychosocial counselor. 
Like so many survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Catherine Mukagasana suffered unspeakable tragedies. But as survivor, Catherine resolved to keep a positive outlook on live and turn her bad experiences into something useful. She decided to dedicate her life to helping traumatized members of her community. Catherine lives in Ndera, a mostly rural village on the just on the outskirts of the capital, Kigali.  Despite all her good intentions, Catherine knew she could not do much without training in counselling and handling trauma cases. 
So she was very interested when Global Communities Rwanda and its partner organization Association of Rwandan Trauma Counselors (ARCT) – Ruhuka launched a program to train Community Psychosocial Workers (CPW). CPWs are volunteer counselors who work at the community level. Through the program they are trained to provide individual, group and family counseling and sensitize people on topics like grief, mourning, sexually-based gender violence (SBGV) and trauma. Catherine enrolled in the program and after finishing her training, immediately began working in her community. As CPW, Catherine’s goal is to help those she counsels improve their communication and coping skills; reduce the impact of stressful events and situations; and improve their quality of life
With funding from USAID, through the Higa Ubeho program (“Be determined and live” in Kinyarwanda) Catherine is now one of the 1355 CPWs trained in 20 districts of Rwanda to support their respective communities. According to Mukandekezi Genevieve, a counselor at Global Communities, psycho-social services have also helped the CPWs reflect and improve on their own lives.
Through her work as a CPW, Catherine has also developed the skills and confidence to help resolve conflicts and unite broken families and is viewed as a respected leader within her community.