A guest post by Dr Jemma Hogwood, Clinical Psychologist, SURF Rwanda:

Four Clinical Psychology students from the National University of Rwanda (NUR) presented their research findings to an international panel and fellow students last week. Supervised by Dr Carl Auerbach from Yeshiva University in New York and Dr. Vincent Sezibera from NUR, all the students focussed their research on post genocide Rwanda.

Dr Carl Auerbach (left) with colleagues and students from the National University of Rwanda

The students chose not to focus purely on trauma and the effects of the genocide but rather, focussed on finding out how survivors have been able to overcome their traumatic experiences and find hope for the future. Two students interviewed members of AERG (the national student survivors organisation) looking at ‘pathways to resilience’ and the important role of ‘social support’. Two other students investigated the ‘intergenerational transmission’ of trauma, where symptoms of trauma or distress can be passed on to younger children who were not alive during the genocide. It is hoped that their research will be published and presented on an international level.

It was a great privilege to see such a high standard of research being conducted by undergraduate students which is crucial to begin understanding the context of Rwanda, 18 years after the genocide and to realise how people are managing to re-building their lives. The presentations served to create discussion and debate with the students being asked how their research will help to change government policy and how it will help in a clinical way assisting psychologists and counsellors to support survivors better. The research will also assist SURF in knowing the best ways to support survivors and providing evidence that organisations such as AERG are conducting beneficial and necessary work.

The students, who will graduate soon, are ready to continue the research by creating a partnership with Yeshiva University, NUR and AERG. This will help to promote young Rwandan researchers and to continue to highlight the needs of survivors in Rwanda. Additionally it will serve to acknowledge the resilience and innovation that survivors organisations have fostered in their members.

Congratulations to Clinical Psychology students Fabien Dushimirimana, Moise Nkurunziza, Isaie Mihigo and Derrick Nukuri for a great presentation and advancing the field of psychology in Rwanda. Thank you to Dr. Carl Auerbach and Dr. Vincent Sezibera for creating a strong partnership between universities and supporting the students in their work.

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