My Students

Let me introduce you to my traumatology students

I have 20 of them. About half and half men and women. Ages from the late twenties to the mid-sixties. Educated from primary school to graduate school. They have been invited because they work in a helping field, or they are influential people in their communities. When we educate one of them, we educate whole communities and organizations. Several of them work for THARS and have been doing trauma listening with only the barest of preparation. A couple of them work in human rights organizations, there is a lawyer, there is one who works demobilizing child soldiers, several are teachers from primary through high school, there are a couple of university students.

Our job in three days is to give them the basics of Trauma and its effects, and a method of resolving trauma.

Here is the program:

Definition of Trauma

Effects of Trauma
The healing model

The qualifications of a good trauma healer

Basic listening skills

The trauma sequence (functional traumatology)

The physiology of trauma (physical traumatology)

The brain

The brain under trauma

The stress response

The storyteller and the keeper of nightmares

(cultural traumatology)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The PTSD assessment tool

Advanced listening skills

Faith and trauma

Children and Trauma

I have done this before, so I fully expected that a big piece of the intervention would be resolving the trauma of these students themselves, we send them home better than they came and that is great advertising. Now, changing the names, and with their permission, I will share a little of their stories.

Beatrice is a young woman who was married young and had three children. She was the recipient of a near fatal beating. She experienced such a deep trauma response that she did not feel any of the pain of the beating until three months later, when the pain arrived along with nightmares.

Patrice is a young man who was a soldier in the rebel army for several years. He was a teenager at the time and attended school during the day and fought with the rebels in the bush at night. He saw a great deal of action and witnessed and probably committed atrocities.

During the war, Aaron was arrested because he was too highly educated. He was kept in a cell 1 meter square for months. The prison was severely overcrowded. To relieve this, one night the guards killed every prisoner in the jail except for Aaron who was spared because one of the guards was a friend of his.

Margarite is a young woman who was sexaully assaulted by rebels during the conflict.

When Catharine’s husband died, she was alone, and the situation was unstable, so she slept with the dead body until she could get neighbors to help bury him.

Maria is a grandmother. Her home was invaded by rebels who beat and tortured her and her family in an attempt to get money.

Angelique lost her son to illness. At the burial, soldiers swept through shooting at anything that moved. The mourners fled, but Angelique stayed at the graveside because the grave had not been closed. The soldiers held a gun to her head but then decided to leave her alive as she had experienced enough trouble that day.

Nine out of Ten Burundians who are over the age of 13 have experienced a trauma like this. Many of them have experienced many such traumas.


My Charge d affairs

Hayo Daniella, age 17, daughter of David Niyonzima has been my right hand this month. She helps me keep track of my stuff, minds my self-care, gives me spiritual counsel, prays for me and gives me cultural information that I could get no other way. I have tried to tell her about the job of ‘elder’, which she performs admirably, but it is impossible for her to imagine herself in that role, especially in relation to me, but I am grateful none the less.

One of her jobs is to watch non-verbals, and listen to Kirundi side-comments when I am teaching and give me feedback as needed. This has proved invaluable.

Last week in Gitega she gave me this synopsis.

Day 1 ”They are like people who have been working in a field with their hands, and we came carrying hoes, and they were happy because they knew what the hoes were for, and they needed them.

Day 2 “Now you have given them new food. They are like hungry lions, and you are the meat. If I tried to take you from them they would jump on me and tear me to pieces.”

Day 3 “They are like soldiers ready to march. They are a little nervous, but they are ready to go try what you taught them.”

Grateful Indeed.


God bless you and bless your work Peggy Senger Parsons. When I hear of what the people of Rwanda and Burundi have been through it breaks my heart. When I hear of the work of AVP and the African Great Lakes Initiative I am deeply moved. It seems that out of such great darkness there is shining a great light. I wish that our country, the USA, could see that light and change our ways.

I will be in Kenya next week for the FUM General Board meeting so Africa is on my mind a lot.

One line from your program struck me. "The storyteller and the keeper of nightmares." Some time I would like to hear or read more about what that means. The phrases are so evocative...

Bless you.
Will Taber
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