Tell us about the community that you engage? eg. economic conditions, political structures, norms and values, demographic trends, history, and experience with engagement efforts.
The project will target members of AERG who are student survivors in secondary and tertiary levels of education and indirectly benefit wider community members, both survivors and non-survivors.
The survivor’s community is strong, as a result of shared experience and as sometimes the only source of pyscho-social support available if trauma victims cannot access a government counsellor.
Nevertheless, through strong government backing, there has been an emphasis on reconciliation between survivors and non survivors and integration of survivors back into local communities.
Post 1994 the government has supported survivor youth economically. However, the money received is for school fees only, whilst most student survivors are from low income or orphan headed households, where many are the main income earners and are expected to support several dependants. Their role as dependents adds further stress and responsbilities to young survivors studying and the burden of combining supporting a family and academic work can cause trauma to reemerge during the study period.
AERG has been involved with student survivors since 1996 to identify the needs and the solutions to the problems facing survivor youth. It has been particularly successful in identifying and working with survivor youth because the organisation itself is run by volunteer student survivors who well understand the needs of their peers.
Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project
AERG is an association of student survivors of the Genocide created in 1996 at the National University of Rwanda. Now AERG is represented nationally at 26 Universities and institutes of higher learning and 325 secondary schools in Rwanda, with a total country-wide membership of 43,397.
Originally, AERG was founded as a support mechanism for genocide orphans studying at secondary and higher institutions. However, its role has now expanded to cover not only support systems (in the form of artificial families) and morale-boosting activities, but also to advocate for the ongoing needs of survivors, supporting them in education (liaising with FARG – The Government of Rwanda Assistance Fund for Survivors), with economic issues and onwards towards productive life.
According to the Ministry of Health in Rwanda, around 70% of all PTSD and trauma cases are amongst youth. Due to the lack of mental health resources targeting youth, AERG as a youth organisation, identified a gap in the services being delivered to support the needs of Rwandan youth, particularly survivors. The Trauma Counselling project aims to fill this gap, not only for survivor students, but for other community actors, not just AERG members.