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ATFT Foundation Goes to Rwanda, Africa

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By Paul Oas, M.Div., PhD., TFT Dx

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The “Street
Children” of the El Shaddai
Orphanage in
Kigali, Rwanda

In April of 2006, a 10 member Mission Team traveled under the sponsorship of the ATFT (Association for Thought Field Therapy) Foundation, www.TFT.org., to Rwanda and the Congo to do research and provide trauma therapy and training. They used and taught the revolutionary process of trauma relief developed by Dr. Roger Callahan, author of “Stopping the Nightmares of Trauma.” (For a brief synopsis of the TFT process, see www.TFTrx.com.)

Below see the heart-opening experience of the ATFT team being welcomed by 400 singing orphans.  You can also see other ATFT videos on YouTube.

The ATFT Trauma Relief Team being welcomed by 400 singing orphans.

Their focus was primarily on the 400 “Street Children” of the El Shaddai Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda, “home” for those orphaned by the 1994 genocide and subsequent AIDS and poverty.

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El Shaddai Orphanage, “home” for those orphaned by the 1994 genocide and subsequent AIDS and poverty.

The Team was co-sponsored by Christ Lutheran Church in San Diego, who has raised $35,000 of the $48,000 pledged to feed and bed the 400 orphans for a year. Five of the Team were from CLC. (www.Christpb.org).

This team’s mission statement was: “To help create healing and stability in Rwanda by using Thought Field Therapy to heal the wounds of trauma and by training Rwandans and the Congolese to use TFT to help their fellow citizens heal the wounds of the past and move forward to create a strong, peaceful and healthy nation.”

The goals of the 2006 mission team included the following:

  1. Trauma relief and training by 7 TFT therapists from various corners of the US: Beth Bates, Suzanne Connolly, Carol Dall, Carl Johnson, Paul Oas, Caroline Sakai and Dottie Webster.
  2. A needs assessment cadre to ascertain food, shelter, medical and education needs – and to develop a sustainable program to meet these needs.
  3. Tim Botsko and Stephen Seper, volunteers from San Diego, worked with local architects and builders to provide electricity, classrooms, hand craft tools and skills to assist the boys in building beds to replace mats placed strategically on rain soaked floors.
  4. Jo Ann Longerbone, an accountant and a seamstress as a hobby, also from San Diego, taught sewing skills on the 5 donated treadle sewing machines for the children to sew clothes for themselves and possible marketing.
  5. Ascertain the feasibility of permaculture – a program of self-sustaining local food production.<
  6. Teaching the local teachers and children to sew.
  7. Additions to daily protein and nutrition were welcomed.
  8. Collecting data for a research study on the effectiveness of this program, hoping to pave the way for a comprehensive sustainable approach to meet the needs of orphans around the world.>
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Our travel-weary volunteers, captivated by the singing orphans.

What motivates 10 Americans from the ages of 29-75 to leave jobs, practices, spouses, children and the comforts of home to travel thousands of miles to the heart of Africa – a country replete with war, genocide, corruption, disease, poverty and seeming hopelessness?

You will have to ask them!

I can only share some observations.

In selecting the team, these were the qualities I initially looked for and found:

  1. A sense of adventure into the unknown.
  2. People who wanted meaning coupled with the adventure. (I was reminded of my professor, Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.”)
  3. People with compassion for suffering humanity.
  4. People with skills appropriate to this mission, i.e, TFT competence in training and therapy, photographic and computer skills, and craft and building skills.
  5. Team players – including the ability to accept and function with leadership and the ability to spontaneously come to the assistance of team needs.
  6. Passion for the team mission coupled with what they do well individually.
  7. Would they be able to put together all the “chores” of preparation, i.e.,a. Orient family and friends to the “unknown” aspects of the mission and allay their fears.b. Arrange time off from work, loss of income, arrange sitters for children and other care giver responsibilities, medical exams and shots, medications and supplements.c. Produce and collate training manuals, research materials, supplies and translators.d. Five of the team elected at their own expense to take the Green Cross training in Dallas to be certified as “Field Traumatologists” and “Compassion Fatigue Educators” as part of their deployment preparation.
  8. Could they prepare for and accept serendipity.Much of the above did not “grow” legs until the mission began.
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Flowers, smiles, song and dance greeted our tired team upon their arrival.

On the road, April 10:

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Smiling faces and inquiring eyes, filled with hope for what we may be able to do.

Toss in 2 sleepless nights on crowded airlines by team members attempting to bivouac in Nairobi from Hawaii, LA, Phoenix, DC and Kuait, a flight cancellation from Nairobi, Kenya to Kigali, Rwanda, and arriving “shower less” and disheveled 4 hours behind schedule.

Reluctantly we honored the insistence of Pastor Peter Ilungalutum, the Director of the El Shaddai Orphanage, to “stop by” and be welcomed by 400 children orphaned by the 1994 genocide, AIDS and poverty.

We were bounced and whisked to an abandoned warehouse where these hundreds of former “street children” had been waiting 4 hours to welcome our arrival.

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Genocide victims, both young and old, working hard to fill out their PTSD questionnaires.

What we experienced then was impossible to describe without tears welling up again. It was for me the signature experience of our mission. As 10 weary travelers descended from packed Land Rovers into a cave like entrance to the warehouse, voices of 400 orphans singing at the top of their lungs was overwhelming in its stark contrast to what we anticipated.

We saw faces beaming with joy and animation, eyes wide with excitement. For over an hour they mesmerized us with singing and dancing. Like Ravel’s “Bolero,” the beat and dance escalated until our “Raggedy Ann” travelers were “seduced” onto their feet – joining hearts and feet in a crescendo of connection.

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Dottie Webster sharing Easter Sunday with the orphans.

We were there to “heal” them? This experience alone was worth the “price of admission.”

With but an hour to travel to our lodging, splash water on our faces, run a brush through hair – most were on time for our 4:00 p.m. staff meeting with our local hosts and Embassy volunteers.

The Presbyterian Guest House was our domicile for the next two weeks. There were clean rooms, mosquito net draped beds, showers and bath. (Electricity and hot showers were sporadic, but “shower sharing” rescued us.)

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Caroline Sakai explaining about the TFT therapy and study.

Tasks at hand:

Due to typical African communications, Suzanne Connolly’s training of 35 psychologists, pastors and teachers was postponed for 10 days.

This allowed time for Caroline Sakai to rally the team to the task of therapy and research. Having recently returned from two deployments to New Orleans and Green Cross Certification, Caroline launched into the formidable details involved in adequately translating our PTSD approved testing instruments into Kinyarwandan and receiving approval by its author. This became an amazing team effort requiring many trips to the Internet Café until appropriate and adequate translations were acceptable and in place.

The team worked till late at night assembling research and training materials. Days were spent in testing and treating as many children and staff as possible.

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Additions to daily protein and nutrition were welcomed.

Meanwhile, 3 of the team, Carl Johnson, Beth Bates and Paul Oas left for the Congo and Northern Rwanda to provide training and follow up continuing education for last year’s trainees in Goma and Ruhengeri.

Now, time for a weekend break!

Six of our team journeyed to the mountains separating Rwanda from Uganda and the Congo to track down the elusive Silverback Gorillas of “Gorilla’s in the Mist” fame.

Their mountain climbing trek through thick jungle rewarded them by a literal “brush” with the gorillas and left them rain soaked and mud caked as ecstatic reincarnations of “Diane Fossey.”

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We taught the children to “sew” with the donated machines.

Our final week was no less exciting and rewarding. 35 students arrived from the Congo and various parts of Rwanda for the two-day training in TFT. (Due to the extreme poverty in Africa, it was necessary to subsidize students for travel, food, lodging and training.)

The training was led by Suzanne Connolly, a seasoned tutor and traveler. Since January, she already had two training deployments prior to Rwanda: New Orleans and Kuwait.

With 6 assistants and a translator, the students not only learned the basics, they also experienced relief from their own pent up traumas, which helped solidify their education and experience.

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Suzanne Connolly leading the TFT Algorithm Level training for the local community.

The remainder of our time was spent in treating as many of the orphans and staff as possible and to ensure that protocols for research follow up were in place.

Farewells were heart wrenching, as affection-starved children were once again being “abandoned.” Clothes were drenched with intermingled tears as orphans clung to new friends and “surrogates” from America.

It was now impossible to determine — who had healed whom?

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The sad good-byes.

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2012 TFT Foundation