Friends Peace House, Kigali, Rwanda
Friends Peace House is a not-for-profit, church –based, peace-building organization. It was founded by the Evangelical Friends Church (Quakers) of Rwanda in 2000.
The context was the Genocide in 1994. An estimated 800,000 people, about 20% of the total population, were killed, in 100 days of terror between April and July. The surviving Rwandese were traumatized and destabilized. The young Friends Church of Rwanda, only founded 8 years previously, accepted the challenge this posed, and has taken an active part in the rehabilitation of Rwandese society ever since.
These efforts began with the care of orphans and widows. The work soon diversified, and it grew in many parts of Rwanda. It became very obvious that a central focus was needed, to coordinate and host many peace building activities, and Friends Peace House was launched in December 2000. It lists its guiding principles as peace, peace making, reconciliation, forgiveness and unity.
Its motto is PEACE IS A GROUP EFFORT.
It seeks to bring together all parts of Rwandese society in everything it does. Its vision is to help Rwandese people to live in a sustainable peace together, in healthy, well-developed communities. All activities are open to all Rwandese, whatever their ethnicity, religion, gender or geographic region. Its staff and volunteers are drawn from across this same wide spectrum, so it is a working example of the way in which people can come together and overcome their recent history.
The work at Peace House has eight interconnected strands.
Peace Library: this collects resources about peace building, and produces two newsletters a year. It is now working hard to collect resources in English, which has replaced French as the language of education. it is becoming a centre for conflict resolution work with children.
Mwananshuti Centre: this provides vocational training to vulnerable and street children, in sewing, English, and gardening. They try to provide each successful student with the means to start their own small business, thereby giving them hope for the future and the chance of a livelihood. A good example would be a sewing machine for students wishing to earn their living in this way.
Radio Peace Messages: these are prepared and broadcast twice a week.
Scholarship programme: this raises funds to provide school fees for vulnerable children, and ensures that the funds are well spent.
Counselling and Mediation: this is a service twice a week for people in Kicukiro community, where Peace House is located, especially for those who are in need but do not have a deep trauma or serious mental disorder. It is individual, not group, counselling.
Peace and development programme: this sustains different groups or associations working together for peace and reconciliation. They work in the fields of Agriculture, small business, and micro credit. Some of them are selling beans and potatoes, others cultivating cabbages and corn, others are raising goats and cows.
Peace committee support: local peace committees are helped in order to help them to mediate and solve some cases of conflict.
Training gacaca court judges: many perpetrators of the genocide, (including a small number of Friends), have been dealt with through community (gacaca) courts in a truth and reconciliation process.
All this work is funded by donations, and depends on a great deal of volunteer input as well as paid staff. Fundraising is thus a constant concern. The needs are far greater than Peace House can currently provide, so they are hoping to be able to expand their buildings and staff to do yet more.