Bridges of Peace Initiatives

“I Have Been Walking Dead….!” Healing Conversations for Refugees Living in Kitengela, Kajiado County.(Part 1 of 3)

“For the first time in 10 years, I have found my healing. I have been in many programs for refugees, but I always went back the same way I came in, until Healing Conversations happened the last three days. I have truly found my freedom. I have been walking dead. You have raised me from the dead. I feel alive again. For over 10 years I have been stuck on the spot I stood as I watched my beloved husband get murdered, his last words still ringing in my ears. I have been stuck planning his funeral that never was for all these years. It’s as if I died with him that day.

Before you brought this program all I wanted was to die and end my misery. Today I feel like I have been renewed. Through this program I have cried all the tears I never cried, I have allowed myself to mourn my beloved husband and I have made a choice to finally forgive them for the wounds they caused me and my children. I have found so much peace here and I am no longer wishing to die. I have hope for tomorrow. I am so glad I gave this program a chance because finally healing is possible for me too. I have found my medicine. Thank you.”

Above were the words by one of the 19 refugees from Burundi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) participating in the three days very intensive and professionally tailored workshop ‘Healing Conversations’ that took place at the Ferlane Riviera hotel, Kitengela town in Kajiado County from 15-17 August, 2023. The Workshop was organized by Bridges of Peace Initiatives and done in partnership with Initiatives of Change (IofC), Kenya.

There were both men and women of diverse ages between early 20’s to late 50’s. All of them having been displaced from their countries due to the horrendous effects of war, and most of them still deeply struggling with the pain and brokenness of both the war as well as being refugees. Doubtless to say, most refugees are deeply wounded, vulnerable, traumatized and have very unique needs and challenges that require special processes if they are to heal.

The three days were punctuated with a lot of silent reflections, hugs, empathy, a lot of intentional quiet, as well as a lot of tears- tears of pain, confusion, hopelessness… but also tears of holding loosely, of letting go, of healing, of hope, of loving themselves, of clarity, of inner transformation and of new beginnings.   They were three emotionally heavy days. But the facilitators were good at what they were doing- holding the space for all the participants and making sure the space was safe for all.

When the Healing Conversations workshop commenced on day one, the participants looked very quiet and reserved. They didn’t say much. We had been warned by our mobilizer that refugees from those particular countries are not easy to open up and share. But the two facilitators, Njeri Ndiangui and Mumbi Judy, were armed with love, kindness, empathy, non-judgmental attitude and care for the participants. Some of the participants even refused to sign the registration form at the beginning and they were allowed the space. The atmosphere in the room was heavy with uncertainty, fear, doubt and insecurity. They would later explain that they first wanted to see if they would stay or leave the workshop midway. 

Many doubted whether the workshop would change anything in their lives at all or it would just be another waste of their time, like they had experienced countless times with other workshops and training by other organizations. But by the end of day three, they are the ones who were requesting the workshop to be extended.  This is what one of them shared at the end of day one;

“I didn’t want to come for this workshop. I only came because my friend encouraged me to come and see then make a decision to stay or quit. I came ready to leave. I would have missed so much. You see, we have been called for many workshops and trainings but they haven’t been helpful. If what you have done for us today is what the organizations that have been supporting us would have been doing, we would have healed a long time ago! Our lives would have been different. I have been sent for many counselling sessions since I came to Kenya as a refugee that haven’t been helpful! But what I have experienced today, is life changing. Today I felt seen and heard, I feel like for the first time, help is possible for me, and I want to allow myself to hope again that I can be healed. I know that if I heal, I will go very far in my life. I have held pain for so long and it has been stopping me from growing and making progress. Not anymore!”

The journey of healing our emotional and psychological wounds can be complicated, difficult and even messy. There is nothing glamourous when one has to heal deep hurts and brokenness. “I did not expect this to have so much effect on me. It’s hard to keep tears in because of what I’ve been through but hearing others sharing has led me to believe there is a solution to my pain too.” Said another participant with a lot of tears in their eyes.

Actually, the journey of healing might be more painful than the initial pain and it requires a lot of courage, self-love, empathy and compassion for self and others.  This is because it requires one to acknowledge whatever pain and brokenness that is buried within them. It is easier not to face our wounds and wait for fate. But wounds that have not been healed and transformed will only cause more wounds and pain. Nonetheless, as difficult and messy as the journey of healing can be, it is possible, and it brings freedom, inner peace, fulfilment, happiness and liberation.

Another participant was courageous enough to open up about their daily struggle; “I have been through things that have left me struggling with physical damages that have caused serious health implications that need continuous visits to a doctor, and I don’t know when I will ever heal. I have to face both the physical and emotional pain and damage every day I am alive. I am reminded of everything I have been through and endure the feeling of hopelessness every day of my life. I feel that my life is hanging on the air. I don’t know where I am going. It is difficult. I had no hope of ever finding my inner healing. But Healing Conversations have given me hope. For the first time I can say that I have begun to heal. Moving forward I am going to be a different person. May God bless you so much for what you are doing.”

Read Part 2 of the report here

Read Part 3 of the report here

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