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Archive for the ‘Eos Visions’ Category

Helping Babies Breathe

The month of March has been extremely busy at work, which is why I’ve been particularly delinquent at posting this month. Most of my time was spent preparing for a visiting delegation of neonatal nursing trainers who are currently in Rwanda to train birth attendants in Kigali and Gisenyi in a program called Helping Babies Breathe (HBB).

Helping Babies Breathe aims at training birth attendants in developing countries in the essential skills of newborn resuscitation, focusing on a baby’s first 60 seconds of life. According to the World Health Organization, one million babies die each year from birth asphyxia, the inability to breathe immediately after delivery. Eos Visions has been working with Sherri Brown, an HBB master trainer, for several years in establishing this program in Rwanda. This March 2012 trip is the first official training trip by Sherri and therefore required a great deal of time and energy on the ground here to make sure that things go smoothly.

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Preparations for the training included receiving guidance and permission from the Ministry of Health, selecting receptive and interested training institutions, ensuring that 25-30 qualified participants were selected and informed, preparing the venue and logistics, and troubleshooting along the way. Surprisingly it’s not so easy to simply show up at a hospital or health training institution and say “we want to offer your staff/students a free workshop in valuable life-saving skills.” The words “training” or “workshop” come with the expectation of all expenses being covered, which raised a few budgetary issues. Luckily we were ultimately able to compromise on providing lunch for training participants (but no transport reimbursement or daily stipend).

Through Eos Visions, Sherri plans to return to Rwanda several times over the following years with more groups of trainers to continue training in HBB at health centers around the country, guided by and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. Although making the preparations was difficult at times, it is well worth the reward of watching trainings taking place and observing tangible knowledge being transferred in such an important skill.

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Psychology in Rwanda

At work, I recently had the exciting opportunity to manage a delegation of psychologists visiting Rwanda through the People to People program. As the official partner of People to People in East Africa, Eos Visions has received several delegations of professionals in the past few months, including family medicine doctors, nurses, dentists, lawyers, and mental health professionals. Alongside our visitors, learning about Rwanda through the lens of psychology was quite an eye-opening experience and made me aware of the importance of and acute need for psychological support and programs around the country.

To begin, I did some background research about the field of psychology in Rwanda that I believe provides a good introduction before I describe the visit: Following the 1994 genocide, trauma and shock were widespread and permeated all levels of society – individual, family, community, and nation. As would be expected, psychological destabilization affected nearly everyone who had witnessed, participated in, or survived the genocide. A 1999 study found that 80% of women in Rwanda showed signs of trauma. Even before its social fabric and institutions were destroyed over the course of the 100 days of killing, underdeveloped Rwanda was not equipped to effectively treat psychological disorders. The task of providing adequate counseling and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in the face of national destruction was daunting in years immediately after the genocide and even today has yet to be fully achieved. As of 2008, there were only three practicing psychiatrists in all of Rwanda. Over the past sixteen years, official health institutions and policies have developed gradually in an attempt to respond to the needs of Rwandans suffering from genocide-related trauma and other psychological disorders.

With this in mind, we began the professional program with a visit to the National Organization of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (NOUSPR), whose name turns out to not be a mistake of English grammar. As one of the volunteer coordinators explained to us, in Rwanda many people are in fact “survivors of psychiatry” because treatment can often be just as damaging or debilitating as one’s initial condition. This is further exacerbated by the fact that laws in Rwanda are extremely discriminatory against the mentally ill, prohibiting anyone with a diagnosis of being at all mentally unstable from entering into any legal contract. Our visitors had the chance to hear the testimonials of some NOUSPR members, learn about the challenges facing mentally disabled or ill people in Rwanda, learn about the organization’s goals for conducting research, and share their own initial impressions of the state of psychology in Rwanda in addition to personal stories.

Rwanda has only one inpatient psychiatric hospital, which is located just outside of the capital in a town called Ndera. Our visitors spent one afternoon visiting the Ndera Neuropsychiatric Hospital in order to learn about the center and give a presentation on a topic that the administration had requested: a practical training on drug and alcohol addiction. One of the visitors gave this presentation, which outlined concrete tools that practitioners can use to identify and treat alcoholism and addiction. The presentation was quite well attended by around 100 of the hospital’s staff and practitioners.

In an effort to help build academic and institutional capacity in the field of mass trauma treatment, the group visited the Kigali Health Institute and three of the visitors gave a presentation on mass trauma treatment. The audience consisted of psychologists, heads of departments related and unrelated to psychology, and some administrators of the Kigali Health Institute. What emerged from the ensuing discussion is the importance of incorporating psychological principles and awareness into all fields, even those like dentistry. I had never before thought about the psychological stress that comes with the vulnerability of sitting in a dentist’s chair.

The professional program concluded with a visit to the country’s National Unity and Reconciliation Commission in order to learn about the role and consideration of peace psychology in Rwanda. Delegates enjoyed a conversation with the Executive Secretary of the NURC, Dr. Jean Baptiste Habyalimana, in addition to his colleagues. It became clear that psychology fortunately played a large role in the design and implementation of NURC activities.

Our visiting psychologists sincerely enjoyed exchanging their expertise and learning about the state of psychology in Rwanda. I’m excited to be working with some committed delegates from this group and helping them remain involved in developing the field of psychology in Rwanda. The door is now open for even more mental health professionals to build on the foundation created and questions posed by this first group of pioneering visitors.

Re-posted partially from the Eos Visions blog

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Somehow it’s already been a month that I’ve been back in Rwanda. It’s been a great first month back – jumping into my new job, reuniting with friends, celebrating my birthday, exploring new bars and restaurants around town, furnishing my room, watching lots of Modern Family, etc.

As for my new job, I’m working at Eos Visions, a social enterprise that pioneers experiential educational travel programs across East Africa (Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, DR Congo). To quote our website, “Eos Visions offers exceptional educational and enlightening travel experiences in combination with first-class destination management services in East Africa.” Eos Visions essentially provides an avenue for international professionals, students, advocates, donors, and interested individuals and groups to learn, exchange expertise, and make an impact in subject areas like health, law & governance, business, gender & children, and the environment & energy.

Eos Visions’ overall philosophy is to help people contribute to sustainable development by going beyond regular tourism or even service learning and helping facilitate engagement in constructive, meaningful, responsible and unique ways that support local development initiatives and empower local hosts. As for the name, “‘Eos’ is the name of the Greek Goddess of the Dawn. Mythology has it that she brought light to mortals as well as immortals. We desire to be part of Africa’s new dawn and to create visions that bring light to our international guests as well as the people of the African continent.” What makes Eos Visions a social enterprise, and why I was particularly drawn to it, is that it strives to achieve a ‘more-than-profit’ model that adds a strong socioeconomic value generation component in all aspects of its business and work.

As a junior business development consultant, I work in a few different areas. So far, I primarily conduct research and develop the content for thematic tours in subject areas related to development, governance, public policy, and post-genocide reconstruction. Part of this entails identifying local partners and stakeholders and acting as a liaison between them and Eos Visions. My other main area of work is in international outreach and marketing of tours to potential clients abroad. An exciting part of the job is that the whole team goes on test runs of tours before officially including them in itineraries, so I have had the opportunity to travel around Rwanda and go on several test tours already.

One of the tours involves a visit to a women’s basket weaving cooperative where visitors have the chance to watch how baskets are made and then try some weaving themselves, before buying copious amounts of beautiful banana leaf products.

Mesmerizing

So if you or anyone you know is looking to travel to an exotic destination and/or have an enlightening learning experience in East Africa, you know where to find me.

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