"When we change ourselves, we change the people around us."
- Therapist Marie-Josee Ukeye, Butare, Rwanda
It takes unimaginable will and courage to move ahead after trauma. For many of the women of Butare, Rwanda, there has been much to survive. Many of those who lived through the genocide lost family, friends and children. Countless numbers were victims of rape; some went on to raise the children born of those rapes, and many live with HIV.
Therapist Marie-Josee Ukeye has been using the practice of Council for the past 2 years in her work with the courageous women of Butare. She will be one of the participants of the training being held by Center for Council at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Council Trainer Siri Gunnarson reflects on visiting the Murambi memorial site, where 50,000 Tutsis were killed in one morning in 1994:
"We saw the mass graves and hundreds of preserved bodies. Our guide asked if we were doing some kind of yoga, noticing how we entered each room in silent awareness. How to be fully present with this history? ...Here I am, looking at room after room of bodies contorted with fear, bullet holes and machete wounds."
She quotes Bernie Glassman:
"In the Zen Peacekeeper Order, we stress bearing witness to the wholeness of life, to every aspect of the situation that arises. It means being each and every element of this situation."
Center for Council is honored to be partnered with Zen Peacekeepers, the Rwandan National Commission on Reconciliation, and local NGOs, bringing the practice of Council and of bearing witness to this community.
"Within one year, a third of those released from prison are back inside. Within three years, two-thirds have returned to prison. To me that says more about the failure of prisons, parole supervision, and reentry programs than it does about the failure of individuals."
-Eddie Ellis, formerly incarcerated founder of the Center for NuLeadership, quoted in The Sun, July 2013
While opinions abound on how to best address the issue of recidivism in our prison system, consensus is growing that we cannot continue with the way things have been.
California has one of the highest rates of recidivism in the nation, an issue that has led to Attorney General Kamala Harris announcing a new state initiative, the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-Entry, aimed at identifying the best ways to reduce those numbers.
The practice of Council addresses some of the Criminogenic Factors identified as key to reducing recidivism.
Center for Council has initiated a pilot program, currently underway at Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP) in Soledad, California, to train inmates in Council. Those participants will then lead other inmates in the practice as many prepare to reenter society.
A larger initiative is currently in development, which will expand the program being piloted at SVSP to other prisons and increase our community-based network of partners offering Council groups to the formerly incarcerated in the neighborhoods to which they will be returning.