Capacitar program for transformation

By Sister Geneviève van Waesberghe

genevieve_van_waesberghe1Capacitar, means ‘to empower’. Networking people on five continents, it signifies the spirit of empowerment and solidarity. ‘Capacitar International’, with an office in California, has a team of trainers, and works with local or regional teams in 26 countries.

The vision of Capacitar is to heal ourselves and to heal our world. Using a hands-on popular education approach, it teaches simple wellness practices that lead to healing, wholeness and peace in the individual and in the world.

Capacitar is committed to communities affected by violence, poverty and trauma, uniting people across borders in solidarity, understanding and reconciliation.

When I first discovered the website, I felt very excited. Soon after that, a friend gave me the Manual by the founder and co-director, Patricia Cane, entitled Trauma Healing and Transformation. I felt instantly at home with what I read. I was already familiar with many of its practices, its philosophy and some of the scientific research which confirms the basic theory and the usefulness of the practices involved.

rwanda_capacitar_butareSince the beginning of the year 2000, we had been developing a programme here in our Centre at Butare for women in distress and their children. We use a holistic approach, incorporating body-mind-spirit practices. An extension of this is our programme called Education for Life‚ and a community-based HIV programme. It was wonderful to realize that what we were trying to do on our own was being done by thousands of other people working in the Capacitar network in 26 other countries. Like us, those people had also been affected by wars, genocide, natural disasters, HIV and poverty. Following many years of experience, research and analysis of what is really effective at grassroots level, Capacitar offers tools and practices that can enable individuals and communities to access their own power to heal themselves, and transform their lives, bringing peace to our communities and to the world. In November 2005, I invited Constansia Mbogoma, from Capacitar in Tanzania, to give our staff and other invited participants their first workshop.

rwanda_capacitar_studentsTowards the end of 2005, I wrote to Patricia Cane, unaware that at the same time in Chicago, Sister Antoinette Gasiberege from Rwanda, who had been helped by the methodology of Capacitar, had already asked her to come to Rwanda in June 2006.

During the first six months of 2006, our staff – mainly our trauma counselors – began to discover how much the practices of Capacitar helped them and their clients in counseling. This was particularly noticeable during the month of the Genocide Memorial, when reburial took place, as many traumas surfaced. Our team was present to the population on the hillsides.

The model of popular education used by Capacitar is a dynamic educational method developed by the well-known Brazilian educator, the late Paulo Freire. It seeks to empower people to awaken to their own wisdom and ability. It is used extensively with grassroots people throughout Latin America and Africa.

rwanda_capacitar_head_holdPopular education forms the basis of Capacitar's learner-centered approach. Using wellness practices, such as Tai Chi and acupressure, Capacitar teaches ‘body literacy’ to reconnect people to their own wisdom and capacity. An important aspect of popular education is the multiplier effect. Whatever a person learns they are encouraged to pass on to their families and communities, empowering the learner, contributing to the community and multiplying the work.

As we taught people the techniques and methodology of Capacitar, it was very rewarding for us to see them in turn teaching the same practices to others in distress.

From our Centre in Butare, we coordinated the visit of Patricia Cane. We organized several workshops. Four were held in Butare in the Southern Province and one in Cyangugu in the Western Province near Rwanda’s border with Congo.

rwanda_capacitar_participantsParticipants included our own staff here in Butare and our rural community at Kirambi. We also had various partners including lawyers, doctors, psychologists, trauma counselors, pastoral workers, justice and peace workers, teachers, different groups of university students, ‘Art de Vivre’, clinical psychologists, Anglicans, religious brothers and sisters, members of associations of widows, genocide survivors and a group of seventeen priests from three dioceses.

It was a huge effort for us, but a rewarding one. Further workshops in Kigali were organized by Patricia Cane, Sister Antoinette and Mari Fabri, Director of the Kovlar Center in Chicago.

Capacitar has already made a difference in Rwanda. We have followed up with three more sessions for formators from Rwanda, Congo and Burundi. It is not surprising that participants have asked to have a Capacitar team set up for the Great Lakes Region. We look forward to that!