Jeanne D’Arc’s story

In April 1994, when the killing started in our village ,I was 14 years old. I was badly beaten, particularly on my head and raped. My mother who witnessed this cried out to help me and was killed in front of me as a result.
Other people shouted saying I was  young and should be left alone but I was taken away by those people and kept. I was raped and beaten many times in the next weeks. I tried to run away but was taken back and beaten again.
I became ill; the damage inside my body was extensive and my head had swollen. I fell into a state of paralysis and my mind seemed to flee from my body. Someone took me to a hospital in Congo where I was looked after for 2 months.
I returned to my village, but every member of my family had perished. Later a distant cousin came and brought me to the hospital in Kigali where I had treatment for over a year. I found I had many injuries to my head, ears, nerves as well as my internal organs.

 

These problems have been ongoing all my life and I need regular medication, and hospital admissions. I have struggled with mental illness throughout.

 

In 2003 I returned to my village near Gisenyi. Eventually I married my cousin, but he never truly accepted the person I had become. I knew this and released him. I found him a new wife. When it was discovered she could not have children I had 3 children with him, but he stayed with his wife. He is now dead and this is in the past.

 

This changed in 2011 when Sam spoke to me about NOUSPR. Since then I have learned to accept the person I am. The thoughts that had previously tormented me so much have since gone and I feel part of something, not isolated and alone. I am still physically very weak and cannot walk far, but I have learned that people with mental illness are discriminated against and we must work together as a group to change this.
Sam has been to talk to us many times and things have changed here. Our neighbors now know we are responsible adults who can earn money and work hard. The local leaders have seen this and support us.
In our group we graze livestock and sell the animals for profit. We cultivate land together and sell the produce. We have an art and design group and use the income to care for those in the group who are sick. Our sewing machines are also used to produce an income. Each of these activities earns us respect and that is an important thing to us.
I am a Patient Expert and people often call me to help others who are sick. The local leaders ask for my help and now respect us as a group.
Recently I found a man who had run off in a mad fit. He had fallen down a mine shaft and had been trapped there for many weeks. He was starved, filthy and very sick. I arranged for him to be released from that pit and we are now looking after him.
The 47  members in my NOUSPR self help group lead much more improved lives because of NOUSPR, they feel proud of their achievements and have gained respect from their neighbors.