Disaster Shakti – Rwanda Recovery Project by Dan Greif

Disaster Shakti - Rwanda Recovery Project by Dan Greif

Dan Greif, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Clinical Psychology, will spend seven weeks in Rwanda this summer for his Supervised Independent Study. Dan will be working as a member of the Disaster Shakti group, coordinating activities for HIV+ youth. He will be posting about his experiences here.

As a Student Independent Study (SIS), this summer I will spend 7 weeks volunteering in Kigali, Rwanda for a grassroots organization called WE-ACTx. WE-ACTx was established in 2003 by AIDS physicians and activists to provide testing, treatment, and support for women and children who are survivors of genocidal rape and violence. I will be doing this project as a member of Disaster Shakti and Dr. Gargi Roysircar will by my SIS tutor and supervisor.

Recently, the number of HIV+ adolescents who seek WE-ACTx’s services has grown, so the organization feels a need to offer more comprehensive services for youth. The need for additional youth programs is especially strong during the month of July, when school is out of session. My fellow collaborator and I will work on youth activities. On alternating mornings, we will work with two different adolescent age groups, 11-15 year-olds and 16-20+ year-olds. The Medical Director at WE-ACTx has asked us to undertake several activities, including: leadership training, field trips, English lessons (English is now taught in schools in Rwanda), and recreational activities such as sports, dance, theater, and experiential learning exercises.

WE-ACTx staff has expressed a desire to better understand the attitudes, interests, and personal stories of adolescents living with HIV. In August, in addition to facilitating activities, we would like to have informal dialogues with several of the teenagers in the program in order to gain a greater awareness of their hobbies and narratives. We plan on documenting our findings for the staff at WE-ACTx to use as they expand their youth services.

On a personal level, I will learn experiential activities that teenagers will enjoy doing in a group setting before I depart. I also plan to write self-reflective process notes to help me recognize and sort out my own cultural biases and assumptions. This experience, while benefiting Rwandan adolescents, will hopefully be a rewarding way to hone my multicultural competence skills as a Clinical Psychology student.