Jacobsen Heads to Rwanda to Train Community Leaders

By Purnell T. Cropper | June 25, 2012

Dr. Bill Jacobsen, Adjunct Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution, is preparing for a six-week trip to Rwanda where he will be one of the facilitators for the second international Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities training. HROC brings together former enemies to heal and rebuild communities broken by genocide. He will also be offering training in “compassionate listening” to African leaders.

Jacobsen will be joined on the trip by Instructor Barbara Simmons; two IPCR graduate students, Caitlin Babcock and Hannah Simmons-Girard; and two undergraduate students, Jacob Waldron and Courtney Wilkinson. All four students will receive HROC training.

The Compassionate Listening Project (www.compassionatelistening.org) trains deep listening skills. “This skill set is fundamental to everything we do in peacemaking,” says Jacobsen. “It’s not just listening to someone, but learning to respect them and recognize their humanity.” The CLP’s approach was developed in the Middle East but has since been found to be effective in other regions of the world after taking on the “clothes” of a local culture. Jacobsen continues, “The program’s success relies heavily on its elicitive approach, which is contrary to other didactic ‘here I am, listen to me’ methods of training.”

Jacobsen’s experience in Rwanda followed the devastating genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi groups, a conflict that has resulted in traumatized populations living as neighbors. Training sessions use art, music and dance in order to draw out and acknowledge traumatic memories. Though facilitators must be aware of the possibility of re-traumatizing, these creative avenues are deeply ingrained in African cultures, and are found to be widely productive in the healing process.

In the United States, Jacobsen volunteers with the Alternatives to Violence Project at Graterford Prison. The project seeks to provide more effective ways of dealing with conflict other than violence. In addition, Jacobsen is working on adapting HROC material for use in the American context.

Up to this point Jacobsen’s work in Rwanda has been self-financed. An account has been set up for tax-deductible contributions for the continuation of the work. Checks can be made out to The Friends Peace Teams/AGLI (with Rwanda-Jacobsen on the memo line) and sent to: Friends Peace Teams, 1001 Park Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63104.

Photos courtesy Rwanda Compassionate Listening.