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Stories of Healing








Vision:  a new path to peace

Trauma Healing And Reconciliation Services is a group of psychosocial practitioners and peacemakers who contribute to healing and peacemaking in Burundi and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. THARS uses a holistic approach to bring people of all walks of life to psychosocial healing and resolution of differences. This new path to peace is based on the understanding that the seeds of tomorrow's wars grow in the soil of today's unhealed traumas. The seeds of tomorrow’s peace grow in the soil of today’s healing and reconciliation.

Burundi is a small, agricultural country in eastern Africa, directly south of Rwanda. For the past 40 years, Burundi and the surrounding African Great Lakes Region has experienced civil war, refugee problems and genocidal episodes.


In 1998 David Zarembka, Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI), sent letters to all Quaker Yearly Meetings in the African Great Lakes Region asking if they would like to have a delegation visit them. David Niyonzima, the Burundi Yearly Meeting General Secretary at the time, responded quickly and positively.


A year earlier, when David Niyonzima and his family were in exile in Nairobi-Kenya, he had organized a seven-day workshop on trauma healing thanks to an “Exchange and Dialogue Program” grant from the American Friends Service Committee. The workshop convened 28 delegates invited from Rwanda, Burundi, D.R. Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, who came to learn about and exchange ideas on issues of trauma.

During that workshop (16th to the 22nd December 1997 at ACK Guest House, Nairobi) it became obvious that situations varied in one country from another. But both the participants and the facilitators agreed that there is a “need to heal, reunite and strengthen the communities” (Healing the Trauma in the Region of the Great Lakes of African workshop report).


An AGLI Team visited Burundi in 1999 and the Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services (THARS) was launched under the auspices of the Burundi Yearly Meeting. Carolyn Keys, from U.S.A. was one of the first trainers who spent two years training, organizing and laying a foundation for the work. In 2002, David Niyonzima returned with a master’s degree in counseling from George Fox University in Oregon. David proposed establishing “Listening Centers” and “Support Groups” throughout the communities.


Because of constraints encountered under the legal status of the Church, THARS was registered as an independent, non-political, interfaith and local organization.


The Burundi Government recognized THARS as an not-for-profit organization and registered it under the Ordonnance Ministérielle N° 530/430 of July 8, 2002, granting full authority to operate throughout the country.


THARS is member of The Amahoro (Peace) Coalition, a group of agencies working for peace in Burundi. The Amahoro (Peace) Coalition is a project of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research.


Mission: planting seeds of peace

We help people of all walks of life to build a culture of peace and harmony. By promoting mutual respect and listening THARS enables people to understand each other, have compassion for one another and care for one another. We foster reconciliation and seek to heal traumatic and psychological wounds so that justice prevails and people find peaceful alternatives for resolving their differences.



- Raising awareness and sensitivity

- Making mental health services accessible

- Building people's capacity to help themselves

- Peace-building and reconciliation.



1. To facilitate and coordinate workshops on trauma healing.

2. To establish local sites where families, groups and individuals who need trauma assistance receive treatment

3. To train people in trauma healing and reconciliation.

4. To foster solidarity among counselors of trauma cases and encourage research in this field.

5. To build and strengthen the capacity for dealing with trauma by means of seminars, conferences

  and literature.

6. To promote effective methods for nurturing the healing process, including using music, theatre,

  dance and sports.

7. To educate the public and international community about issues of trauma and to encourage action on these issues.

8. To provide activities, community forums, exchanges and skill training that will contribute

  to reconciliation.


People at THARS
THARS has a board of directors, a coordinating staff, counselors and specialized trainers who can present on a variety of topics. THARS has Listeners who manage Listening Rooms in areas of Burundi most affected by violence.

THARS accepts interns from various universities, national and international.


On going Projects

  • Quilting and micro-loans programs

  • Conflict Transformation and Peace Education, and Peace clubs

  • Victims of Torture and Sexual violence and Safe houses.

  • Trauma Healing for Children and support groups

  • Training on Trauma Healing for Teachers and Parents

  • Designing the THARS Trauma Training Site

  • Work camps on construction at the Site

  • Publishing of material on Violence, Trauma and Healing

  • Community leaders workshops on Human Rights and Democracy

  • Presentations of lectures during workshops

  • Consultancy on various projects

  • THARS works with consultants, does research on violence resistance system, trauma and peace. THARS makes available self-help literature, pins and bracelets. Contact THARS office for details.


    Contact Information
    Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services
    Rohero II, Boulevard de l'Independance
    B.P. 6311 Bujumbura

    Telephone: (257) 22 24 58 24
    Fax: (257) 22 24 93 56
    E-mail: tharsoffice@gmail.com (office)
              ndamukiza@yahoo.com (coordinator)


    THARS staff only