Trainings, Workshops, Seminars and Conferences

“Listening and Speaking to Connect
– an introduction to Nonviolent Communication ℠ (NVC)” with students

The PIASS Peace Club in collaboration with CRASPD and support from a group of German psychotherapists conducted an introductory workshop “Listening and Speaking to Connect – an introduction to Nonviolent Communication (NVC) developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg (more at The initiative came from Dismas, one of our final-year students, who regularly participates in our NVC practice group and even raised the funds to conduct the workshop. The first two days of the workshop were facilitated by Floriane, Anne, Dismas and Linda on November 24-25. Linda is an NVC participant (she attended Restorative Dialogue training and co-facilitated the introduction with A Peace of Life in Kigali last year, and practice group).

Needs are universal – strategies are individual: a circle exercise

With 15 participants, we explored ways to listen and to speak that support trustful and mutually supportive relationships in our life, studies and workplaces, especially when we have conflicts and misunderstandings. It was a challenge and pleasure to devise variations of short presentations, sharing of experiences, work in pairs and groups and practical exercises that are compatible with the necessary COVID-19 security measures. The team is observing developments on new COVID rules to see whether the third day can take place in January 2021.

NVC Practice Group at PIASS

In our meeting in August, we tried to develop our vocabulary of feelings—especially in Kinyarwanda. In September, the focus topic was: “What do we do when someone does not want to open his/her heart?” We looked at various situations where this happens, and we found that, sometimes, it may not be the right situation for someone to share what is alive in her/ him, because s/he might be scared, frustrated, angry or have other strong feelings that block compassion and even the ability to receive empathy. We learned that it is not our goal to fix people. Rather, when empathizing with someone, we listen to their feelings and needs while providing necessary space. When they feel really heard, they may open up. This may take some time and require “natural” language, that is, language that does not convey to the person that s/he is being diagnosed or therapized

In June, the Nonviolent Communication practice group at PIASS worked on the question of how to  deal with dishonesty. With practical examples from every-day life, we found out that telling lies or half-truths is caused by our needs—the basis of our motivation for anything we do in our lives. This is not to justify lying. Rather, we realized that there is a human need behind every human behavior, even if it is something we consider immoral. If we enter into a fight or break our relationship with someone who lied to us, our relationship with this person will worsen or even break. The other option is to try to understand why s/he felt the need  to lie so that we can restore the relationship with the person: after listening to the person’s feelings and needs, we can then express our own confusion or sadness about what happened (the ‘lie’) and our desire for honesty.

For the session in July, one of the regular participants had asked to speak about personality types as they are categorized by psychologists. Having two trained psychological professionals in the group, we quickly realized that these labels may be helpful for mental health workers who need to perform a diagnoses before they offer treatment to patients. However, these labels can also create obstacles to human connection. For example, if we label someone in a specific way, our understanding of a person’s situation would be limited by the characteristics that are ascribed by the label. Coincidentally, the weekly reflection by CNVC certified trainer Mary Mackenzie offered helpful advice on this issue with an excerpt from her book Peaceful Living: Daily Meditations for Living with Love, Healing, and Compassion :

We don’t need to fix other people! When empathizing with someone, we listen for their feelings and needs and don’t try to fix their problem for them. The very process of giving someone space to talk about their issue without our judgment, to be truly understood by us, and to be deeply heard is very healing, enough so that most people will organically find their own creative ways to resolve their issues. Rely on this process and you will lose all desire to fix people’s problems. Instead, you will learn to trust their ability to resolve their issues. All it takes is your presence and your desire to hear their feelings and needs. Amazing! (INSERT PAGE NUMBER WHERE THE QUOTE IS FOUND).

Please share this reflection with your friends and family. They may sign up to receive their own weekly reflections at the following Stay In Touch page (  Copyright ©2016 NVC Academy, LLC, All rights reserved

Introduction to NVC-Mediation at A Peace of Live (APoL) Youth Peace Camp in Kigali on August 1, 2019

One of the students in our Department of Peace and Conflict Studies BA Program is active in the local youth organization “A Peace of Life”, which has held annual regional youth peace camps for the past ten years. This year, they invited a team from PIASS to introduce the role that communication can play in mediation. Using a sketch and several practical exercises and inputs, the team introduced nonviolent communication. In particular, the team explained how nonviolent communication can be used for effective mediation between parties in conflict. After the session, the participants from different countries and age groups expressed their appreciation for having learned an approach to conflict that can help prevent violence and restore good relationships.

Second part of NVC-introduction with volunteers of Never Again Rwanda August 24, 2019

One of the students in our Department of Peace and Conflict Studies BA Program is working as a volunteer in our partner organization “Never Again Rwanda (NAR)” ( He took up the desire of different of his fellow volunteers to have an introduction to Nonviolent Communication (NVC). In a team with two CRASPD staff, we held a one day introductory on NVC in March with those volunteers, and in August, we continued with a second day where we discussed the key distinctions between observation and interpretation, feeling and thought, need and strategy and request and demand. We also worked on the option of connecting with someone who gives us a tough/violent message by empathically listening to him/her.


H4PC banner (2)
Healing for Peace Conference October 2019

Five approaches that integrate psychosocial support and peacebuilding were presented in the conference. Practical sessions were done on each of the approaches to allow participants in the conference—who had a chance to choose two practical sessions maximum—to receive insight on how the approaches they selected could look like in practice.

After sharing experiences from the practice sessions and plenary discussions, the panelists wrote and presented a public statement, upon approval of the participants, to raise public awareness about the importance of healing mental wounds after large scale violence so that a peaceful future becomes achievable for the communities where this happened.

Healing Wounds Of Violence Needs The Whole Community
Caring for mental wounds to help communities after large scale violence. Statement of the Healing for Peace Conference, held at PIASS in Huye, October 27-29, 2019, with support from GIZ Civil Peace Service

Suffering from mental wounds after large-scale violence is a reality in many communities of the region, that affects all dimensions of the community, starting from the family. Healing and peacebuilding are interconnected and interdependent. Each of them are essential and together contribute powerfully to the overall healing of communities. Healing involves the “whole” community. Overcoming stigma towards people with mental wounds and listening to their pain and needs are prerequisites for the healing of the community.

In line with the Ubuntu [I am because you are] concept, and the Rwandan proverb “Kubaho ni ukubana” [to be is to live with others], we believe that it is important that, after large-scale violence, community members support each other.

The Healing for Peace Conference wants to raise awareness on the importance of integrating psychosocial support and healing into peacebuilding programs. Networking, joint efforts and collaboration of practitioners in psychosocial support and peacebuilding are vital because peace requires efforts from all. Young people also have the potential to help their peers to overcome transgenerational trauma and, if they are involved more, they have a lot to offer.

In the conference, five approaches integrating psychosocial support and peacebuilding have been presented and practiced briefly to give an insight of what they are about and how they work:

One of the major insights from this conference was that “healing starts with me”. Listening to those in pain after large-scale violence can be done by any community member and contributes to healing hearts and restoring communities.

For further information, please, contact the Center for Research & Action towards Sustainable Peace & Development (CRASPD) at PIASS, Huye, Rwanda, (0)783 347 955 / (0)788 351 234 / (0) 789 286 839/ (0)789 408 720, Email:, website:

The report of the conference can be downloaded here: REPORT_H4P_fin_conference_X_2019

The contributions of AMI, ARCT, CARSA, HROC and Restorative Dialogue can be downloaded here:


ARCT – Ruhuka experience;


CARSA paper to the conference



Restorative Dialogue HealingforPeaceConference2019

 Nonviolent Communication (NVC- http://www.cnvc.og)

Trauma First Aid Refresher Training Conducted with
Mental Health Advisors trained in 2017 and 2018

In 2017 and 2018, 28 students from different faculties of PIASS have been trained as Trauma First Aiders/ Mental Health Advisors by CRASPD in collaboration with PIASS Peace Club to support people in emotional crisis after violent incidents and in commemoration events. We worked with local trauma counseling trainers and clinical psychologists who introduced basic concepts of trauma and healing as well as different methods of psychosocial support. In practice sessions, participants learnt to apply different techniques and exercises to support persons in emotional turmoil, under their supervision.

CRASPD, with support of the Japan Baptist Convention, organized a Trauma First Aid Refresher Training end of April 2019, for those trained Mental Health Advisors to renew and deepen what they learnt in their prior training. By strengthening their skills and confidence to help themselves and other people in situations of emotional crisis, we would like to contribute to a constructive way to deal with consequences of violence-induced traumatization in communities.

Mental Health Advisors who had been trained in Trauma First Aid in 2017 and 2018 joined the refresher training and,  in teams under supervision of our trainer and clinic psychologist Therese Uwitonze from MHDF (Mental Health Dignity Foundation) served as Mental Health Advisors during the PIASS Commemoration, in the commemoration with Umucyo Nyanza and in other events during the 2019 commemoration period,


Strategic Planning Workshop of CRASPD for the Cooperation of PIASS and GIZ CPS

The workshop had an objective of agreeing on the continuation of the cooperation of the Civil Peace Service (CPS) of GIZ (German Development Cooperation) with PIASS through the Center for Research and Action towards Sustainable Peace and Development (CRASPD). The workshop took place at Centre d’Accueil Ste Scholastique at Sovu in Huye District, for 2 days on March 25 – 26, 2019.


The Deputy Vice Chancellor of PIASS, members of the Faculty and a volunteer serving at CRASPD under the program of Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) of the US Lutheran Church were in attendance, as well as the Coordinator of the GIZ Civil Peace Service Program Rwanda – Burundi – Eastern DRC.  The workshop was facilitated by Esther Tidjani, International Peace Advisor who is the assigned expert for organizational development in the regional program of GIZ Civil Peace Service.

In the workshop, the participants reviewed the cooperation between PIASS and GIZ CPS, its history, achievements, challenges and lessons learnt. They then identified the priorities of CRASPD in 2019 around three aspects: networking, joint research and community outreach.


Then, they looked at the outcomes of the regional program of GIZ CPS and identified possibilities of future cooperation. By the end of the workshop, three objectives were formulated for the cooperation of PIASS/ CRASPD with GIZ CPS in the period between 2019 and 2022 as follow:

1) Research-informed knowledge useful for peace and development policy makers and practitioners is generated and shared, 2) Peace-building actors in the region have increased sustainable initiatives and collaboration (capacity development and networking as means on how to achieve it), and 3) Peace-building practitioners and communities have access to a training and resource center in the region.


On the occasion of International Women’s Day, CRASPD, in cooperation with the PIASS Peace Club, showed the film “SWEET DREAMS” telling the amazing story of women who mustered courage and creativity to combine their journey of reconciliation with innovative entrepreneurship. A great audience split into groups using creative methods to show the main ideas of the film by drawings and drama, as well as narration. Funds were collected to support the continuation of the work of the women’s cooperative. WomensDayFilmScreening

Film Screening SWEET DREAMS on International Women’s Dayimg_2099.jpg

Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) – Online Introduction

CRASPD, in cooperation with the HROC (Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities) Center in Musanze, held a second online introduction of the HROC approach, which was open to members of all partner organizations in the Regional GIZ Civil Peace Service program and other interested peace practitioners. This time, we conducted the introduction in English with French translation French in the chat. Four HROC facilitators from Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya gave an overview of HROC and its historical background. They also explained how an international HROC facilitator’s training works and how ‘Healing Companions’ trained there can be instrumental to support a path to joint healing after intercommunal violence in the communities from which they come. Fourteen staff and members of different organizations signed up for the introduction, but unfortunately, due to network connection issues, many dropped out for some time or completely. This seems to be more frequent during the rainy season, as heavy clouds and rain disturb internet connectivity. Those who took part expressed gratitude for learning more about HROC


Critical Thinking Facilitators
Refresher Training and Online Discussion

An online Refresher Training for Critical Thinking Facilitators on October 1-2, 2020 was organized on Zoom as universities were still closed at that time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which did not allow facilitators, mainly PIASS students, to gather together at PIASS. Twelve participants, who had been trained as facilitators in 2018 or 2019, took part in the training (six females and six males).

The overall purpose of the training was to review the skills learnt from past experiences and to prepare at least two discussions before the end of October. On the first day, the session consisted of sharing facilitation skills, discussing expectations of the training (topics for the second day) as well as some reviewing of the inputs learnt during the critical thinking training of facilitators.

In the discussion on the way forward, two ‘critical thinking discussions’ were planned and recommendations were made for the sustainability of the critical thinking facilitation. Regarding the sustainability of critical thinking facilitation in COVID-times, participants shared that there can be online sessions, refresher trainings and continuity with the WhatsApp group of facilitators.

Restorative Dialogue Refresher Training, March 12-13, 2020

The Refresher Training was a follow-up activity to the Restorative Dialogue Training with Duke Duchscherer—CNVC (Center for Nonviolent Communication, certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication and Restorative Dialogue Facilitator—at PIASS in October 2019. Restorative Dialogue came from efforts of installing restorative justice after violence happened, originally from indigenous communities around the world. For them, it was often important to repair relationships in the community when someone had done something that caused harm to someone in the community so that the community harmony would be restored.  Restorative Dialogue uses the technique of restorative circles as an approach to dealing with community violence. It was created by Dominic Barter when he was living and working in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro do Brasil where a lot of gang violence happens and many people are killed in community violence every year. He developed it further together with the people there and took it to other places, together with other trainers of Nonviolent Communication. Restorative Dialogue (RD) is usually organized in three phases: a pre-circle where RD facilitators explore the readiness of potential participants and their understanding of the process, the restorative circle itself in which all concerned are participating and identifying restorative steps to commit to, and a post-circle, reviewing how the outcomes of the process are affecting the participants and what next steps they would like to take to restore the harmony in their community.

During the Refresher Training, the participants shared experiences of having used different techniques of Restorative Dialogue, reviewed the content of pre-circles, facilitators’ pre-circles, restorative circles and post-circles, and reviewed the ‘live’ Restorative Dialogue that had been taking place in November 2019 in a community near Huye under Duke’s supervision.

The focus was much on practice: We practiced in pairs, in triads and in larger groups, as well as in a full circle. Developing the program over the course of two days, re-adjusting the program according to present needs and different participants facilitating various sessions ensured that everyone actively participated and brought immense learning opportunities to everyone. We certainly did not manage to do the perfect ‘restorative circle’, but we supported each other on our journey of learning the practical steps to develop the following skills: 1) listening to each other, 2) giving and receiving support to hear what a painful, scary or sad experience means to one, 3) to acknowledge our parts in what happened and our agency to contribute to our healing in a community. An interesting exchange unfolded about the ‘live’ Restorative Dialogue that had been conducted in November in collaboration with Association Modeste et Innocent (AMI). Forty local community members participated, half of them victims of Genocide crimes, and the other half people who had been in prison under charges of having committed Genocide crimes in the same community. One participant questioned whether the participants took part on a voluntary basis and voiced concerns that the sharing of painful truths and feelings of pain and suffering would bring back traumatic experiences and lead to emotional crises that could not be well-handled by a Restorative Dialogue team. The team responded that the two groups had been prepared and informed about their choices separately and reassured that their participation was voluntary. When participants would be overcome by emotions, Therese and Joseph from the Mental Health Dignity Foundation, who were members of the team, took care of them and supported them to reconnect.

Restorative Dialogue Training October 20 – 24, 2019

The Restorative Dialogue Training was conducted from October 20 to October 24, 2019 at the PIASS Main Educational Building. Its purpose was to introduce an approach to build bridges between people who are suffering due to violence that occurred in their community, like the Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, and that was, to our knowledge, not yet known in the region.


In the training, twenty-seven participants (14 male and 13 female) were introduced to the Restorative Dialogue process which is based on Nonviolent Communication where a facilitator supports reflective listening to achieve a mutual understanding that contributes to healing the wounds of harm done. The participants came from different countries (Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa) and different professional, educational and peacebuilding backgrounds (several AVP facilitators, academicians, HROC trainers, clinical psychologists, social workers, development workers and international as well as local peace advisors).

A few of the participants, lead and mentored by the trainer, co-facilitated a Restorative Dialogue in a community in Huye District, one week after the training, in collaboration with Association Modeste et Innocent (AMI). Fourty local community members participated.

The report of the training can be downloaded here:


Healing for Peace Conference October 27 – 29, 2019

The Healing for Peace Conference was organized by PIASS through its Center for Research and Action towards Sustainable Peace and Development (CRASPD). The conference, which took on October 27-29, 2019 at PIASS Conference Hall, brought together approximately 50 national and international actors from around 15 organizations and institutions working in peacebuilding, psychosocial support and/or development.

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