Sonia Gooden-Alexis, Ed.D LMHC, Fenway Health’s Clinical Supervisor Behavioral Health, recently returned from an eight-day training in Rwanda around international trauma. During this time, she learned much about behavioral healthcare in the East African country.
The opportunity for Sonia to attend this trip came about following her being awarded the Minority Fellowship Award (2017:NBCC) and this aligning with her academic and professional targets. During the program, Sonia and the other delegates studied trauma and behavioral health challenges faced by people who experienced genocide.
The delegates teamed up with approximately 40 Rwandan behavioral health professionals, providing support for their work while getting a real life perspective of how mental health systems operate in Rwanda and where gaps in care can be addressed.
Sonia and her colleagues also spent time at The Nyamirambo Women’s Center and Autisme Rwanda Center exploring other aspects of the country’s behavioral health system, and met with individuals in their homes to hear more about the lives of people who are living with post-genocidal trauma. They also learned about the environmental and cultural challenges faced the Rwandan agricultural industry.
One member of the group is currently working on a grant application to fund more preventative behavioral health services in Rwanda. Sonia is hopeful the grant will be approved and offered to provide support. She is eager to return to Rwanda and excited about being part of opportunities to add to the development of mental health systems.
“A big part of the whole trip for me was understanding my own privileges,” she said. “The Rwandan people are facing serious challenges, but they are strong people, collective and very hard workers. Even with the language barriers, everyone was so open and engaging. It was an honor to learn from this community.”
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