A genocide survivor and MSU poet pursue healing through writing

Jul 3, 2014

In Rwanda, July 4 marks the end of the annual mourning period to remember victims of the 1994 genocide.
Credit Flickr/Jolly Jolson

While we’ll be celebrating Independence Day here in America tomorrow, halfway around the world the date also marks a national holiday in Rwanda, though it’s a much more somber occasion.

July 4 is Rwanda's Liberation Day and it marks the end of the country’s official mourning period for the more than one million people who were murdered during the genocide there in 1994. And this year, of course, is the 20th anniversary of those horrific 100 days.

Over these last two decades since the genocide, many inspiring stories have emerged of survival and perseverance, and we have one more with an MSU connection.

In 2007, Laura Apol, an associate professor in the College of Education, went to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, to hold a therapy writing workshop for a handful of survivors. She subsequently wrote a book of poems based on her experience called “Requiem, Rwanda.”

Laura has stayed in touch with a number of her students, including Louise Marie Mukamwezi. Louise was just a child when her entire family -- her mother, father, and three younger brothers -- was murdered in their home on June 6, 1994. She managed to escape, and she’s now working with orphans in Kigali and getting her master’s degree in public health in English. Louise credits the writing workshop with helping her move on from her personal tragedy.

Current State producer Joe Linstroth speaks with Laura and Louise about the healing power of writing.