SMC visits the home of James Madison

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SMC participants and CISR staff tour the grounds of James Madison’s estate, Montpelier. 

On Saturday, May 19, the Senior Managers’ Course participants and staff visited Montpelier—the home of the United States’ fourth president and JMU’s namesake, James Madison. The sprawling estate covers more than 2,650 lush acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The group began the day with a guided tour through President Madison’s lifelong home, where they explored a mansion rich with history. After the tour, the group walked the grounds, visiting the gorgeous gardens and ending at a picnic lunch behind the visitors’ center.

Madison spent the winter of 1786 at Montpelier poring over books on history, philosophy and government in order to formulate his powerful vision: the U.S. Constitution, America’s most important document that enshrines its citizens’ rights and liberties. However, Montpelier was more than just a historical backdrop; it was also a home. Madison lived there with his wife Dolly until his death in 1836 and is buried on the property. Today Montpelier seeks to not only educate visitors about Madison’s contributions to American political discourse, but also to depict his family life and the intimate setting where he lived, worked and entertained.

Visiting Madison’s home is not just important for SMC participants, because the eponymous university hosts the course, but because Montpelier also symbolizes James Madison’s legacy. Visiting the home of the father of the U.S. Constitution imprints in all who enter his belief in a strong united nation where no faction could rule in tyranny over a minority.

In the field of post-conflict recovery, where many countries face the same questions that Madison and the Founding Fathers faced more than 200 years ago during the Constitutional Convention, looking to the past for guidance is crucial to study best practices and learn from mistakes. This is the very same action Madison took, as he consulted Aristotle and Voltaire to develop a new way of governing. In CISR and our SMC participants’ work, this critical engagement in learning and formulating new solutions is just as important today as it was for Madison. He summed this up best in an 1822 letter, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people that mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”


Edward Lajoie joined the CISR staff in April 2011 as an assistant for CISR’s Senior Managers Course and is now a program assistant and research specialist for CISR. Ed graduated from James Madison University in May 2011 with a BA in International Relations with a concentration on the Middle East.

CISR Concludes Burundi Peer Support Training Workshop

by Cameron Macauley, CISR Peer Support Specialist

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The Burundi Peer Support Training Workshop for Non-Literate and Semi-Literate Women concluded today after a very enjoyable, successful week. The 25 women who participated expressed great satisfaction and displayed an impressive range of peer support skills at the end of the workshop. There was enthusiastic thanks for CISR’s patronage and repeated requests for us to return for further educational events.

The workshop content proved well-designed for this particular audience, although we discovered that it was necessary to adjust teaching methodology to a few cultural characteristics specific to Burundi. First, much of the course is built around question-and-answer dialogue between facilitator and participants. It seems, however, that Burundian women who have not attended school are unused to this format, and they tended to respond in the traditional Burundian style, that is, lengthy speeches or stories meant to illustrate a point or respond to a question.

Another issue we encountered was a distinct problem related to a discussion of “goals and objectives”. Peer support workers are encouraged to help survivors establish goals, however women in Burundi almost never determine their course of action alone: decisions are made in groups, in the family, and frequently by men in this patriarchal society. They felt uncomfortable and a bit skeptical that an individual woman could determine her own activities by herself.

Despite these hurdles, the women all proved to be intelligent, perceptive and highly resilient. Most of them volunteered stories about their lives in which they proudly described participating as soldiers in combat. Rather than garnering praise and respect for their service, they were instead usually subjected to rape, torture and abuse, in
many cases for years on end. Their fortitude under these conditions is profoundly admirable.

CISR and CEDAC have contributed greatly to these women’s lives by building their skills and bolstering their self-confidence. I certainly hope we will continue to implement program activities in Burundi.

CISR Concludes Training in Rwanda

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Today CISR concluded the second of three training workshops in East Africa: a 3-day event for professional trauma counselors in Rwanda who will supervise peer support workers in a program implemented by IBUKA, Rwanda’s largest organization for assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide. 

Of the 10 participants, three were licensed clinical psychologists and the others were trauma counselors, three of whom have been working with genocide survivors for over ten years. These professionals treat severely traumatized survivors who continue to suffer from PTSD and depression seventeen years after the event. Their stories, and some of the examples they gave, spoke of people who had witnessed and escaped from one of history’s most horrifying slaughters, an atrocity so profound that we can only use superlatives to describe it. 

Nearly two decades later, the population is still coming to terms with what took place and every living Rwandan has been affected. The workshop participants shared their frustration with their enormous caseload and the impossibility of providing adequate care for everyone who needs it. They suggested that many survivors would benefit from a sympathetic and an understanding friendship. In an effort to help people cope with painful memories and nightmares, CISR plans to train survivors as peer support workers to listen to and discuss stories of the genocide with others in their community. During the next three days CISR will conduct a third peer support training workshop in Rulindo, outside of the capital Kigali. 

Adelite Mukamana, IBUKA’s Director of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, describes peer support as yet another way of getting Rwandans to help each other. “We are all survivors,” she notes, “and surviving has made us stronger.” 

–Cameron Macauley, CISR Peer Support Specialist

Lebanese Government Partners with U.S. University to Bring Peer Support, Leadership Skills to Middle East Landmine Survivors

Harrisonburg, VA (May 5, 2011) – The Center for International Stabilization (CISR) at James Madison University (JMU) and the Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC) hosted 29 landmine survivors for a week-long peer support program in Hammama, Lebanon from May 8-15, 2011.

The program, Pathways to Resilience (P2R), was a workshop providing an innovative regional leadership and training program for survivors of landmines and explosive ordnance injuries in the Middle East, and will host participants from Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen. The workshop helped survivors to make meaning of past events, learn to manage emotions in new ways, find social support, personal strength and inspiration. Program activities promoted resilience using experience-based learning followed by reflective observation.

As a final project, organizational leaders and survivors worked together to create plans of action for implementing P2R and peer support programs in their home countries. Activities were coordinated and led in Arabic by selected local staff supported by JMU faculty and Middle Eastern victim assistance experts.

CISR was founded at JMU in 1996 as the Mine Action Information Center and became CISR in 2008. CISR specializes in research, education, information exchange and training with regard to the international effort to combat the effects of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). CISR staff and peer-support specialist coordinated the planning and implementation of P2R.

 Faculty from the Departments of Graduate Psychology and Mathematics and Statistics at JMU will be participating in the program to provide therapeutic resources, program evaluation, needs assessments, and follow-up surveys.

 LMAC is the coordinating body for all humanitarian mine action activities in Lebanon. It executes and coordinates the Lebanese National Mine Action Program on behalf of Lebanon Mine Action Authority.

As part of its commitment to addressing the harmful effects of landmines on civilians, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA) in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs provided the grant to fund P2R. CISR has identified a need to facilitate the emotional and physical recovery of victims of landmines, and train those survivors to help others in need within their countries of origin.

“P2R provides a unique opportunity for participants to develop self-confidence, emotional and physical health and life direction for while empowering them to help other survivors using similar techniques in their own country,” says Dr. Ken Rutherford, Director of CISR. “Peer support is an fundamental part of recovery, and we were fortunate to share this experience with our partners in Lebanon.”

My Experience at the ERWTC Jordan

~ Ed Lajoie, CISR staff

 There is an experience most travellers are familiar with. It’s a combination of nostalgia and a restless search for meaning, or some sort of lesson that one feels when he or she returns from a trip—a trip that wasn’t just a vacation meant to clear one’s mind, but a real experience that excites it. In my case that experience was a week and a half working at the Explosive Remnants of War Training Course in Amman, Jordan. The ERWTC is a training course aimed at senior-level managers in the field of mine and ERW (explosive remnants of war) action.  The course was hosted by the Jordanian National Committee for Demining and Rehabilitation (NCDR) and sponsored by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA).

In all honesty, I could spend the rest of this essay talking about the professionalism of the NCDR and their commitment to providing a world class course. I could mention the highly competent and intelligent instructors who came from all over the world and took time out of their lives to share their knowledge with the participants. I could try to list all the amazing moments that we as a group shared. Unfortunately, properly discussing those things would miss the point. As a newly employed member of the mine-action community, I have to wonder if my work really affects people.

After some time thinking it over, what I came away with was a lesson on communities. There are the communities actually created because of these cruel weapons. There is the community of survivors and civilizations affected by landmine and ERW incidents. And there is the community dedicated to eradicating the effects of landmines and ERW. This last community is often made up of members from the previously mentioned two groups, but it also includes those individuals who, although not personally affected by these weapons, make it their mission to eliminate indiscriminate weapons of war.  It is this community that I learned about during my time at the ERWTC.

There were 20 participants at the 2011 ERWTC from diverse backgrounds. Some were new to the field while others had lifetimes of experience. The same was true of the instructors.  However, they all shared the same mission and they came together to achieve it. So here is the lesson that I learned: At its most basic level, the problem of landmines and ERW is a local one, but its solution is global. What I mean by that in the context of the ERWTC is that although each participant was there to gain information and expertise in order to help alleviate the suffering in their own communities, they were also acting as a larger group.  They shared strategies and best practices and collaborated on projects that were potentially beneficial to all. The feeling during the time was not just one of, “How can I rid Iraq, Azerbaijan or Cambodia of landmines?” but “How can I rid the world of landmines?” Each country was just a step in the process. It was the kind of solidarity expressed at Meetings of the States Parties and other international events concerning landmines and ERW.  The meaning I found at the ERWTC was less of an academic lesson and more of an affirmation.  To me, the experience was a demonstration of global solidarity and an introduction to a community of people dedicated to saving and changing lives.

CISR editorial assistant wins $28,000 Rotary scholarship to study in South Africa

Katie Sensabaugh, a 2012 justice studies and political science graduate of JMU and an editorial assistant at the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at JMU, was awarded a $28,000 Rotary Ambassadorial scholarship. The award will allow the Shenandoah Valley resident to study community development and conflict resolution in South Africa beginning January 2014. Sensabaugh, 21, has traveled abroad multiple times, including a visit to South Africa in 2010, where her passion for conflict resolution and community development truly started.


CISR completes peer-support training workshops in Rwanda

Following up on training workshops CISR conducted in 2011 with its partner organization IBUKA, CISR is participating in a new series of workshops to prepare trainers and new peer-support workers. IBUKA is Rwanda’s largest support network for genocide survivors.

This past week CISR conducted a refresher course for four peer-support trainers, all of them experienced educators and program supervisors for IBUKA peer-support workers, who work with survivors in remote rural communities. IBUKA is expanding its program from 25 peer-support workers to a total of 65 operating in some 30 communities.

Following this training, CISR participated in a workshop for 20 new peer-support workers in the district of Rwamagana, about 50 kilometers east of Kigali. IBUKA had previously selected and trained the participants in trauma counseling prior to the April Genocide Commemoration ceremonies, when many survivors experience emotional distress as they mourn loved ones killed in 1994.

During the third day of this training, farmers accidentally discovered a mass grave containing a large quantity of human remains just outside Rwamagana. Many of the participants believe their family members are among the buried. A few of the remains were easily identifiable by clothing and personal items found in the grave.

While funeral preparations were being made, the participants elected to complete the workshop and used the opportunity to discuss the ongoing psychosocial effects the genocide has had on their community 18 years after the event.

“We are all grateful for this chance to examine our role as survivors helping survivors,” said Adelite Mukamana, IBUKA’s Director of Training. “Remembering the past is a key part of constructing a peaceful future.”
CISR Facilitates Joint Training for Ecuador and Peru

From 15-18 August CISR Associate Director Suzanne Fiederlein, along with JMU College of Business instructor Fernando Pargas, assisted with the Peru-Ecuador Binational Workshop for Management in Humanitarian Demining in Lima, Peru. 

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The workshop was attended by nearly 30 individuals, including mine-action personnel from Peru and Ecuador, officials from the Peruvian National Police and the Peruvian Ministry of Defense, Ecuadorian ambassadors, officers in the Army of Ecuador and Ecuadorian government officials. Peru’s Contraminas (Peruvian Mine Action Center) office collaborated with U.S.  Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and the U.S. Embassy in Peru in organizing the training. Dr. Fiederlein and Mr. Pargas were asked to provide management instruction, with Pargas teaching two days’ worth of management leadership and strategic planning in regards to mine action, and Fiederlein spending half a day on proposal writing and resource mobilization.

During the mid-1990s, there had been a border dispute regarding the shared northern Amazonas region between the two countries. During the conflict, Ecuador and Peru employed mines, leaving the land in the region dangerous and unusable. Both countries are now held to the task of mine clearance, and the workshop provided a much-needed platform for both countries to open a dialogue and draft plans to clear these mines. The workshop proved successful. After two and a half days of training, personnel from both sides seized the opportunity to engage in detailed discussions both within their delegations and between them.  There was an exchange of information, including discussion of what equipment could be shared, plans for visits back and forth, and ideas on taking joint positions within the international community regarding mine action in the future. Overall, Dr. Fiederlein described the workshop as a “great opportunity for both sides to come together and have that extended period to talk.”

~Written by Carly Quaglio, CISR Staff

CISR Concludes Third East Africa Peer Support Workshop

by Cameron Macauley, CISR Peer Support Specialist

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On October 1st CISR concluded its third training workshop on peer support for trauma survivors in East Africa. This event was designed for survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide who will volunteer as community peer support workers, providing counseling for other survivors who are still dealing with painful memories and emotions. The workshop participants included thirteen women and seven men between the ages of 28 and 55, all of them survivors of the violence of mid-1994 who witnessed the widespread slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in their communities in north-central Rwanda. They have distinguished themselves by voluntary community service for others who remain incapacitated by psychological trauma, which brought them to the attention of IBUKA, a nongovernmental organization that assists genocide survivors.

The workshop focused on strengthening counseling skills and enhancing the understanding of the participants in the process of recovery from a life-altering trauma such as the genocide. Exercises included group discussion on the nature of peer support, how to develop a trusting relationship, and enhancing self-determination. Participants conducted a series of role-plays to demonstrate active listening, problem-solving skills and confidence-building techniques.

The workshop was co-facilitated by two Rwandan instructors, Richard Mugabo (formerly with Survivor Corps and now a consultant for DFID), and IBUKA’s Director of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, Adelite Mukamana. According to IBUKA’s president, professor of psychology Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu: “IBUKA is relying on support from CISR and James Madison University to become a leader in the psychological rehabilitation of survivors of trauma, for Rwanda and for East Africa, and for survivors around the world.”

CISR is in the process of planning our next training event in Rwanda in 2012.


CISR completes sixth and final peer-support workshop in Rwanda


On Wednesday, June 20, CISR handed out graduation certificates to 20 newly trained peer-support workers in Kamonyi, Rwanda. They will work with CISR’s partner organization, IBUKA, which coordinates the activities of other support organizations for genocide survivors. Thanks to CISR’s ongoing technical guidance, IBUKA now has 65 peer-support workers in 30 communities to the north, west and east of the capital, Kigali.

CISR also donated 200 mobile phones so that peer-support workers can keep in touch with their supervisors and contact health care professionals in the event of an emergency or to seek advice on handling psychological trauma.

The community of Kamonyi where this training was held was the scene of some of the worst massacres of the 1994 genocide. More than 90 percent of the Tutsi population died, according to participants in the training, and “the town’s main street ran red with blood.” Some perpetrators still await trial, but Rwanda’s traditional gacaca court system closed June 18 after operating for 10 years. Those awaiting trial will probably go through a standard judicial court, meaning further delays.

“These unresolved issues weigh heavily on the minds of survivors,” said Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, IBUKA’s president and professor of psychology at the National University of Rwanda. “Peer support gives survivors an opportunity to discuss their feelings, which reduces anger and bitterness that can lead to suicide and revenge killings. We encourage all Rwandans to live together peacefully, to take the past as a lesson and to learn positively from it. CISR’s support has helped us create a program that will make the people of Rwanda healthier and more resilient.”

SMC Guest Blog: Ta Yen, Catholic Relief Services in Vietnam 

An unforgettable trip to Washington, D.C.

We left Harrisonburg in the early morning of June 7 and arrived at the U.S. Department of State (DoS) around 9:30 a.m. We then took a tour of DoS with guides from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) and had the chance to increase our understanding about DoS’ history as well as the diplomatic relations between the United States and other countries. We were excited to visit the DoS exhibition room and read posters about big campaigns along the aisle. One thing that made our trip special was that at the end of the tour, we had the honor of taking a group photo with Andrew Shapiro, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, Major-General Walter Givhan, Department Assistant Secretary for Plans, Programs, and Operations, and  James Lawrence, Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. It was a short tour, but we had enough time to review milestones in U.S. history, DoS and also big campaigns DoS funds/conducts.

After the tour, we headed to WRA offices where we were lucky enough to have a second chance to attend a presentation from Dennis F. Hadrick, Acting Deputy Director for Programs, on WRA’s mission. The presentation gave us a better understanding of WRA’s vision, strategy and organization. After that, we divided into small groups, and each group had a nice meeting with one WRA staff member who oversees projects in that group’s country. It was great opportunity for us to meet WRA staff and discuss  issues of concern.

After leaving the WRA office, we went sightseeing. We spent nearly four hours exploring attractions in Washington, D.C. such as the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the National Mall and Memorial Parks, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. After visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we could not stop thinking about the way U.S. citizens recognize and show their respect to the soldiers who laid down their lives in Vietnam. It was really impressive.   

Thanks to the CISR team’s efforts, we had a safe and fascinating trip to D.C. We recognize that to make a safe trip for a group of 24 people, CISR staff must work hard in preparation and implementation, and we highly appreciate it. Through this letter, we would like to express our sincere thanks to CISR staff who have taken care of us since the first day we came to James Madison University, who helped us forget the homesickness, who organized exciting outdoor activities for us on weekends, who invited us to their homes for lunch/dinner and who made our birthdays memorable and special. We will never forget the great time at JMU where we had interesting lessons from JMU professionals and where we had opportunities to talk with experts from the U.S. Department of Defense, CISR, GICHD, NPA and other mine-action organizations. 

Moreover, we would like to say special thanks to PM/WRA who sponsored the 2012 Senior Managers’ Course. Due to your funding, we, beneficiaries from 14 countries, could sit together to share the context of mine action in our countries, could learn from each other and could strengthen our understanding about management skills. In return for your support, after this course we will try to apply what we learned here in our work, and we strongly believe it will result in a significant improvement in our implementation as well as increase our contribution to communities affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war.

From Hai Yen with love! 


Ta Yen is the MRE project coordinator for Catholic Relief Services in Vietnam. This is her first trip to the United States.

CISR and JMU College of Business Awarded $629,513 USAID Contract to Work in Iraq

Photo caption: 2012 Jan 8 CISR Director, Ken Rutherford, fogged-in on a Kurdish mountain range between Erbil and Duhok with IKMAA Director (and 2011 Senior Managers’ Course participant) Siraj Barzani, and IKMAA Deputy Director and Legal Advisor Ali Miran. Dr. Rutherford was in Iraq to meet with local survivors & partners to assess needs and opportunities.

The Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) at James Madison University (JMU), is pleased to announce the receipt of a $629,513 USAID grant to provide information and guidance regarding accreditation of two Iraqi universities through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).

The challenges facing business and finance education in post-conflict Iraq at the university level and the tertiary education system as a whole are immense, and no single program will be able to sufficiently address every deficiency identified. However, by focusing on manageable components, changes can be introduced into Iraqi institutions of higher learning that will smooth the process by filling skill gaps identified by professors, administrators, and researchers. CISR, working closely with JMU’s College of Business (CoB), will develop a training program to give Iraqi business faculty skills to better prepare their students for the developing private sector, and guidance provided by JMU faculty to help lay the ground work for accreditation activities. The work will take place at Salahaddin University in Erbil, and Al Mustansiriyah University in Baghdad.

The Iraqi university participants in this program will gain a greater perspective on subjects specific to finance/business education, enabling them to enhance their degree programs. Faculty will be able to better link scholarship and professional application, while also enhancing their classroom and administrative skills by becoming knowledgeable about current practice vis-a-vis such topics as teaching practices, curriculum development, classroom management and student engagement. This enhancement will help these universities attract and retain high-quality faculty and students and better meet the challenges of anticipated future demand placed on higher education institutions in Iraq. All these improvements will also enhance student learning and contribute to a better learning experience for students at the two selected universities. The training and mentoring program will ultimately help partner universities start down the path to accreditation (and future reaccreditation) of their finance and business programs.

The program is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development and part of a larger USAID initiative to directly contribute to Iraqi Private Sector Development. USAID is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. USAID seeks to “extend a helping hand to those people overseas struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country.” USAID’s stated goals include providing “economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States”.


Supervision of Peer Support Program for Burundi War Survivors Reveals Early Benefits

During the first week of October, CISR Peer Support Specialist Cameron Macauley visited Burundi to supervise the peer support program operated in conjunction with Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) and the Center for Development of Ex-Combatants (CEDAC). The trip included individual visits to war survivors receiving peer support services and a first look at a survey of 756 residents of communities in Muramvya, a province in northwest Burundi.

When the survey data is analyzed, it will provide a snapshot of mental health in this population, which was severely affected by war-related violence during the 15-year conflict. Survivors describe mass executions, rape, torture and forced conscription. Very little has been done to help survivors deal with their psychological trauma.

The peer support program consists of home visits by 30 peer support workers and has been in operation since June 2012. Survivors give enthusiastically positive opinions of the services they received. “No one showed much interest in my problems until the peer support worker began to visit me,” said Joseph Ntawanka, a 70-year-old who was the lone survivor of a massacre in which 32 people died. “Now I have help in solving my problems, and I am thinking in new ways about the past. I have hope that the future will be better.”

“I have been lonely and sad since I lost my arm during the violence that devastated my community,” said Languide Nsabiyumva. “A woman with one arm is nobody—people act as if she doesn’t exist. But my peer support worker cares about me, wants me to feel better. She has made me think about myself differently. When I talk to her I feel as if my life has meaning once again.”

For peer support workers the days are long and strenuous: Many homes are remote and accessible only on foot. However, the rewards of helping others make every step worthwhile. “Even when I’m not working, I think about the people that I’m trying to help,” said Candide Nsabiyumva. “Knowing that I can make a difference in their lives is an inspiration for me.”

Monitoring and evaluation data collected by CEDAC on hundreds of survivors will be analyzed during the next few months and used to improve program activities during 2013. “Each day brings new refinements to this program,” says CEDAC Director Eric Niragira. “We look forward to expanding into new communities and eventually helping the entire nation. We are assisting each other to recover from Burundi’s violent past.”

~ Cameron Macauley, CISR Peer Support Specialist