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Messages of hope: Using positive stories of survival to assist recovery in Rwanda

Lala, G., McGarty, C., Thomas, E.F., Ebert, A., Broderick, M., Mhando, M. and Kamuronsi, Y. (2014) Messages of hope: Using positive stories of survival to assist recovery in Rwanda. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2 (1). pp. 451-468.

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For the past twenty years, the overriding story of Rwanda has been centred around the events and consequences of the genocide. In Rwanda, public expressions of that story have occurred in the gacaca courts, where survivors and perpetrators testified about their experiences and actions, during ongoing annual remembrance and mourning commemorations, and in memorial sites across the country that act as physical reminders of the genocide. While important as mechanisms for justice, testimony, and commemoration, on their own such events and installations also have the potential to re-traumatise. Accordingly, Rwandan agencies have encouraged a focus on the future as the overarching theme of recent national commemorations. Yet, opportunities for Rwandans to recount and disseminate positive, future-oriented stories of survival and healing remain sparse. Creation and awareness of positive stories have the potential to assist in recovery by increasing feelings of hope and efficacy; and recent research has demonstrated the value of hopefulness, well-being, and social support for vulnerable people. The Messages of Hope program seeks to leverage those ideas into a framework for generating positive messages by Rwandan survivors, providing an opportunity for everyday Rwandans to record and transmit their own positive stories of survival to demonstrate recovery and growth after the genocide, and to reinforce connectedness by sharing their challenges and aspirations. We describe the development and early implementation of this initiative and its potential longer-term application in other contexts of vulnerability.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
School of Psychology and Exercise Science
Publisher: PsychOpen
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