Genocide Survivor Walks 500 KM for Better Mental Health Services

Kizito Biginama Musabimana is a Rwandan genocide survivor, living in Toronto, who now leads a campaign to strengthen mental health services for the city’s refugees and victims of war.

My name is Kizito Biginama Musabimana. I have just finished a walk from Toronto to Montreal, which I began on November 24 and completed on December 11. The reason for my walk was to raise awareness on the psychological wounds of war –  which,  for me, were wounds caused by the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi community.

I was 11 years old during the Rwandan genocide. Members of my family, particularly on my mother’s side, were victims. After it, I struggled to see what I went through –  all the horrors I had seen and experienced. For years, I didn’t really want to talk about it.

A few years ago, I had a relapse of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of what I experienced in my youth. I couldn’t function – I had to drink and smoke  to feel normal. I had deep anxiety and couldn’t meet people, including family and friends I normally felt safe around. I had to drug myself, drink and make my mind numb to get things done. I wanted to end my life –  but was lucky to overcome that.

I decided to do the walk to show people what I’ve gone through. With my community’s spirit behind me, I took the walk to raise awareness about the psychological wounds of war and to ask the Canadian government for a place for our community to go and share these stories. Survivors need more than medicine – we need a place to feel safe and supported.

This is an abridged transcript of an audio story submitted by Kizito Biginama Musabimana for the “Toronto’s Untold Stories” exhibit hosted by Autobiography Magazine on December 28, 2016. Listen to Kizito’s full story here