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Peacebuilding in Bougainville

Published on 19th January 2016

Nearly 20 years after the Conflict in Bougainville ended, Sister Lorraine Garasu says the country is experiencing a “negative peace”.


 Peacebuilding in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

Sister Lorraine Garasu (centre) with fellow Sisters of Nazareth

There is no fighting any more, but there is also no healing, and she has devoted herself to building a positive peace in Bougainville, helping its people to overcome the trauma of the Conflict years.


Volunteer Liz Hicks has been working with Sister Lorraine at the Sisters of Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation (NCFR) for the last two and a half years. The Centre runs four safe houses for women and children escaping domestic violence. Liz has instituted a simple set of policies for the safe houses to keep their occupants secure, and offers IT and literacy training to the staff and community.


Liz says what attracted her to working with Sister Lorraine is her ability to see a problem from all sides. “With the safe houses, yes, she’s the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, but she also does [anti-violence] education with men and boys.”


Beyond the safe houses, Sister Lorraine began campaigning for peace during the Conflict, and now runs trauma counselling sessions with key community leaders. Liz, as her right-hand woman, provides technical support, and works with Sister Lorraine to facilitate the sessions and produce collateral for the attendees to take back to their communities.


The first of the trauma counselling sessions took place just before Christmas 2014. Liz says, “The first session on the Monday afternoon was an art-therapy session. They were given a task to draw pictures of where they were at in their recovery from the Conflict.”


The next morning, Liz says, on just the second day of the course, the group had a recap of Monday’s work. Helen Ikilai, a school teacher and peace-builder from Siwai, stood up and said, “For the first time in 25 years I slept through the night.” 


“That’s all that had happened – that simple art therapy session. Cheap as chips. Butcher paper that we bought, a box of crayons I brought from my friends in Wellington. And that’s all it took. That was shivers up your spine. I could feel myself wanting to cry. It was so powerful”, Liz says.



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