The Trustbuilding Program (TBP) project teams are set out to build trust amongst their respective communities. It is not just the lives of participants they touch, it also leads to personal change of team members themselves. What impact have the projects made on them? How did it change their perspectives? We spoke to Joseph Vumiliya, Canada TBP Project Coordinator, and Judy Mumbi, assistant Project Manager and TBP Kenya facilitator, and asked them to share their stories of change.
What is your background, and how have you started to speak about racism?
I was born and raised in Rwanda, and for a large part of my early life spanning from my childhood well into my young adult years, I was not allowed to talk about the injustice I was a victim of. It was a society in which talking about topics like discrimination was not allowed. When you are living in fear of your life for talking about such topics, you quickly learn to keep quiet.
Since living in Canada, I have slowly started to feel more and more free to speak up. Although Quebec society is also not yet ready to openly talk about racism, I do now feel like I can touch the topic. I have learned how to initiate sometimes difficult conversations about the sensitive topic of racism with family and friends, without breaking relationships.
What is your own most significant change story from being involved with the TBP?
The most important thing I have learned is that it is possible to tackle the topic of racism effectively. It all started with being honest with myself and with the people around me. I needed to find trust and courage in myself in order to speak up about racial discrimination. Other aspects of my journey also helped me to come to this point, like having conversations with black and other racialized people about racial issues, and educating myself through reading books and watching documentaries about the topic.
How has your work with IofC and the TBP helped make this possible?
I participated in a Community Trustbuilding Fellowship training in Richmond with IofC USA that provided me with many insights, I have learned various ways to practice quiet time in order to reflect, and I have had many conversations with colleagues in both Canada and the US. All of this has helped me to gain a better understanding of historical wounds and what has broken trust between people of different races. I have also gained insights about working to eradicate systemic racism.
How do you feel about addressing the topic of racism now that you have learned to speak openly about it?
As I have gained more insights on the topic, I am now more sensitive about systemic racism happening around me. I have learned that the solution is not to blame people for their racist actions, as some behaviors come from unconscious biases. It motivates me to have people around me who have a good understanding of systemic racism issues in order to work together on building trust. I have learned to be patient with people and to how to accompany them on their path of change, as it needs a lot of self-reflection in order to change unconscious biases.
The Trustbuilding Program is aimed at addressing divisive issues at the international and national levels, on the premise that only those who have undergone the internal process of becoming trustworthy themselves can close gaps across the globe. The Program was launched by Initiatives of Change International in 2019 with projects in Kenya, Canada and France.