Kigali - Day 2 - Yoga class with Nassim (35)

Well, here goes Nassim’s story ...

Newly-wed Nassim was 15 when people in her country started this horrible thing which was to go down in history as “Rwandan Genocide”. Her husband got murdered brutally; she herself got abducted and was gang-raped for months. A militarist of the Rwandan Patriotic Front finally saved her. Nassim was HIV-infected and pregnant. Her liberator married her and accepted little Trésor as a son. At the age of seven, Trésor was found to have been HIV-infected during his birth. Nassim’s “salvator” beat up mother and son and left them both.

When Deirdre met Nassim, she at once saw her talent and decided to train her as a yoga instructor. One morning, Nassim was on her way to work. The moto taxi that took her along got crashed by a SUV of some European, the accident leaving Nassim's leg completely smashed. Having been distracted by her mobile, the driver, a wealthy woman, was found guilty beyond doubt; however, as things were, no charges were brought against neither her nor her insurance. Like more than 90 % of the Rwandan population, Nassim cannot afford an insurance, hence she had none. So she had to get her leg amputated; surgery and post-treatment were paid by Project Air.

Deirdre managed to secure the NGO Limbs for Life as a sponsor. It took two and a half years for Nassim to have a prosthesis that half way works for her. Still it is too large, causing pressure on her hip bones. As a result, Nassim does her yoga instructions one-legged, “and she does so greatly,” Deirdre points out.

Trésor is the best pupil in his class and now has the chance of being awarded a scholarship for one of the Rwandan Universities.

A little success story for Project Air who pay Trésor’s school fee completely. “Trésor is happy that his mother now has two legs again,” says Nassim beaming all over her face.

Doing a yoga class with mistreated women in the university district Nyamirambo means one thing in the first place: luggage, loads of. Piles of mats. Bags stuffed with cotton yoga pants, light grey. Bags full of elastic bands and tennis balls. “Don’t you use the church stairs to pass, please,” Deirdre says. “We have to go this way, over the gravel.” In spite of having rented us their room for our yoga class, the church representatives evidently do not approve of yoga folks passing their sacred halls.

Most of the women come directly from a meeting on trauma relief. But soon the mood lightens. The women change clothes and soon start to chat and laugh, prodding and nudging each other. Eventually, 15 women calmly lie down on their mats in the small room and follow Nassim’s instructions.

Deirdre cannot hold her horses; soon she is jumping to and fro between the mats. With courageous grips, she straightens tilted pelvises and unbalanced heads, admonishing the women not to give up too early – and rather do another ten repetitions of an exercise instead of chatting. Subject matter of the lesson: pelvis mobilisation. According to CANTIENICA® standards, it seems quite a chaotic matter to me, but everyone seems to have a lot of fun, as far as I can see.

Now Deirdre comes and asks me to get involved in coaching. The women are lying down on their backs, eyes closed. I look at Josine through her closed eyes and put my hands gently onto her neck to position her head straight. I notice a soft smile around her mouth, but she does not open her eyes.

A man arrives bringing a can of milk and a big bag with food. Fred-Marc and I leave the room in order not to embarrass the women. We watch some of them bagging their food and milk. “They keep it for their families at home,” Deirdre explains, “in spite of being really in need of food themselves.” I watch Nassim slip one of the women some coins. She is the oldest group member. Although it is quite hot in the room, the woman wears several layers of clothes, and hardly participates in the lesson given. Already on day 2, Deirdre seems to read my mind perfectly: “She has not eaten for three days, and her eight children are suffering from hunger. She does not come here for yoga, but for the food being handed out afterwards.”

“Each week is a new surprise as to how things will be going during the lesson. Who will be attending and who won’t,” Deirdre explains me on our way home. “One of them perhaps would be beat up on that day, another one raped. One would have to care for a mistreated child, the next one would be too weak to make it here at all.”

Again, she reads my mind: “Please write also what we are going to do tomorrow. We will go to an Adventists’ place to work with a group of young men. Men, who have violated their wives and children, in any way you might imagine. They really are great, our most successful group.”

Well then, let’s see what tomorrow will bring! Tomorrow, Damascene, Deirdre's housekeeper, will have to wash at least 40 yoga pants – by hand, that is.

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