Games, activities and narrative practice: Enabling sparks to emerge in conversations with children and young people who have experienced hard times — Serge Nyirinkwaya


Drawing on narrative practices – re-authoring conversations, the absent but implicit and collective narrative practices – and on experiential learning models, this paper describes a playful practice to assist children and young people who have experienced hard times to respond to traumatic memories from a safe territory, without requiring them to speak in the first person about their experiences. Games and other activities are used to create a shared experience in which young people employ skills and values. These experiences are used as the basis for a cycle of experiential learning in which children reflect on their experiences and make links with their pasts and futures to support alternative story development and rich acknowledgment of what they give value to and their skills of living and being. In addition to seeking ways to avoid retraumatising, pathologising and stigmatising young people, this process has been developed to offer practitioners an easy to apply and locally resonant way of engaging with children and young people who have been through hard times. It uses local metaphors like making visible young people’s capacity to resist and endure (being mudaheranwa), inviting young people to stand together on Akarwa k’amahoro (Peace Island), and enabling mutual contribution through features of traditional Itorero schooling, including the use of stories of pride, songs and poetic mottos (ibyivugo).