In 2004, the idea of the RYHC came to a Rwandan, Ernest Rugwizangoga who had moved to the U.S., returned to Rwanda for a visit and “[found] that Rwandans were still talking about the 1994 Genocide as if it had happened yesterday[. Y]ou could see and touch sadness, hopelessness, anxiety and deep depression.” When he returned to the U.S., he had the fortunate opportunity to participate in his first healing circle. The healing circle, he learned, allows individuals the space to share their traumatic stories in a safe and supportive environment. With the help of his family and friends in Boston and Rwanda (including the Founding Chair of the U.S. Advisory Board, Todd Fry), he promoted the idea of healing circles to help Rwandan youth deal with trauma, regardless of what side of conflict they were on. In 2005, the first healing circles, with 60 youth between the ages of 12-25, started in Ruhango, in Rwanda’s southern province (40 miles southwest of the capital, Kigali). For many of the youth, this process was the first time they felt a sense of empowerment to heal themselves and their country.
In November 2010, 4 U.S. Advisory Board members visited Rwanda. The primary purpose of the visit was to focus on the long-term sustainability of the Center. The Advisory Board members decided that establishing a Rwandan Board of Directors would help take the mission and vision of the RYHC to the next level. The Advisory Board also decided to hire a full-time Executive Director, Solange Safari to facilitate the development of the Board of Directors, form partnerships, lead fundraising efforts and to secure the registration of the Center as a National NGO.
In February 2011, a local Board of Directors of 7 members was formed chaired by Jane Abatoni. In August 2011, the Rwanda Youth Healing Center received a Certificate of Registration as a National NGO; it is now officially allowed to operate countrywide.