Welcome to Kiliclimb 2012

Kiliclimb 2012 is an international climb of the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro. This expedition is in support of Just Equipping, a Canadian registered non profit charitable organization dedicated to education, training, and action in the area of Restorative Justice. Since 2006, Just Equipping has provided a number of missions in Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, and Cameroon. Just Equipping has played a crucial role in the comfort and support of victims, the rebuilding of fractured communities, the reintegration of offenders, and the promotion of ethical and compassionate corrections and chaplaincy in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Just Equipping shares a unique partnership with Queens University Theological College in Kingston. Because of this partnership, an International Diploma in Restorative Justice can be granted. Just Equipping was founded by Judith and Pierre Allard. Judith is currently the Executive Director of this internationally acclaimed organization. Pierre is an ordained minister and retired senior executive with the Correctional Service of Canada. Judith and Pierre, who reside in Gatineau Quebec, will be returning to Gisenyi Rwanda in January 2012 to continue their fine work in support of a number of projects sponsored by Just Equipping.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

A visit to Rwanda Part 4

Le Petit Sanctuaire Goma Democratic Republic Congo (DRC)

The city of Goma resides directly across the Rwandan/Congo border on Lake Kivu. As reported in the Toronto Star last year there are approximately 54 militia groups throughout the DRC forming a “patchwork” National Army. Margot Wallstrom, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, visited Goma Prison 2 years ago following the mass rape of women prisoners. Goma Prison, a former colonial era structure built for 150, currently holds over 1000 prisoners, including women, their children, and adult and juvenile males.

Most of the women are there for “financial crimes”, debts, property and land disputes, and the inability to pay fines. Like a debtors prison in 19th century Europe, even after they have served the court imposed sentence they remain incarcerated until the debt is paid.

The men of Goma Prison, for the most part, were militia or former soldiers jailed for rape and murder. In 2009 during an escape attempt, all of the 23 women were rounded up by male prisoners and mass raped. Over the course of the past 2 years the UN and NGO’s were successful in getting all of these women released from prison.

In November 2011, when we arrived in Gisenyi, we were warmly welcomed by Reverend Simeon Muhunga and his dedicated team of chaplains. Simeon, and his team, are committed to supporting the lives of victims, improving prison conditions, and helping many other vulnerable people in the DRC. Simeon lives in Goma where he leads a community chaplaincy program out of an austere, unfurnished rented house, Le Petit Sanctuaire Goma.

According to the Just Equipping 2011 Report, the chaplains are poor, often physically unwell, and in need of basics such as shoes and medicine. They have children of their own who cannot afford to attend school.

Just Equipping provides a $10 a day salary for each chaplain to support their work, including visits to Goma prison. The state does not provide food for the inmates of Goma Prison. In the DRC this is not their responsibility. Rather, families of the prisoners, missionary organizations and occasionally other NGO organizations provide food. One meal is served daily.

One of the initiatives supported by Just Equipping at Goma Prison is the Lamp Project. The Lamp Project was implemented to provide kerosene lamps for the women’s section of Goma Prison. These lamps have brought a safer environment for these women, but they have ongoing costs for kerosene.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

A Visit to Rwanda Part 3

 Le Petit Sanctuaire Gisenyi Rwanda

Le Petit Sanctuaire Ginenyi is a small house supported by Just Equipping that provides refuge for victims to stay when they visit Gisenyi. They come here to meet with the offenders at the Prison who have written them a letter. The sanctuary also provides a safe haven for women in need due to financial or abusive circumstances. The Sanctuary also provides overnight shelter for Chaplains visiting the area, and a meeting place for colleagues, and volunteers. The Sanctuary has 3 bedrooms and running water, however lacks an indoor kitchen making food preparation and cleanup difficult. The Sanctuary is rented for $110 US per month and will operate as long as funding is available.

Monday, 26 December 2011

A Visit to Rwanda: Part 2

The Letters Project
A few years ago 400 inmates of Gisenyi Prison Rwanda gave the chaplain letters they had written to their survivor victims admitting their crimes and seeking forgiveness. Pierre Allard developed a Victim/Offender Protocol to govern the delicate business of delivering these letters and supporting victims as they received them. Since, over 120 of these letters have been delivered. Each letter, provided with sensitivity and counselling, is conveyed by two chaplains. Often the chaplains will travel to very remote areas accessible only by taxi motorbike or on foot. This can take days or longer. As 17 years have passed since the genocide, victims are often difficult to locate. The genocide displaced so many people. Once located, the community usually becomes involved. All this takes time and expense. Chaplain Lazare is President of ICOPUR (The Letters Project), and Chaplain Adolphine who works with him, is instrumental in facilitating victim/offender reconcillation. 
In Gisenyi, with the help of Adolphine and Lazare, we were introduced to two victims of the genocide who had come to meet with us and tell their stories. They were survivors who had received letters. A man who, as a young boy at the time of the genocide, had managed to hide in the tall grass as his village was attacked. All 17 members of his family were slaughtered.
The woman survivor described her feelings receiving a letter. Afterword, she asked to meet the man who had killed her family. She had questions to ask. The offender, a neighbour from her village, was known to her. She had to see him and ask those questions that still troubled her.
She sought closure, the offender forgiveness. A visit to Gisenyi Prison was arranged for her, accompanied by the chaplain. These were extraordinary stories told by victims who were courageous and remarkably forgiving. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011


            Just Equipping provides critical support for a number of worthy projects in Africa, mostly in the Great Lakes Region. For a comprehensive description of activities, programs and initiatives supported by Just Equipping please explore the Link provided. What will follow in the days ahead is a brief description of a few of these projects that we experienced during our trip to Rwanda last month.

           Our visit to Rwanda would not have been as meaningful without the encouragement and support of Pierre and Judith Allard. Numerous contacts, suggested activities, accommodations and travel arrangements, interviews with project leaders and chaplains, meetings with victims of the genocide, former soldiers and prisoners, and so much more we owe to Pierre and Judith. Thank you.
            We also want to express our heartfelt appreciation to Reverend Simeon Muhunga, who so warmly received us in Gisenyi as if we were family. Also, we wish to thank passionate and committed Chaplains Lazare, Adolphine, Canisius, Kizungu, and Pascal. Also, Christophe who met us at the airport, performed as our able translator, and valued source of information about everything. And thanks to Jean Claude our very able driver and constant companion throughout our Rwandan travels. 


The Genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 resulted in the death of over 800,000 men, women, and children and the displacement of millions into refuge camps throughout the Great Lakes Region. The Genocide Memorial Centre in Kigali seemed the appropriate place to commence our visit. The Memorial Centre opened in 1994 on the 10th anniversary of the Genocide. It resides on a hillside overlooking the city. The memorial grounds contain the remains of over 250,000 victims. The curator advised us that even today, remains are discovered at the gate in the early morning awaiting the arrival of staff. No names, no information, just remains recently discovered.

Later we also attended the Ntarama Memorial Site located south of Kigali in the Bugesra District. Ntarama was the location of a church where 5000 Tutsi had fled seeking sanctuary from the genocidres. The church was surrounded by Intrehamwe  militia. Grenades thrown in the windows, however the ensuing slaughter was mostly by gunfire and machete. The woman who met us and provided a tour was a genocide survivor from Ntarama village. The interior of the Church remains as it was found after the slaughter. Although the human remains have been removed for burial in a nearby memorial plot, pieces of clothing, shoes, purses, hair brushes, glasses, and other personal items remain like silent ghosts as they were left in 1994.                        

Behind the church was a small building that once had been the children’s Sunday School. This was where many of the children sought refuge during the attack. Inside, the small benches made of concrete were formed in neat rows. At the front wall was a bouquet of fresh flowers. Behind the flowers was a wall. Our tour guide told us that the children were swung by their feet with their heads smashed against the concrete wall.

The third Genocide memorial site we visited was Nyamata Church located in another district outside Kigali. The memorial site was closed as the Director was not working that day.  However, after speaking briefly with our driver Jean Claude,a security guard offered to provide a tour. Nyamata was the scene of the mass rape and murder of over 2500 parishioners. The clothing worn by the victims remain in the church draped over the pews and hanging from hooks along the walls.

It is clear that horror occurred here.

The adjacent memorial grounds have steps leading into underground cavern. Human remains are stacked on wooden shelves and in crates that are open. Skulls, limbs, and other bones are stacked neatly but separately. 

After visiting these memorials and viewing shocking examples of ruthless sectarian violence, while trying to comprehend the horror, it was simply too much. And so it remains today.

In contrast, our experience with Reverend Simeon and the chaplains and project leaders we met during our visit, was very uplifting. These leaders are working arduously and courageously to bring victims and former perpetrators together, to counsel offenders to accept accountability and to help victims. They encourage reconciliation and forgiveness, and strive to restore relationships and rebuild communities. That is the encouraging story of Rwanda today. Moreover, with support of Just Equipping, the work of Reverend Simeon and others reach well beyond the Rwandan Border and can be felt throughout the Great Lakes Region of Africa.