Mission 2023

2023 Osteopathy Without Borders’ Mission to Rwanda

2023 saw a new chapter open for Osteopathy Without Borders, with a mission being organized in Rwanda. It was initiated by Robin Breger DO, a graduate of the CEO in Montreal, who worked in private practice for 3 years in Kigali. During that time, she developed enthusiastic interest and following for osteopathy, both in patients and health care professionals, which drove her to seek to build on that momentum.
Osteopathy Without Borders was created in 2007 to promote awareness of osteopathy in developing countries through humanitarian missions and to promote the transfer of skills in order to improve health-care systems with this low-tech, effective holistic medicine.

This endeavor reflects a collaborative effort and financial participation of multiple institutions including Osteopathy Without Borders (OWB), Rwanda Physical Therapy Organization (RPTO), University of Rwanda (UR), Africa Rising Cycling Centre (ARCC), Ishobe Rwanda wellness retreat and the Bugesera Lodge, all with a shared interest of bringing osteopathy to Rwanda.

The mission began on Friday November 10th 2023 when the volunteers departed their countries of origin to travel to Kigali, Rwanda. Faisal Naqvi DO departed from Montreal, Canada while Dr. Christine Bauer MD, DO and Heidi Gaissmaier DO departed from Munich, Germany.
Upon arrival they were met by Jean-Damascene Bigimirana Ngamba, Physiotherapist, CEO of HealthEdu Ltd and Community Manager of Jamk Rehabilitation in Rwanda along with Peter Kaberuka, Physiotherapist who had worked in collaboration with Robin Breger while she was in Rwanda.
Throughout the mission in Rwanda, Peter took the team around and tended to all their needs and logistics sacrificing time with his family and patients for the needs of the mission. Osteopathy in Rwanda owes a great debt of gratitude to Peter Kaberuka!

On their first day in Kigali, the volunteers visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial to pay respects to the history of Rwanda before meeting with some locals, including Steffi Mushayija, a Physiotherapist who moved to Rwanda from Belgium, and who hosted the team at her residence for lunch on a couple of occasions during the mission. Steffi had previously worked with Osteopaths in Europe and was excited to continue that collaboration in Rwanda as she had done so briefly with Robin Breger and continued to do so by referring multiple patients to the team during their mission.
One of the main purposes of the mission was giving the first “Introduction to Osteopathy” course ever in Africa. This course took place on the 14th and 15th of November, 2023 at the University of Rwanda – College of Medicine & Health Sciences (UR-CMHS), where health professionals received instruction on the basics of Osteopathy. OWB hosted a group of 16 intelligent and motivated Rwandan participants who learned about the history, principles, concepts and techniques of Osteopathy.

Following the 2 day course, there was a day of rest when the visiting osteopaths toured Kigali and visited Seeing Hands which is an institute founded and run by Ms. Beth Gatonye who is a Massage Therapist (seeinghandsRwanda.org). Seeing Hands teaches and employs blind people and trains them in massage so they can earn a living and support themselves.

Seeing Hands generously offered massages for the osteopaths who in turn treated some of their staff. The exchange proved to be very rich and beneficial for everyone.

The next 2 days were reserved for treatment at the University of Rwanda Polyclinic where the group treated patients coming from referrals from Robin Breger, Peter Kaberuka and their respective networks. These days of treatment were made possible by the coordination of Peter who oversaw the scheduling between patients and observers who were from amongst the participants of the course given a couple of days earlier.
Amongst the patients who were treated were family and friends of the course participants, Robin’s patients and network as well as staff from the polyclinic.

At the conclusion of the second day of treatments the team departed Kigali and drove to Kaninya in the evening to meet with Chantal Umuraza Esi, founder of Ishobe Rwanda, a wellness retreat center that hosted the team for 2 nights. While at the retreat, the team treated villagers from Kaninya, students from the local schools, staff and others who travelled from Kigali for treatment.

On the Sunday, the team travelled to Musanze which was a 2-hour drive through the mountains, in the rain, to arrive at the Africa Rising Cycling Centre (ARCC), the main training center for Rwanda’s national cycling team that also offers cycling and cultural experiences for tourists. The team was met by the administration of the ARCC and some of their top athletes.
The Osteopaths treated a few of the cyclists and members of the administrative team then took advantage of the surroundings and went for a walkabout through the village which is set to the backdrop of volcanoes.
The team seized many opportunities to meet and mingle with the locals. It is amazing to see how universally welcoming people can be, especially when a person embarks on humanitarian work. The people of Rwanda were consistently friendly, welcoming and curious when it came to visitors to their region (Muzungus).

The next day had the Osteopaths treating more cyclists who arrived at the centre for treatment to help with injuries and performance. Some cyclists came from over 4 hours bike ride away to see the Osteopaths for treatment. It is not uncommon for the cyclists to have regular crashes during competition for which they rarely have the chance to get re-aligned and mobilized properly as was finally done by the Osteopaths.
At the conclusion of the final day at the ARCC the team took advantage of the setting and headed out for a mountain biking tour of Musanze, led by Abed the cycling team therapist on the centre’s top mountain bikes. It was another great opportunity to meet and interact with the locals on the hills of Rwanda.

Upon return to Kigali there were a series of meetings setup for networking and to plan the remainder of the team’s time in Rwanda. Most notable, was a meeting with Dr. Nuhu Assuman who is a Senior Lecturer and Deputy Dean of the School of Health Sciences, College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Rwanda. Dr Nuhu met with the team for dinner despite coordinating the first ever Rwandan Rehabilitation Conference that was set to begin the next day!

On the second Thursday, the team treated patients at Peter’s clinic who were referred from the first week’s patients. Among the variety of people were more victims of genocide and its lasting aftereffects along with more frequently seen cases of aches and pains. At the end of the day the team departed Kigali for Bugesera to be hosted very generously by Ms. Jocelyne Mulera at the Bugesera Lodge and offered a full day of treatments to community members there.

On the last day in Kigali there were a couple of last minute treatments that got scheduled for people who tried to connect with the team during the mission which had not worked out.

The final activity before heading to the airport was a wonderful dinner hosted by Peter at his home for all the people who had participated and contributed to the success of the mission.

In summary, the first ever Osteopathy Without Borders’ humanitarian mission to Rwanda was a great success in regard to the number of people who were treated and exposed to osteopathy, the teaching of the first “Introduction to Osteopathy” course along with many other benefits linked to the trip.

We look forward to taking the next steps with our international and local partners towards bringing Osteopathy to Rwanda!

A Case Study – trauma from the 1994 genocide:

Sandrine was born in 1985.
Both her parents were killed by a machete attack in front of her. She was rescued by her parents’ neighbor who treated her for her own machete attack injuries then moved her for rescue in exile to RDC Congo. During her period in exile, the refugee camp discovered she is Tutsi and their organization tried again to kill her; she was only 9 years old!
She escaped from the RDC Congo with the help of the Red Cross who brought her back to Kigali. After 10 years she heard that her two siblings were still alive meaning that one sibling was killed with the parents while 3 survived.

She endeavoured to find her siblings and brought them to live with her. As the oldest, she started parenting at age of 19 years old.
She insured that her younger siblings first got married then she got married herself.

Leading up to her wedding, she got hit by a motorcycle one week before wedding that required one year to recover from!
She is now married and has two kids.

Sandrine was the only patient who I treated twice during this mission. She had visible scars on her face, head and neck from being attacked by machete at 9 years old. Her complaints were: constant headache at left temple from where she got hacked by machete, dry eye on the left side, emotional instability, anxiety, neck pain, irregular menses.

The first treatment included treating locally her scars after which she said she felt tingling and throbbing in the 29-year-old scars.

The second treatment had her trusting more in the effects of osteopathic treatment. During the session we used the physical body to access the mental and spiritual trauma imbedded in the scar tissues. This led to Sandrine releasing deeply ingrained emotions and crying profoundly as the tensions were released.

She was also experiencing profound fatigue which was causing her to yawn excessively during the treatment to the point that she dislocated her jaw! We proceeded to reduce her jaw and realign the bones which allowed her to continue releasing the associated emotions.
I kept her mindset balanced guiding her towards levity which had her intermix laughing with her crying which permitted her to go even deeper into her sorrow!

Once the treatment was complete, she was smiling and even dancing in a way she had not done for decades!
Balancing a person’s physical, mental and spiritual health is essential to help a person move on from previous traumas. This is something osteopathy does uniquely well and that can benefit Rwandans significantly given their past, including the genocide.

Special thanks:

This mission couldn’t have happened without the generous support of the following individuals:
Our team in Rwanda: Peter Kaberuka, Jean Damascene Bigimirana Ngamba, Dr. Nuhu Assuman
Donations by:

  1. Chirag Daswani
  2. Marijcke Van Overberghe
  3. Freya Zaninka Declerck
  4. Violaine Faye
  5. Jocelyne Mulera, https://www.bugeseralodge.com/
  6. Chantal Umuraza Esi, https://www.instagram.com/ishoberwanda/
  7. Africa Rising Cycling Center, https://arcc.rw/
  8. Steffi Mushayija
  9. Vanessa Alinejad
  10. Aida Yassine
  11. Beth Gatonye, https://seeinghandsrwanda.org/
  12. Beata Gorecka
  13. Teta Ndejuru
  14. Jennie Ekedahl
  15. Betty & Laurie Breger, Chuck Breger & Mariam Bowen, Robin Breger

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