Emeritha’s life changed completely when she was just 10 years old. Shortly after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, her family moved to Belgium.

“We just got up and left, we didn’t even get to say goodbye to our friends.”

While it was challenging moving at a young age, things in Belgium were going well. “It wasn’t all bad, I grew up well, I ate well, slept well and was able to study.”

“Because we were leaving a situation of war and trauma, we felt like we were going to a great place, even though we didn’t know the language or anyone there. But as you grow older, you start to think about where you came from, how you left, and feel like there is something missing.”

Emeritha diligently pursued her studies and went to nursing school where she specialized in mental health and psychiatry. She delved deeper into her studies further specializing in ethno-psychiatry; a psychiatry approach aimed at understanding the ethnic and cultural dimensions of mental health disorders.

Emeritha, a Rwandan diaspora member living in Belgium, has worked in mental health and psychiatry for over 10 years. 
IOM 2023/ Robert Kovacs

“After I finished school and started working in Belgium, I still felt like there was something missing. I didn’t feel at home, so I decided that one way or another I must go back home.”

Looking for opportunities to pursue her dream of helping people overcome mental health challenges led her to an association called Sante Mentale en Milieu Ouvert Afrique. She traveled from Belgium to Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Tanzania, where she was able to provide mental health and psychosocial support to people in need during a few short trips.

After some time, she came across one of IOM’s programmes seeking to engage Rwandan diaspora in Europe working in the health sector. She applied to the programme and came back to Rwanda.

The first time I returned, I was worried that I wouldn’t live up to their expectations. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to relate or fit in since I did not speak the language fluently, but I felt in my gut and in my heart that this was where I belonged.

On her latest visit to Rwanda, Emeritha worked in the pediatric ward at the Ndera Neuropsychiatric Teaching Hospital. 
IOM 2023/ Robert Kovacs

On her third visit, she came across a seven-year-old girl who had been sexually assaulted.

“Children communicate differently, so what I did was to play games with her, draw with her or any activity that allowed me to collect bits of information. After this, she opened up and told us how she was mistreated at home. When the doctor returned, we held a discussion with the doctor and the child’s family to come up with a plan to help her recover.”

Being able to help this girl gave Emeritha confidence and reassured her she was back home where she belonged.

“I came back to look for something that was missing; the people I left, the places I left behind, where I used to live, where I used to play.”

“I felt like a tree uprooted from its soil and planted in a different place. It does not grow the same. When brought back to its origins, it begins to grow, flourish, and bloom again.”