Constructing Community Change: The Lay Counselor Training Program

Constructing Community Change: The Lay Counselor Training Program


We’ve been offering individual and group counseling services to all Handspun Hope staff since 2012, and the transformations that have taken place as a result have been incredible.

In 2013, as our staff continued to experience emotional and psychological transformations, word spread about the counseling program and we started receiving requests from individuals asking how they could receive the same support. And in 2014, during the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, it became even more apparent just how many Rwandans were still struggling and reliving the atrocities that occurred. We realized just how necessary it was for us to expand our services to reach the community outside the Handspun Hope walls - but we knew we couldn’t do it alone.


And with that, our lay counselor training program was born.


The Program


In 2013 we opened up the first ever Lay Counselor Training Program to community leaders interested in committing to a free, ten-week course, and the response was incredible. Pastors, teachers, non-profit workers, hospital workers, nuns and other community leaders took advantage of the training and affirmed the need or trauma counseling throughout Rwanda. 

With curriculum composed of 12 different topics and resources, the program provides a comprehensives understanding of mental health and trauma-informed care. Once they have completed the training, each attendee is equipped with the knowledge needed to assist their community.

And the impact of this training has been incredible.


The Impact


As a result of our lay counselor training, graduates have made an impact in over 2,500 lives. 

This means 2,500 individuals have access to life-changing counseling tools and resources.

And 2,500 have hope for the future.

We can only imagine the impact that will be made as a result of completing our counseling building and expanding the lay counselor program.


The Vision


There is no question that counseling is still so needed for individuals throughout Rwanda experiencing trauma.

And as we have seen how successful the lay counseling program is, we realize how critical it is that we expand the program to reach even more communities throughout the country.

The completion of our counseling building will have a profound impact on our ability to grow the lay counselor program.


Our 2021 goals for the lay counselor program include:

  • Graduate 12 new lay counselors. Though we had originally hoped to see more graduates in both 2020 and 2021, we have shifted our goal as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. We can’t wait to see the impact these counselors will have as a result of their training! 

  • Create further curriculum for those who have completed the program and would like to further their counseling knowledge. New, updated curriculum would allow those who have completed the preliminary course to expand their education and offer further support to the communities they serve.

  • Hire three new, full-time Handspun Hope counselors. A bigger team means designated individuals to assist our staff AND team members to facilitate the expansion of the lay counselor program at the same time. While there are many individuals in Rwanda with counseling knowledge, it can be difficult to find professionals with the proper education in psychology. Please be praying for us as we search for the right people to join our team!

  • Increase the number of lay counselor trainings offered each year. We currently offer one training session a year but are hoping that, with our new building and more full-time staff, we will be able to increase the number of courses to accommodate more community leaders interested in learning! More trainings means more opportunities for lives to be changed!

  • Begin offering addiction counseling to those struggling with substance abuse. Because many individuals throughout Rwanda struggle with substance abuse as a means of coping with trauma, our lead counselor, Olive, will soon begin a course to become certified in alcohol and drug abuse disorders, behavioral addictions and treatment methods. We can’t wait for her to utilize this knowledge in both our internal counseling program and lay counselor training curriculum!



The completion of this counseling building means more space to facilitate counseling for our staff and creates more opportunity for us to make a deeper impact in the community outside of our walls.


Finishing this building makes our goals possible.


And it will continue to be a place of hope, refuge and healing for those who need it.


Building on Hope


A critical piece of the mourning and reconciliation process for our staff dealing with trauma is our counseling program.
We began this year with a goal to raise $16,000 to finish the second floor of the counseling center. While we raised a portion of the funds needed through the Heading for Hope Virtual 5k, we’ve launched a new fundraiser for the month of April to help us meet our goal:
Building on Hope: The Finish Line Fundraiser for The Will Barnhill Counseling Center.

We’re on a mission to raise the remaining $14,000 needed to build the second level of our counseling center.

We also have some VERY generous individuals who have agreed to match donations up to $7,000!

This means that when you give, your donation is D O U B L E D! (Yes, you read that right!) $5 is $10. $100 is $200. $250 is $500!
Every gift matters. Every amount makes a difference. When you give, you provide critical mental health services to people who have suffered the unimaginable. You create a space where stories will be rewritten and lives made new.


And, most importantly, you give hope.






This blog is part four of a five part blog series for our latest fundraiser, Building on Hope: The Finish Line Fundraiser for The Will Barnhill Counseling Center. To read the first blog in the series and learn more about the fundraiser, click the link below.