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A seed of hope

Jenna Hedglen, Psy.D., became involved in the Global HOPE Training Initiative in her first year at The Chicago School. Five years later, she reflects back on the experience.

It was her first year in the Clinical Psychology graduate program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and Jenna Hedglen saw study abroad as an opportunity to get involved in an important international cause—aiding a community to recover from the horrific Rwandan genocide of 1994.

“During group discussions I realized the amount of care and concern that these child care workers had for the wellbeing of future generations in Rwanda—above and beyond their concern for their own generation, which had survived genocide,” explains Dr. Hedglen, who graduated with a Psy.D. in May 2016. “This inspired me to reach out to Dr. Masson to find ways I could continue to be involved in Global HOPE as a student back in the states.”

The new Global HOPE (Healing Opportunities through Purposeful Engagement) Training Initiative taking place in Kigali, Rwanda that year grew out of a task force co-founded three years before by Chicago Campus Dean Tiffany Masson. The objective was to bring students and faculty from The Chicago School together with Rwandan school teachers, orphanage workers, and community leaders to discuss strategies for helping children cope with the traumatic aftermath.

Train-the-trainer model

When Hedglen made that first trip to Rwanda in 2010, the initiative to implement a train-the-trainer model was in a critical stage of development.

“During group discussions I realized the amount of care and concern that these child care workers had for the wellbeing of future generations in Rwanda—above and beyond their concern for their own generation, which had survived genocide,” explains Dr. Hedglen, who graduated with a Psy.D. in May 2016. “This inspired me to reach out to Dr. Masson to find ways I could continue to be involved in Global HOPE as a student back in the states.”

That’s exactly what she did, participating in weekly telemedicine calls with trainers in Rwanda remotely. She also took charge of the advocacy data that examined trainer and participant feedback, eventually choosing to focus on the work in Rwanda for her dissertation. As a result, Dr. Hedglen worked with Dr. Masson to develop a curriculum specifically for the parents of the children in the program.

Then, in 2015, Dr. Hedglen played a key role in bringing Global HOPE to South Africa, joining in a new partnership with the READ Educational Trust.

“She just dove right in,” Dr. Masson says, praising Dr. Hedglen for her passion and dedication to the project. “We were entering a new country, and I needed to be able to trust that the person going would represent what Global HOPE is really about—that they would respect the culture and make sure that we’re doing no harm. That was Jenna, no doubt.”

Lasting impact

Today, Dr. Hedglen is completing a post-doctoral fellowship at a group practice in Chicago, but says she will never forget the impact those five years with Global HOPE had on her, as a person and a professional.

“I was there when the Global HOPE seed was planted in 2010 during the first implementation. I heard the stories of the Rwandan teachers and saw their desire to impact change in their communities through providing hope and healing,” she says. “When the first children’s club was initiated in Kigali, that seed was a sapling that was kept alive by the sweat, tears, and unconditional love provided by Global HOPE founders. That sapling is now a strong tree, bearing fruit and planting other seeds all over Rwanda.”

More than 100 Rwandan teachers have been trained with the Global HOPE curriculum that Dr. Hedglen helped create. And more than 40 children’s HOPE clubs have been established.

She says it’s been a remarkable journey, and a testament to the power of the global engagement opportunities offered at The Chicago School.

“The moment that inspired me most was bearing witness to the sense of freedom experienced by Rwandan youth participating in the HOPE club. They dance and sing with their whole hearts, tears sometimes streaming down their faces,” Dr. Hedglen says. “They act out their challenges through dramas and share their stories and dreams with trusted peers. They learn to smile. They finally are free to be themselves. And that’s what this is all about.”

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