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Gallimore has merged her academic research with social activism. While her background in linguistic theory is useful in understanding certain linguistic phenomena, she acknowledges that “if I go speak about the semiotics of the language of the genocide, that’s something that academicians would understand, but it may not be useful for someone outside of the association.” Realizing this limitation, she founded Step Up! American Association for Rwandan Women, an organization that recognizes the reality that “the needs of the Rwandan women are enormous. Not only are there concerns for practical things such as jobs, food, and school supplies, but the mental health needs have largely remained unaddressed. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety remain as an aftermath of the intense horror of the genocide.” Step Up has developed a number of projects to help redress these problems.
Béa Gallimore will return to Rwanda periodically to meet with the ABASA women, check on the projects that Step Up has spearheaded, and determine what further steps need to be taken to help these women become financially independent. Their next priority is to build a counseling center, which is becoming increasingly urgent as primary school children, who were not alive during the genocide, are showing signs of trauma. They may be withdrawn, have difficulty with attendance and learning, report nightmares and sleep disturbances, and show signs of anxiety and distress. From studies of the children of the Holocaust survivors, we know that symptoms of trauma may be transmitted down through the generations. Step Up’s mission of improving mental health availability, therefore, is of vital importance. To learn how you can help, go to http://www.stepuprwandawomen.org/.