Africa Healing Exchange


By Kachina Divine


Executive Director Sara Stender of Africa Healing Exchange (AHE) is passionate about making a difference in the lives of those who are suffering the effects of trauma and living in highly stressful environments. On August 5th Africa Healing Exchange is having a fun-raiser with a special concert featuring award winning singer-songwriter Billy Jonas at the Avenue M in Asheville.


Billy Jonas

Billy Jonas

Billy Jonas has been thrilling audiences with his unique repercussion and thought provoking whimsical lyrics that thrill adults and their families of all ages. Billy travels all around the country featuring workshops for both teachers and students demonstrating how to let your imagination take flight in an ecofriendly, environmentally creative way as well as gracing the stage with folk greats such as Pete Seeger, Alison Krauss, Peter Yarrow, Keb’ Mo’, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Paul Winter, Michele Shocked, Ani DiFranco and David Wilcox. The fun-raiser will include activities for all ages including a letter writing station and drawing as well as a vegetarian buffet. This will be a delightful fun filled evening for the family and also benefits a good cause in aiding people who have had severe traumas and hardships.


Sara Stender. Photo: Tammy Gregg.

Sara Stender. Photo: Tammy Gregg.

How did the Africa Healing Exchange get its start? In 2009, when Sara Stender, who is the founder and Executive Director of Africa Healing Exchange, arrived in Rwanda, she immediately felt at home and fell in love with the nation and its people. Sara lived in Kigali, providing vocational training to young adults who had lost their families in the tragic genocide. As she built relationships with many Rwandans, she was witness to the deep suffering that often manifests as depression, anxiety, stress, addiction and substance abuse, and physical pain related to trauma. Sara was, and continues to be, in awe of the high level of resiliency, strength, and courage that permeates daily life in Rwanda. When she moved back to the U.S., she began cultivating a great partnership and exchange between Americans and Rwandans, to work together to help end the global crisis of generational transfer of trauma.


Sara is most inspired by inspired a solutions-based, positive psychology, and has experienced personal growth through adversity. Sara holds a Masters of Science degree in Organizational Management, with a concentration in Leadership and Change. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management, and for the past ten years has held leadership positions in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.


AHE shares knowledge, resources and physical space to rebuild a sense of safety and to help prevent future traumas and substance abuse. We envision implementing replicable models of peaceful communities, built on health and well-being, promoting increased peace throughout the world. AHE’s specialized model, called Recovery and Resilience for Community Wellness, is based on reciprocity and equal exchange, with the goal of lifting up the new generation.


Africa Healing Exchange takes a strength-based approach to bolster individuals’ existing resources in the service of healing past traumas and providing support for recovery from substance abuse and addiction. The primary pilot project components our team will be introducing in Rwanda this coming August are:


1) Recovery from Trauma and Substance Abuse


2) Resilience Training and Prevention through Education.


AHE will be the first organization to offer proven support for substance abuse and addiction in Rwanda. AHE’s curriculum is the only one to combine the separate fields of trauma healing, substance abuse recovery, and prevention into one program.


AHE is also cultivating relationships with community leaders, teachers, students, social workers, and healers throughout Rwanda, with the intention of offering services for Rwandans as communicated by Rwandans. The AHE pilot program is being developed with Rwandans in mind and our cross-cultural American/Rwandan team is also ensuring that the end product can be easily replicated in other countries. After the pilot program has concluded, the model will be refined and transcribed into a readily administered manual.


The AHE team will employ Rwandans who are interested in working with us to help spread the model throughout other Rwandan communities, reaching hundreds and eventually thousands of Rwandans. At the same time, African Healing Exchange will begin to identify other nations that could benefit from our services and experience.



For more information on AHE and for concert tickets for the fun-raiser please visit:

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker