Doreen Ruto, MA '06, was a multi-talented contributor to the peacebuilding field. She will be remembered fondly by many in the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding community, including STAR program director Katie Mansfield: "She brought forward her own personal strength and her stories of adversity without shame or apology. She exemplified leading while vulnerable, and she created many spaces and pathways for others to heal and imagine new possibilities, even amidst adversity and devastation." (EMU Archives)

Doreen Ruto, alumna and peacebuilding partner in Africa, is remembered warmly for her many gifts

Doreen Ruto Jemutai, MA ’06, an integral supporter and partner of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, died Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.

Doreen’s peacebuilding work, anchored in her native Kenya, spanned multiple countries in Africa, as well as the United States. She began her career as a teacher. After a tragic loss in the 1998 United States Embassy bombing in Nairobi, Doreen participated in a survivor’s group, then in EMU’s Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) training in 2001. Awarded a Fulbright scholarship, she studied conflict transformation, restorative justice and trauma and resilience at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP).

Ruto has served as a mentor to many women in East Africa and beyond through her work with the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program (WPLP), STAR, and other trauma and peacebuilding-related initiatives. In 2011, she founded Daima Initiatives for Peace and Development (DiPaD) in Kenya, which engaged in a variety of peacebuilding initiatives, many of which involved and supported CJP programs.

“Doreen chose to come here to CJP to deepen her knowledge and credentials, and also to engage a personal trauma healing journey,” said Daryl Byler, CJP executive director. “She then contributed to and through our community her tremendous capacities as an educator and leader for peace, and officially represented the center at events in East Africa. For that ongoing legacy, we are deeply grateful.”

A celebration of life service is Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, at Christ is the Answer Ministries Church in Nairobi, Kenya. A funeral service will be Thursday, Jan. 28, and burial in Nandi Hills on Saturday, Jan. 30.

WPLP1-news blog feature
Ruto (far left), shown here at a December 2015 graduation ceremony in Kenya, was a partner of the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program.

‘A great loss’

With other staff members of DiPaD, Ruto was recently present at a December graduation ceremony in Nairobi for 13 WPLP participants from East Africa who had earned graduate certificates in peacebuilding leadership. The organization was the regional partner of WPLP, contributing to the formation, transportation and international logistics of the cohorts. Ruto co-taught the conflict analysis course to the Kenyan cohort, mentored women through their hands-on projects, and connected them to resources and partners.

“Doreen’s passing is a great loss,” said Leda Werner, acting director of the WPLP program. “Her warm laughter, commitment to trauma healing and peacebuilding, and personal strength touched many of us. WPLP is grateful to her and to DiPaD for their deep commitment to supporting women peacebuilders. Her impact will carry on in WPLP and elsewhere.”

Ruto’s absence will be noticeable during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute on the EMU campus, where she was to co-facilitate courses on conflict analysis and work with the WPLP cohort in the “Peacebuilding Approaches to Violent Extremism” course. She was also to facilitate a STAR training in Kenya in June 2017.

First a secondary school teacher, Ruto brought her education training to a second careeer in peacebuilding, leading STAR trainings and courses on conflict analysis.

Passing on STAR learnings

Katie Mansfield, director of the STAR program, met Ruto in 2011. The two women shared a common grief, both having lost loved ones in terrorist attacks. They worked together to offer STAR in Kenya in a series of partnerships, first with Rural Women’s Peace Link, and with Mennonite Central Committee.

“Doreen was not one to gloss over the problems, either systemic or interpersonal, yet she offered wholehearted presence, compassionate listening, and caring sense of humor,” said Mansfield. “She was keen to help people discover their strengths, build their resilience, and recognize the power in themselves and their communities to make change, to pursue healing, and build a safe, just, truthful, and caring society.”

Justice That Heals” was developed after the 2013 elections to involve people from diverse sectors, ages, and ethnic backgrounds working in a variety of settings, including the legal system, law enforcement, education and pastoral care. After the Westgate mall attacks, DiPaD offered training retreats to people who had been directly impacted by the attacks, as well as first responders and caregivers.

In 2014, Ruto became a co-facilitator for a series of USAID-sponsored trainings in South Sudan, for which she contextualized STAR training materials and eventually led a training of trainers in the Great Lakes region. She also conducted various training programs with EMU in Somaliland, Burundi and the United States.

A wide influence

Among Ruto’s strengths were her multi-faceted academic and professional capacities as “a facilitator and project coordinator, as well as a researcher, educator and mentor,” Mansfield said.

Ruto had a “tremendously loving, caring heart,” remembered her friend, STAR program director Katie Mansfield.

Ruto supported a UNICEF-funded program that spearheaded a nationwide peace and non-violence campaign with youth before the 2013 general elections in Kenya. Previously, she worked as a monitoring and evaluation officer with the USAID program Kenya Transition Initiatives, aimed at stabilizing communities and institutions in Kenya following the post-election violence in 2008.

She also worked with PACT World as a consultant on the PEACE II program and contributed to the research and publication on Imagine Karamoja! – An Appreciative Inquiry into Resources for Peace, in addition to presenting research on behalf of the STAR program at the African Union in Addis Ababa in 2013.

Ruto earned a bachelor’s of education degree from Kenyatta University in 1991 and worked as a secondary school teacher until 1998. She earned a master’s degree in human resource development from the University of Manchester (UK) in 2003, and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study conflict transformation at CJP, graduating in 2006.

Ruto is survived by two sons, Richard “Richy” Biko Kipkoech and Ronald Kiptoo, of Nairobi, Kenya. Both attended Harrisonburg schools while their mother studied at CJP. Richy is a 2011 EMU graduate.

Discussion on “Doreen Ruto, alumna and peacebuilding partner in Africa, is remembered warmly for her many gifts

  1. I shed tears and still flowing down my cheeks. It is really painful to lose such a wonderful facilitator/trainer. I for one enjoyed her presentation and vividly remember how she narrated about the death of her husband in a miserable way.
    Allow me to pass this message to the bereaved family of Doreen.
    Yes it is painful to lose one family member. I remembered she (Doreen) was a strong believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and so do I. The Bible is very clear that:Jesus said that, HE is the only way to the Father in Heaven. And he going to prepare Mansions for each one who believes in him and the Father the creator of Heaven and Earth.
    Therefore, let me assure the family that our sister is not dead she is sleeping and one day she will rose-up to meet the Messiah in his second coming.
    Be strong and remain courageous in the Lord Jesus Christ. I share with you this reading from the Holy Bible: ECC. Chapter 3. Ver 1-3 There is time for everything. Amen.
    May God keep you safe during this difficult time. With much Love Yours in Christ, John Gemenze. Juba, Republic Of South Sudan.

  2. Prayers go out to the family of Doreen. She was a phenomenal woman, strong yet so tender, loving and warm, never missed a chance to make someone smile and know God Can. We have indeed lost a beautiful soul that taught so many of us the true meaning of forgiveness, love, peace, and strength. You shall be missed. As we light candles for you, we pray that you light will keep shining. To your wonderful children, May the Highest grant you strength and comfort during this time.

  3. I will deeply miss Doreen. I met her in 1986 while we studied at Moi Girls high school in Eldoret. We were also classmates at kenyatta university. Doreen is first and foremost a wonderful person. Though I have been away from Kenya for many many years, I have kept in touch with current affairs. What grieves me most is that I do not know the cause of Doreen’s demise. Please let me know and that way I can grieve her more appropriately. God bless.

  4. Today at your requiem mass my heart was broken into tiny little pieces. I cried till I could not cry anymore…..but at last I smile Tete, I smile and I know for sure you have marched into Zion, your fave hymn. RIP beautiful angel!

    “Marching To Zion”

    Come ye that love the Lord, and let your joys be known,
    Join in a song with sweet accord, Join in a song with sweet accord.
    And thus surround the throne, and thus surround the throne.

    We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion;
    We’re marching upward to Zion; the beautiful city of God

    Then let our songs a bound and every tear be dry;
    We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground; we’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
    To fairer worlds on high, to fairer worlds on high.

    We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion;
    We’re marching upward to Zion; the beautiful city of God

    We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion;
    We’re marching upward to Zion; the beautiful city of God

  5. In 2014 April, I mey Doreen two months before the Mpeketoni attack in jine. She took us through tthe STAR in a church in the town. The following year she invited a team og seven from Tana Delta and Lamu(kenyan coast) to attend a justice that heals workshop in Nairobi.
    Last year she has helped us take through trauma awareness and resilience program. 30pastors, 30 Imams and 27peace committee members.
    We are speechless.

  6. Our paths crossed with mum Doreen in 2011 when I joined Rural Women Peace LINK in Eldoret Kenya. Then, she served on RWPL board. There are many things I remember and miss when I think about her. Apart from working together on different projects at RWPL(e.g Conducting Trauma Healing workshops for women victims of Mt. Elgon Sabaot Land Conflicts) and DIPaD (evaluating the impact of peace education project), I will live to remember the week we spent together at Kabarak University going through Justice that Heals training where we both shared our rivers of life as a way to identify our sources of trauma and hope in our lives.
    All I can say is that Thank you mum because you are among the few who made me grow. Your wise words set me free when the world was almost bogging me down. When my face frowned you always made me smile. Because of you many positive things are happening to me today. My future, with your guidance, advise and mentor-ship was saved from a terrible aftermath. We will miss you mum. RIP.

  7. I met Doreen in August 2015 when DIPAD reached out to Moi University to train caregivers, staff and students of former Garissa University(Survivors of terrorist attack where about 140 students were killed, and who had now relocated to Moi University) on trauma awareness and healing. Doreen, under DIPAD had trained 30 caregivers and 30 students who were proficient in facilitating a trauma healing cycle. The first cycle was held in November 2015 for 300 former Garissa University students. A day before Doreen passed on we had communicated about making plans to process another cohort of 250 students through the trauma healing cycles. Our students and caregivers deeply mourn her and we Pray that her Vibrant spirit lives on in DIPAD……

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