Trauma casts a long shadow on the lives of those it affects – individuals, families, communities, regions and nations.   Its impact can devastate or disrupt lives for years, decades or even generations and continually trigger cycles of violence and revenge.

Studies have shown that Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) and Trauma increase the risk of poor mental and physical health, addiction, involvement in violence, incarceration, vulnerability to radicalisation and stands in the way of a full engagement with life. Youth suicide in Europe North America and the Western Pacific Rim is rising, trending with statistics on bullying and abuse, depression, anxiety and reported trauma.

International studies consistently show that youth are especially prone to peer pressure and the risk of delinquency is at its highest in youth. Studies of disadvantaged youth and youth in the justice system have also pointed to the fact that ‘…fear, anxiety and trauma serve both to increase risk of conflict’ and as an ‘outcome of being young, disadvantaged’ and/or ‘socially isolated’ (WHO-AIMS, 2015; UNWOMEN, 2010; Feminenza, 2011).

Youth in migrant communities, particularly those seeking refuge from conflict, are even more deeply impacted. The ‘risk of … depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, psychosis.. at least 3 times higher in migrants than in the host population’, the consequence of ‘exposure to violence, conflict victimhood, suicide, human trafficking (WHO, 2017), ‘FGM, forced marriage, intolerance, homelessness… street crime, being radicalized…’ (Europol, 2017) bringing ‘profound challenges for host communities’ (IOM, 2017).

The Syrian crisis and ISIL’s incursion deluged nearby countries with refugees: Turkey – 3 million; Jordan- 1.8 million; Iraq – 1.6 million as well as 2 million conflict widows. The EU-28 also received over 1.3 million ‘refugees and migrants, a median age of 28.1 years’ (Eurostat, 2019). Nearly ‘40% of IDPs/refugees, mainly female youth are unable to connect or access mental health support’ (WHO, 2019).

Community workers serving in these target groups bear an elevated risk of adverse effects. lead to ‘fatigue and secondary trauma syndrome (STS)’ in the USA (Bride, 2016) the EU (Kizilhan et al, 2018) and the Middle East (Plakas, 2016). STS is more commonly described as ‘compassion fatigue’ and, in the third sector, ‘burnout’.

Those working with affected communities and youth are painfully aware of its impact but, more often find that they too have limited access to the mental health support needed, particularly in disadvantaged or conflict affected regions. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely limied access in all levels of society and across all age groups.

Our Trauma Healing and Community Resilience Development services (THCRD) provide a protected and carefully designed, safe space within which youth workers may develop further their reflective skills and instigate inner change. It is proven with deprived, post-conflict or IDP host communities, disadvantaged youth, displaced persons, families with complex risk factors; with a history of stress, anxiety, trauma, conflict, gender-based violence and suppression, as well as with youth workers serving in these settings. It enables early safe identification of fears; brings fears to a standstill; fosters inner life shaping decisions to be made safely; provides sustainable platforms for self- forgiveness, release from the past; develops innate inner intactness, countering peer pressure. It markedly improves community resilience.

Primarily reflective in nature, THCRD is especially effective with those who cannot voice or share their story, or who are not initially aware of the underlying triggers, to make significant progress. It is effective and limits risk for youth, particularly disadvantaged youth.
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Likely participants

THCRD has been effective directly with the following groups as well as the community workers, mental health and youth workers giving ongoing assistance:

  • Internationally displaced persons, refugees, migrant youth
  • Disadvantaged and socially isolated youth, disadvantaged women
  • Socially marginalized youth with criminal risks, juvenile prisoners, and imprisoned mothers
  • Communities, villages, tribes, youth, children, and women, with PTSD, anxiety, trauma, and conflict trauma
  • Families bereaved in conflict communities
  • Disadvantaged returnee youth, post conflict traumatized
  • Victims of childhood abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, sex trafficking
  • Victims of domestic violence and their abusers; honour-based abuse; women facing violence and abuse; BMER, trafficked into modern slavery
  • Teachers and students pioneering coexistence in conflict communities
  • Youth facing relationship difficulties, conflicts, suicide risk
  • Hosting communities receiving refugees, exposed to conflict and victimhood.

By 2019 as our partners (European, US, Middle East and African NGOs) referred their staff for training, education and mentoring years, 64% of participants reported a prior history of primary or secondary traumatic stress. Most serve as the face of humanity in prisons, schools, refugee camps, on the streets, in active conflict zones; always with disadvantaged groups. For many, they are the first line of informal mental health support available; for some, the only doorway to rehabilitation from the sink of poverty, mental ill health and an untethered existence. In 2020 COVID added to the burden, affecting nurses and emergency service workers.

What THCRD spans

THCRD consists of three components:

  • Gender and Trauma: the distinct pathways leading into trauma, depression, anxiety, obsession, acting out and acting in; the place of societal cages in shaping our Stop Situations
  • Managing Mental Trauma: the anatomy and drivers of fear, anxiety, trauma, worry and STS; bringing fears to a standstill; developing inner qualities; the role of gender and age in perception and resilience; maintaining a safe environment; the use of DASS and HFS as tools to monitor risk and progress.
  • The Seven Pillars of Resilience and Forgiveness. Reflective, self-care practices to foster resilience including: overcoming prejudice and stereotyping; moving from repetitive violence to letting go of the past; dealing with shame and guilt; the importance of connectedness; re-humanizing the ‘other’; separating the person from the influence; choosing to forgive; creating a new inner narrative.
Outcomes
  • Knowledge: The anatomy/drivers of anxiety, fear, trauma, revenge and STS; gender and age in perception, response and resilience; the Seven Pillars of Resilience and Forgiveness; reflective self-care; connectedness; importance of safe circumstance; progressing beyond reactivity; breaking stop situations; DASS and HFS as tools to monitor risk and progress
  • Skills: halting fear and anxiety; leaving the past behind; separating people from the act; developing and recognizing qualities; personal application of the THCRD reflective processes; a new inner narrative; maintaining a safe environment
  • Attitudes: re-humanizing, separating the person from the act; inform, not interfere; inside out decision making; choosing to forgive
  • Values: evidence based, our common humanity/values; each life making its own decisions

Outcomes, backed by fourteen years of DASS resilience outcome data, have been independently verified by UN WOMEN, SIDA, DFID, USAID, US Congress studies. EU surveys conducted in 2018/19 on receivers of this service, recorded that it improved the well-being of charity workers privately (86%) and professionally (80%), while positively benefiting those in their care (71%).

Formats

THCRD is offered in two settings:

First. As weekly online interactive experiences offered online, backed by access to movies, books, live music, storytelling, self-directed reflective sessions, small group discussions, plenary sessions, review of film clips of real-life events, practical exercises, role play, practical demonstrations, games, music, dance, storytelling, humour, and informal cultural exchanges – as working settings for the three components(link above),

Second. As a 5-7 day retreat, where participants collaborate 24/7 and deepen the reflective experience, Throughout the retreat, participants contribute, learn from each other and lead some of the sessions. Participants work together in a protected and carefully designed safe space within which they may further develop their reflective skills and instigate inner change, taking increasing charge of the influences they encounter along the way. It is informal, voluntary, and self-diagnostic, founded on group learning. The tools provided help to address significant private or sensitive issues, without having to share their private thoughts with others.

 

Most participants find that the online courses enable them to build enough resilience to proceed without further assistance. About 45% elect to engage in the face to face retreat and develop additional skills to be more effective, both within, and in preparing projects to make a difference in their communities.

History

The THCRD service was developed in Europe (the UK, Netherlands, Denmark and Germany). In 2009 UN WOMEN commissioned THCRD to assist communities most crippled by Kenya’s 2008’s post-election violence. 28 young women were trained, mentored, as they delivered THCRD workshops. SIDA (2012) subsequently described their impact as a ‘leading effective example of UN SCR 1325 (ground up reconciliation)’. That cohort is now well known for its continuing impact on community cohesion and resilience.

Building from there, USAID commissioned THCRD workshops in 2015 and 2016 targeting a mix of radicalised youth, youth at risk and survivors of severe gender-based violence, from severely deprived settlements in Kenya. Subsequent USAID reviews (2017, 2019) reported a paradigm shift, that the majority ‘had markedly changed…some had even become community role models’. In 2017, DFID commissioned THCRD for the military, police and municipal elders, with similar results.

THCRD access has widened. In the USA it has assisted Washington State – with homeless women; Arizona with incoming African refugees; New York – with disadvantaged youth. In Europe it has assisted refugees in Denmark; the traveler community in Ireland; abused women and French African refugees in the Netherlands. With Erasmus+ mobility (2018) it has assisted youth workers (from Italy, Holland, Ireland and UK) – working with disadvantaged youth, migrants, displaced persons, victims of forced marriage and gender-based violence – to reflect and refresh – impacting their lives privately (86%) and professionally (80%). Six months on, 71% reported a significant improvement in their handling of youth in their charge: the third large group of youth workers to report benefiting from the THCRD service as significantly as those receiving their assistance.

By 2021 THCRD was supported by 14 years of independently verified evidence and longitudinal data with internationally recognised clinical mental health surveys of effectiveness and outcome (DASS and Heartlands), informing continual refinements.

FEAR OH FEAR

You’ve made me your slave oh fear
You’ve made many enemies for me
I have no peace in myself
No mercy within myself

You told me to hate others oh fear
To harm others
To always remain with pain,
Anger and revenge

Bur sorry oh Fear
I’ve discovered my qualities to conquer you fear
I’ve discovered I am strong, am courageous, am powerful,
I can defeat you
Oh yes I can

Fear oh Fear
I have found that I have self control, love, faith, humanity, peace ,
And reconciliation

Fear no, no Fear
I now know that
An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind
My religion is truth, love and service to God and humanity
No one is born hating another person
Because of the colour of his skin, background and religion

Fear oh Fear
I’m for truth, no matter who tells it
I know that if I want Peace I don’t talk to friends but to enemies
I am the change

Fear oh Fear
I have understood that
Where there is no Forgiveness there is no Understanding
Where there is no Forgiveness there is no Freedom
Where there is no Forgiveness wounds cannot heal
Where there is no Forgiveness Life is chilled
Where there is no Forgiveness we are all diminished
Where there is no Forgiveness there is no Hope
Where there is no Forgiveness there is no Continuance

I am for Instant Forgiveness.

(Feminenza Trauma Healing workshop, Nakuru, June 2017)
Charles Mukanga


They said that it could not be done, that the pain would not go away, but I can tell you that it has gone. It has been done.Reflection of a 16 year old participant, USAID DREAMS Initiative Kenya