“I’ve never sat in better training, ever.” – Jane Brenda, Uganda
“It’s one of the best trainings I’ve ever done. It opened my mind. I learned so much about trauma-related issues and their impact on children.” – Helen, Kenya
“This training filled a void that I had and it is not to me alone but to the children of my school and my teachers, because the children of my school most of them are traumatized by wars, sexual violence, rejection and abandonment..” – Marcelin, Congo
Every year, new research emerges on the impact of trauma and its effect on our lives. But for many who live in areas of “information drought,” where training and resources are scarce and translation is a challenge, those who could most benefit from this research often never hear of it.
Most of our partners see the impact of trauma first-hand every day. War, economic instability, violence, HIV/AIDS, and exploitation surround them. They carry these stories with them along with the rest of their community. They are not exempt from the pain nor the history. But they have made it their mission to forge a new path and work towards holistic restoration.
It was their hunger for further training that caused Loom to connect with Back2Back Ministries in May 2019 and attend their Trauma Competent Care training in Louisville, Tennessee. In January 2020, we hosted this same training in Portland in partnership with Multnomah University. Then, we brought it this March to Arusha, Tanzania for forty-five social innovators coming from seven countries across East Africa.
Pastors, teachers, social workers, counselors, school leaders, parents, caregivers, ministry leaders – all came together for these four days seeking to understand how they could care for children and youth who have experienced trauma. They came from far away by car or bus, some traveling up to three days to be there. Many were learning in their second or third language. But as the first day began, you could sense the energy of expectation in the room. This was something for which they were hungry.
“I never took into consideration that even children can experience acute trauma,” said Hellen, who came from Kenya with several other staff from Open Arms International. “Or children inside of a pregnant woman. Even in the womb, a child knows if they are loved.” Some of her biggest lessons from the training were the power of addressing our own trauma and healing, as well as the power of giving children choice, and prioritizing connection.
“Every situation, you have to work on it according to how it should be done, not according to what you know.”
Henry, a Kenya social worker, was struck by the importance of one committed, loving adult in a child’s life.
“For every child who was traumatized to be successful in life, there must be a committed adult,” he said. “It calls for patience, and a commitment from an adult to create a safe space.”
Throughout the years, Loom has offered many different trainings and consultations, but what has centered them all is this idea of the “child in the middle,” the conviction that communities should be structured in a way that protects the smallest, poorest, and most needy.
“You have to understand the whole of a child’s life to understand where the trauma comes from,” said Janna Moats, who taught much of the material that week. “And you still have to go back to: what did God intend?”
As forty-five participants returned home to their communities, suddenly filled with even more vulnerabilities due to the spreading effects of COVID-19, there may never have been a time when this training has been more critical. The following months will likely be filled with even more instability, struggle, and the widespread realities of poverty. And yet, there is hope. There is hope because the truth about God’s intentions for children, for the most vulnerable, has not changed. There is hope because, against all odds, these leaders continue to stand with their communities and forge a new path. When this crisis is finally over, they will still be there, building it back up again with their own sweat and tears.
It is an honor to walk alongside the social innovators, and we remain committed to standing with them in the months and years to come. Most of all, we look forward to seeing how the tools offered in this training become part of building sustainable, thriving communities across East Africa.