Friends in Solidarity is a collaborative that supports women and men religious in Africa, especially in South Sudan, through educational initiatives and capacity building. On May 19, 2022, they hosted a webinar to discuss Trauma Awareness and Healing in South Sudan.
The facilitators explained that due to war violence, domestic abuse, climate change, poverty, and more, the people of South Sudan have had to accept that trauma is something that needs to be worked through, sometimes at multiple times in life.
It is hard to imagine how to provide wide-spread trauma services to such a wide range of people in a country that is struggling to gain stability. Even if the services were offered, would women who are being abused have the boldness to take advantage? Would men who are taught to be tough and not show signs of weakness admit they may need help?
Unfortunately, in many cases it is hard to reach those who need help the most. That is why Friends in Solidarity has taken more of a community-based approach rather than an individual-based approach to healing trauma. Their organization offers community-based training that helps individuals learn about processing trauma and healing. By having workshops and training in a group or community setting, it is less pressure for individuals to seek out help on their own.
The skills that are taught in the workshops are simple coping mechanisms anyone can use to calm themselves down or work through a tough moment due to trauma.
This approach to trauma is referred to as “Capacitar” which teaches people at any age or skill level how they can use their bodies to calm down. Facilitators explained that a workshop would begin with introductions with a strong emphasis on listening to others share their story and showing communal support. Each person is able to also say how they are feeling at that time.
From there participants will take part in breathing exercises to help calm down and focus. Deep breaths will be taken in through the nose and out through the mouth. Afterwards they are taught techniques for tapping various parts of their body which helps to calm down one’s nervous system.
In South Sudan more than 600 participants have been exposed to these skills giving them tools to manage and heal traumatic energies that are stuck in their bodies. Facilitators of the webinar explained that people need to process and get the trauma out, although everyone has a unique way of doing this. The tools taught in these workshops give participants the means to get started.
Participants of the workshops have been known to express healing, to come back and attend more workshops, and some even report less suicidal ideation. Although how each person reacts to trauma is as unique as their healing journey, giving people the ability to work through these issues in a healthy way is a great step towards widespread healing.