As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in East Africa, so too have reports of gender based violence.
With your generous support, we collaborated with our longtime partner in southwest Uganda, Nyaka, to train 38 more local leaders - from healthcare workers to community educators specializing in gender equality - on how to heal and prevent cycles of trauma and gender based violence.
Both male and female participants engaged in lively discussions about how, in some villages, women and girls don't have the right to use a pit latrine (a toilet that consists of a hole in the ground) and are denied the right to an education.
Participants also learned how to give Emotional First Aid and Counseling to survivors of violence, and discussed how "Hurt People Hurt People" - therefore healing trauma prevents further violence.
Upon graduation, the participants declared their commitments to the community and what they learned from the training:
"As a Healing Advocate I will help other mean speak up about violence."
"I will help the church in emotional first aid and promote gender equality."
"I have learnt the steps of giving [emotional] first aid to traumatised victims."
"I have learnt that before giving help to others, I must first heal my own trauma."
Our local trainers were equally inspired:
"The participants were busy concentraing and taking notes as they watched the videos. This will change many people's mindset for the better. I wish this training can be taken all over the country."
With momentum from this experience, we look forward to supporting Nyaka with further trainings for Boda Boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers - who are often the first crisis responders for survivors of violence in the community.
Thank you for your continued support! Your generosity is empowering whole communities to transform violence into healing.
COVID-19 in Uganda
COVID-19 has indeed impacted every corner of the globe - and Uganda is no exception.
The Ugandan government initially implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in Africa to help curb the spread of the virus. As of July 20th, the Health Ministry has reported just over 1,000 cases of COVID-19 (with a population of nearly 43 million) and zero deaths so far.
The government has since loosened some restrictions, but many still remain. Though local schools remain closed, our partner, Nyaka, has been working hard to support its communities by distributing educational materials and soap to students, establishing hand washing stations, distributing masks and food rations, and supporting 65 survivors of sexual and gender based violence since the lockdown began.
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Trauma Healing Project: Status Update
With a rise in gender based violence reported by grassroots organizations in Uganda, along with the mental health crisis fueled by shelter-in-place, loss of employment, and the disruption of social gatherings which are critical to the emotional wellbeing of the community, there is no shortage of need for mental health support.
While our trauma healing school education program has temporarily paused due to shelter-in-place, your continued support will ensure that we can restart without further disruption once schools safely reopen.
Your support will also help us innovate on training delivery, exploring video-based mental health education to broaden our reach and train more grandmothers, as Nyaka's granny program has doubled in size over the last several years, growing to over 15,000 grandmothers who support over 60,000 orphans in the region.
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Ripple Effect of Your Support
We recently received a heartwarming message from Phillip, a local faith leader who attended our trauma healing workshop two years ago. Phillip wrote us to share how he has been training parents, caregivers, and children in the community about trauma and healing, while also providing one-on-one counseling.
One survivor, in particular, recently lost her father to violence. "The girl failed to cope with the situation. She would perform poorly in class, alway beat up people who wanted to come close to her, and she had no friends," Phillip explained.
"My first approach was to create rapport." Creating trust and emotional safety is a key concept taught in our workshops.
"Later we talked together and she explained what she was going through. She let her feelings out through crying and narrating the story... I helped her and she is now improving. She talks to everyone now but I am her great confidante. I am really helping by the knowledge you instilled in me. Thank you so much."
Thank you for investing in community-led healing! Your support is empowering leaders like Phillip to support survivors in his community to heal their wounds and transform their lives.
Our deepest gratitude,
"Rose" is a primary student in the 6th grade who lives in a small village in southwestern Uganda.
Since, October last year, Teacher Lydia - a primary school teacher who attended our trauma healing workshop two years ago, through our collaboration with local partner, Nyaka - has been visiting Rose's school to educate the students and teachers about cycles of trauma and violence, and how to support each other to heal.
She's also visits the homes of students and families in need of deeper support, like Rose.
Here is Rose's story:
"[Before] I had not yet learned about trauma, my actions and thoughts were quite different from those after learning about it. Then, I would react very fast... and negatively...
Trauma healing has helped me to know how to control my stress by resourcing. This has helped me to improve on my academic performance and being open to my teachers and guardian... It has also helped me to give respect to old people and never to underlook those under my age.
I stay with my grandmother who used to abuse me whenever she is drunk, saying that she has no hope in me... this made me think of dropping out of school. But when the trauma healing team from Nyaka visited us at my home, my grandmother was counseled.
Since then, she has become my friend. Also, I promised to remain in school.
I request that the trauma healing program be extended to other classes, especially where there are teenagers."
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This International Women's Day, we're celebrating Rose and her grandmother, and all the other women and girls who will be the first in their families to break cycles of trauma and violence.
And we're celebrating YOU. Because your support creates a ripple effect that empowers superstar Healing Advocates like Teacher Lydia, with knowledge and skills to impact others - like the 839 students, teachers, and caregivers whose healing journeys she is empowering, too.
With gratitude - from our hearts to yours,
This is Teacher Lydia. As a 6th grade teacher at Nyaka Primary School, she educates children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in a community in southwest Uganda that has also been impacted by sexual violence.
Thanks to your support, Lydia attended our 3-day trauma healing workshop last year.
The workshop was so impactful that she immediately started teaching her students what she learned.
When we returned this year, Teacher Lydia's students already knew how to express how they were feeling and how to apply skills like deep breathing, play, and exercise to "resource" themselves when they are sad, angry, worried, or stressed.
She also started a healing club for girls - so they could build supportive connection with each other, and activate the community to stop gender based violence.
And now, Teacher Lydia is on a mission to spread healing to others in her community. In the last month alone, she's taught mental health and healing skills to students and teachers at 4 local primary schools, and will teach at another 5 schools this year. She's also doing home visits to students and community members who need deeper, one-on-one support.
And she's just getting started.
Breaking cycles of harm starts with prevention - with supporting kids who are impacted by trauma to heal their wounds before they transfer them to others.
So Lydia isn't just supporting hundreds of students today - she is impacting thousands of lives in the future.
It only takes one person to spark a ripple of change for an entire community.
Thank you for being that spark.
Wtih gratitude - from our hearts to yours,
In partnership EDJA, a program of Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project, last week we held 3 workshops for 55 community leaders - equipping them with tools to become healing advocates who can now: identify trauma, support survivors to heal, and help break cycles of violence in the community.
Participants included teachers, social workers, legal advocates, health workers, police, council persons, and religious leaders. Each leader plays a different role to support survivors -- whether the survivor is a young child who was raped by a family member, a woman who was been beaten by her husband, or a youth who lost his parents to HIV/AIDS and is now cared for by a granny, together with 5 other orphaned children in a single-room house.
At the end of the workshop, participants shared how they will implement their learnings to serve as Healing Advocates in the community:
We also conducted emotional intelligence workshops with students at Nyaka Primary School and Nyaka Vocational Secondary School - teaching them how to “resource” when they are feeling sad, stressed, angry, or scared.
We capped the week by joining 3,000+ community members for the inspirational grand opening of the second EDJA Healing Center in Kanungu, and EDJA / Nyaka’s annual March to End Gender Based Violence.
It takes a global village to heal, and it starts with YOU. Your compassion and generosity is helping to heal generational cycles of trauma and harm.
On behalf of survivors around the world, our deepest gratitude.
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