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Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa

by Hoedspruit Training Trust
Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa
Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa
Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa
Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa
Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa
Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa
Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa
Provide trauma relief to workers in South Africa
No loss of life, but victims were traumatized.
No loss of life, but victims were traumatized.

We take great pride in sharing our progress on the Trauma Releasing Exercise training with you, our GlobalGiving family! Without you, we would not be able to bring the benefits of this debriefing strategy to the rural communities of Limpopo Province, South Africa.

Success story

On July 11, 2019, a number of small roadside fruit vendors’ shacks close to the Hlokomela offices burnt down in an accident. It happened early morning when it was very cold and dark. Many people were living in the shacks and they lost all their belongings. Fortunately, there was no loss of life but all the survivors were shocked and traumatised. Emotions were running high and the victims directed their anger towards the person who accidentally started the fire with a candle. Three people were seriously shocked and traumatised attended a TRE session at Hlokomela Clinic and they all felt much calmer afterwards. Follow up sessions will be done by the trained facilitators.

This is an example of how TRE can be used in any stressful or traumatic situation and how important it is to train more and more people in this skill to help themselves and in the very challenging communities in which they live.

Training continues to benefit participants

Over the past 3 months, the growth and change in the 14 participants training have been marked. They have made great progress and have grown in confidence. They work in pairs and are more outspoken about sharing their feelings and process of TRE with the group. They remain enthusiastic and all have experienced changes within themselves, which continues to motivate them under the skilled guidance of their trainer, Dr Erika Coertzen. One of the participants who miscarried twins last year felt deep grief and anger from the beginning of the training in March. At the July training session, she shared that she at last “felt free and without anger” thanks to the effect TRE has had on her. The training will be completed at the end of September.

With regards to the Hlokomela caregivers who trained last year, they continue to benefit from TRE on their own. Within their communities, they have reached 18 people including men, children and women. One very promising facilitator is was chosen to continue with TRE Module 2. More than 70 staff from Hlokomela, including Community Care Givers, continue to receive the support that TRE provides as part of debriefing for their work.


TRE community facilitators in training
TRE community facilitators in training

Since our last report in January 2019, our Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) community facilitators have been hard at work and the next round of training has started. Thanks to the funds raised by our GlobalGiving family, they are bringing relief to individual clients as well as Hlokomela field staff on a weekly basis.

Success stories

A local lodge owner referred one of their employees to Hlokomela for TRE after being through a very traumatic experience. The lady is about 38 years old, does not have a child of her own and suffered a miscarriage last year. After so many years of trying to conceive at all, she has been struggling to accept the miscarriage.

One of Hlokomela’s in-house TRE facilitators, Tshepo Lewele, did TRE with her and after the very first session, she had a peaceful nap after a long time of not being able to close her eyes during the day due to flashbacks of the trauma.

Two days after the session she called the facilitator and said that she is very thankful for the TRE because she is now feeling positive about life, and TRE has helped her to accept and move on.

Training new TRE community facilitators

Word about last year’s pilot Community Facilitators TRE training has spread and we had lots of applicants who wanted the benefits of the 6-month program for themselves and for people in their community. They wanted to experience the release of years of tension and stress and begin to heal from trauma, which is all pervasive in the Limpopo rural communities.

We were able to select 14 applicants from the Hoedspruit area to attend the training 1 ½ hours away in Tzaneen, Limpopo. There, in a church hall, Dr Erika Coertzen is teaching a total of 23 participants (9 from the Greater Tzaneen area) on 9 Fridays from March 2019 to September 2019. We have 2 translators, Kgopotso and Elizabeth, both TRE qualified, and a number of TRE facilitators who volunteer their time to assist in this exciting and rewarding project.

In the first 3 training days, we have seen the 4 men and 19 women start to process individual traumas within the safe space of the group. One mother was finally able to release the grief for her stillborn child, another woman took two sessions, filled with both crying and laughing, to let go of a knife attack that injured her badly. However, usually, people don’t know and don’t need to know what specific trauma and stress they are releasing. It is the great advantage of TRE as a modality that it evokes a physiological body reflex and does not require talking about the trauma.

Participants find that pains and headaches are disappearing, they are reporting better sleep, higher energy levels, fewer menstruation problems and improved sex! These are usually the first signs of reduced tension in the body and as the process deepens it can lead to more peace of mind, clearer thinking, more balanced temperaments and less anger and frustration.

Last year’s graduates have a standing invitation to join and Grace, a social worker, came recently to share her experiences. Her insight and personal growth with TRE is inspiring!


TRE group session
TRE group session

Since our last report in November 2018, our newly trained Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) community facilitators have been hard at work! Thanks to the funds raised by our GlobalGiving family, they are bringing relief to individual clients as well as Hlokomela field staff on a weekly basis.

Who have we helped?

Staff in game lodges, local business, and farms in the Hoedspruit area and poor rural communities in Maruleng Local Municipality benefit from sessions with our two on-staff TRE facilitators, Tshepo Lewele and Kgopotso Manamela. From November 2018 to January 2019 these ladies conducted TRE sessions with 19 clients. All Hlokomela staff have access to either one-on-one or group sessions with the in-house facilitators. Our Nompilos (health workers) and peer educators also attend sessions. This helps them a lot as they are working in the field on a daily basis and need relief to counteract burnout tension. Our trained community facilitators facilitated one-on-one TRE sessions for 11 farm workers during the reporting period. These sessions were conducted at their places of work - a great benefit of the service as farm workers don’t need to take a lot of time off from work.

Will more community facilitators be trained?

With support from our friends in the GlobalGiving community, we plan to launch another round of training for 10 new community facilitators from March to September 2019. These facilitators will be based on farms as well as in the communities, where poor health conditions, violence, abuse, and poverty often result in compassion fatigue, indirect trauma and anxiety as well as personal stress and trauma.

Success stories

A local lodge owner brought one of her female staff members to Hlokomela after the young woman survived a very traumatic car hijacking. Tshepo says: “the client was struggling a lot as she was unable to sleep and concentrate at work”. “During the session, I could tell that her body was overwhelmed with tension and she reacted very well to the TRE technique. After attending two TRE sessions with me, she is able to drive and perform her duties at work again”. Another female client was referred to Hlokomela after losing her 6-year-old son in a very traumatic drowning incident. The lady couldn’t focus at work and suffered from sleeplessness for two weeks after the incident. “ I did a one-on-one session with her and she released a lot of the tension that was stored in her body. After the session she slept much better!” says Tshepo.


TRE Community Facilitators graduation ceremony
TRE Community Facilitators graduation ceremony

Through the support of our GlobalGiving family, sixteen nompilos (community health workers), peer educators, home-based carers and community workers from the Hoedspruit, Phalaborwa, and Tzaneen areas were trained as TRE Community Facilitators. TRE (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises) is a method to help release tension stored in the body due to stress, anxiety, and trauma. TRE can be used in crises and after accidents as emergency interventions but is mainly taught as a self-help tool with the aim of bringing the body and mind back into balance, thereby improving overall health.

  Over a period of 6 months Dr. Erika Coertzen, a doctor of integrative medicine from Tzaneen, trained participants, culminating in a graduation celebration on 4 October 2018 at Hlokomela.

  It has long been Dr. Erika Coertzen’s dream to spread TRE to the rural communities where people have little access to mental health facilities. In a pilot project, Hlokomela in Hoedspruit hosted eight training days where participants, selected by three NGOs, learned how the body responds to stress and trauma and how to alleviate the symptoms. These NGOs, Hlokomela, CHoiCe Trust and Anova Health Institute, have been working with TRE for a number of years and have seen such positive results that they decided to support this project. Funding was, as always, a difficulty and the costs the NGOs could not cover were raised through private and corporate sponsoring, notably through our GlobalGiving project. Thank you!

  The participants soon felt the benefits of TRE on their own bodies and thoroughly enjoyed the course days. There was a wonderful sense of connection in the group and attendance was almost perfect. The feedback has been astonishing as most participants reported improvements in sleep, anxiety, irritability, digestion, aches and pains and energy levels after 6 months of practicing TRE.

  Equipped with donated yoga mats and blankets these new TRE Community Facilitators will go out and facilitate TRE with people who have experienced some form of trauma and teach it to as many people as possible as a self-help tool to support them in coping with their life circumstances.

  The pilot was a resounding success and the course will be repeated next year, spreading TRE further in our communities to counteract the effects of trauma and stress, improving the mental and physical health of the population. We are confident that we will be able to repeat the course with your continued support!

  For more information contact Susannah Cole-Hamilton on or follow us on Facebook ‘TRE Limpopo & Mpumalanga’.


Community Health Workers TRE training group
Community Health Workers TRE training group

With only the last training session left to go before our Community Health Workers will qualify as Trauma Releasing Excercises (TRE) facilitators, the benefits of TRE are becoming more apparent each day. Thank you for this opportunity that we can share our excitement with you, our GlobalGiving family!

Besides the many anticipated benefits our Community Health Workers will bring to people in the communities of Hoedspruit and Tzaneen in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, our patients here at Hlokomela Clinic are already reaping the fruits of having a fully trained TRE facilitator at Hlokomela, Kgopotso Manamela.

 Sara* was sent to the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic by her employer. After obtaining her general medical history, Sonja Botha performed a breast, abdominal as well as pelvic ultrasound. All vital signs were taken and found to be in order.  After the examination the conversation lead Sara to open up about some of the emotional challenges she was facing. It came to light that she has lost both her children, the first born child at 6 months. After the loss of her child she fell pregnant again and lost that child just before he graduated from kindergarten. Sara lost both of her children in very traumatic ways.

Sara had never been counselled after the loss of her children and it was clear that she needed help. You see, Sara hasn’t menstruated in 4 years, and she so desperately wants a child. Her body just did not want to co-operate. We referred her to the hospital for further medical examination but for her emotional well-being we knew we could help.

Hlokomela’s in-house TRE facilitator, Kgopotso Manamela, completed one TRE session with Sara right here at Hlokomela. Afterwards, Sara said that she felt less stressed and more relaxed overall. Kgopotso has committed to facilitating more sessions with Sara.

The story of Sara just reiterates the importance of a holistic approach when working with people. We could very easily have missed the hurt and pain this woman was going through had we focused only on the physical symptoms. I salute this amazing Hlokomela team for their compassion!

*Sara is a pseudonym used in this report to protect our patient’s true identity.



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Organization Information

Hoedspruit Training Trust

Location: Hoedspruit, Limpopo - South Africa
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hlokomela
Project Leader:
Christine du Preez
Hoedspruit, Limpopo South Africa

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