“Just make sure you remember the peanut butter and the tea bags,” said Dr. Barbara Bauer as we discussed preparations for our next trip to Africa. Otherwise, the psychotherapist, who lives in Missouri, is prepared for anything that Africa might throw at her.
Training Community Leaders in Post-Conflict Communities
Over the years of volunteering with Network for Africa, Barbara Bauer and her fellow psychotherapist, Shelly Evans, have worked in Rwanda, Uganda, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan. They have developed a comprehensive training programme, adapted to teach community leaders and front-line staff in post-conflict communities.
In the course of their pro bono work, Barbara and Shelly have visited our project in Uganda eighteen times, building the capacity of local groups to provide trauma counselling to survivors of genocide and conflict. Their work has impacted literally thousands of lives, enabling traumatized people to take back control of their lives.
Their training programme has also been adapted to challenging situations well beyond Africa: in 2018 Barbara and Shelly went to Iraqi Kurdistan where they trained counsellors helping Yezidi survivors of the brutal Islamic State. Their remarkable work has come to the attention of psychotherapists working further afield. In December 2018 they were invited to a workshop in Geneva where their training programme is being used to create a new international group, focused on helping front line staff working in refugee camps in conflict zones.
Unconditionally Useful Training
As Barbara comments, “A surprising number of mental health professionals assume that staff in the field will have access to electricity for their PowerPoint presentations, and comfortable conference facilities. But our experience couldn’t be more different: we know that our classes may have to take place in the shade of a mango tree, with chickens running around. We have deliberately created a training approach that is useful to local counselors in all circumstances.”
As Shelly explains, “These front-line staff are dedicated to serving their people, but often they aren’t professionals in our Western understanding of the term. That’s the reality in many conflict zones. It doesn’t mean they aren’t extremely effective in helping people manage their trauma and rebuild their lives. We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t effective.”
Network for Africa is proud that Barbara and Shelly’s work is being recognized, and we are delighted that groups around the world are benefitting from their years of experience at the coal face of humanitarian work.
Please help Network for Africa to continue our vital work by making a donation. Thank you.