Trauma is rife in Patongo due to the civil war that raged for 23 years between Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government. Trauma is not only emotionally scarring, but can prevent people from being active members of their communities, thereby slowing the rebuilding process. Psychologist Dr. Barbara Bauer and Shelly Evans, a licensed professional counsellor, both from the US, volunteer to train local counsellors in Patongo to help people work through their trauma. Here Barbara and Shelly blog about their experience and share their observations. This is the second of their three blog posts. Click here to read their previous post.
Our outreach workers keep detailed records about the people they’ve counselled. We know they have been instrumental in averting suicides, resolving domestic and community disputes without violence and encouraging people to be tested and to stay on their treatment for HIV/AIDS. They are adept at approaching someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol and guiding them to other ways of dealing with problems.
Our first question with each return visit is: “How have you been using the training we gave last visit?” Sometimes the response is community-based: “I work with a group of returning child soldiers and it wasn’t until we played some of your games together that I was able to get them to talk about what had happened to them. They are starting to do better now.”
Or “In my church there were two groups that were constantly arguing. I used the conflict resolution techniques to help them find similarities rather than to only see differences. They’ve begun talking and helping each other.”
“Last week my neighbours brought a woman to me who was suicidal and I was able to help her deal with the grief she was feeling over her husband’s death.”
Other times the application is more personal: “After I was burned in a fire, I used the relaxation and safe place to help with the pain. It really helped.” Or “I am fighting less with my wife because I learned how to listen. We are getting along much better now.”
Other communities have heard about our counsellors and are now asking if they too can have their services. People are traveling greater and greater distances to talk to counsellors at our Outreach Centre. Our team’s professionalism and skills have advanced so much that they now resemble Masters level counsellors in the US. We’re very proud of their achievements and look forward to continuing to help them grow.