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 first post.
With each visit, we respond to the students’ requests to discuss specific topics. Suicide and substance abuse are their most pressing concerns. Helping a newly diagnosed HIV-positive person is also added to the itinerary. We present a series of trainings centred on goal-setting and leadership skills. In Patongo, there is an entire generation of young people raised in the dependency culture of a refugee camp. When a population is in “survival mode”, individuals give little thought to what they want to accomplish and where they wish their life to be in a year, five years, ten years from now. When the threat finally goes, direction can be difficult to find.
As our counsellors’ skills develop and increase, it becomes apparent there is a need for training in conflict resolution. They have been asked to help in disagreements over property boundaries and land ownership. Community disputes and marriage counselling also draw on conflict resolution skills, so a series of ten lessons are accordingly added. To broaden the counsellor’s effectiveness, training in HIV/AIDS and family planning is also provided.
Most recently we’ve included sexual and gender based violence. While being sensitive to cultural attitudes and differences, we want to help empower women to be part of the changes going on in Patongo.
Stay tuned! We’ll post Barbara and Shelly’s final blog, about the counsellors’ progress, in two weeks.