Monday, November 2, 2015

Congo Healing Program opens it doors

Teachers and peer counselors from newly founded Congo Healing Program. Mumosho DRC 2015

The purpose of my trip to Bukavu last September was to establish a trauma healing center in the Mumosho area of eastern Congo.  

Working together, Amani Matabaro, director and founder of ABFEK, and I set up the Congo Healing Program (CHP) in a large, private room in the literacy building of the Mumosho Community Center.  

With my psychological expertise and Amani’s translating finesse in Swahili and French, we trained two EFT peer counselors and 12 teachers. In addition to making trauma healing available at no charge to whoever needs it, the CHP is teaching healthy coping skills to primary school children.

Although CHP is a trauma healing program, the name was chosen to reflect a positive future—our focus is as much about moving forward and manifesting dreams as it is about healing past suffering.

The CHP has 3 parts:
1. Public education about trauma, depression, and anxiety: their symptoms and the need for treatment,
  2. Peer counselors trained in EFT (a tapping therapy), breath work, and positive visualization for individuals and groups,
    3.Teacher training for a daily morning healing ritual with primary school children.

I originally went to Congo in 2008 to do trauma therapy. But the differences between western psychology and Congolese culture seemed too wide to bridge at the time, so I focused on vocational training and Centre Ushindi.

It took some years to work out which therapies really help people there. Peacefulheart Network taught how to do tapping with war victims.  From there, I added interventions I found  helpful when treating women survivors of sexual violence, such as breath work, visualization, tapping, song, dance, and group therapy.

Additionally, I confer with Amani about which interventions, language, and imagery are culturally compelling so these folks will integrate the new skills into their everyday lives instead of forgetting them as soon as I leave!

We taught teachers a morning ritual that helps school children forget their difficulties at home (domestic violence, hunger, pain) and make school a safe place for them. When calm and relaxed, they are more open to incorporating positive thinking and proactive behaviors into their lives.

School kids in DR Congo

Being a teacher himself, Amani loved the idea of helping kids get off to a positive start each morning. The teachers we trained love the protocol, especially greeting each student at the door as they entered the classroom. One principal immediately started doing breath work with 5th and 6th graders—no small task, because abdominal breathing is very foreign to them. To get around the strangeness, we have them breathe God in and out, which is relaxing and empowering. 

I want to thank all of you who donated to make this program a reality. YOU are helping war victims you will never meet heal and rebuild their lives. Children are starting off on the right foot because of your generosity. YOU have made a HUGE difference for the good in many lives.

With love and appreciation,

Victoria Bentley
Empower Congo Women - President and founder

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