At Invisible Children, the most important component of our model is our focus on creating programs that build upon the solutions to violence and exploitation that local leaders are already developing in their own communities. By doing so, we are creating programs that are led by, owned by, and create lasting change in the lives of central African families.
We begin all of our work by seeking out local leaders who are aware of the needs of families and who have a deep understanding of the cultural context in which these needs must be met. We collaborate with these leaders and local organizations to reinforce solutions that come from their wisdom and knowledge, connecting them to the resources they need to create lasting change for the children and families in their communities.
One of the most powerful examples of how this approach works is in our partnership with Father Mark and the Inter-Church Commission in South Sudan, who provide trauma healing opportunities to families affected by LRA violence.
For years, Father Mark, and his colleagues at the Inter-Church Commission have been the champions of bringing support to trauma victims. They know that, when unaddressed, trauma and fear not only prevent individuals, families, and whole communities from moving forward, but can lead to further conflict and violence down the road. Therefore, they work alongside the Self Help Women’s Development Association in LRA-affected communities of South Sudan to organize trauma healing and livelihood workshops to help women and families recover from violent experiences and to help former LRA-abductees safely return back to their communities.
Built around customs of the local Zande people, these efforts include counseling, educational campaigns, and group meetings focused on prayer and traditional rituals that provide space for communities to address conflict and trauma together. Along with psychosocial experts at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Father Mark and his fellow leaders have incorporated clinical expertise into traditional practices, such as community mourning.
In early 2015, we partnered with Father Mark and the Inter-Church Commission to develop a toolkit based on these programs, which LRA-affected communities across central Africa can use to recover from traumatic experiences and help LRA-escapees return to their communities. We brought Father Mark and other members of the team that created the toolkit to our office in Obo, Central African Republic. There they trained members of several affected communities so they could also use the toolkit.
Since then, our teams in the Central African Republic and DR Congo have provided the toolkit and trainings to dozens of affected communities and have even adapted it in order to be played on radio stations throughout the LRA-affected region so even more people have access to these tools.
Thanks to our partnerships with Zande leaders like Father Mark, thousands of resilient families now have access to the tools and techniques that they need to come together, heal from trauma, and strengthen their communities as we work together toward a safer central Africa.