Last week, we shared the story of Hannah, a brave, young mom who escaped LRA captivity with her children earlier this year. Her story of hope and courage is a reminder of the strength in so many mothers across central Africa who are tirelessly working toward safer, brighter futures for their children.
Today, we want to introduce you to another mother whose strength and hope inspires us. Meet Clementine.
Clementine is from Obo, a small, isolated town in southeastern Central African Republic (CAR). When Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) first moved into CAR in 2008, Obo was among the first communities to be targeted. In one LRA attack, Clementine’s two children were abducted by a group of fighters.
The attack and the abduction of her children left Clementine struggling with feelings of anxiety whenever she would recall the experience or think about her children. Unaware that she was experiencing symptoms of trauma, Clementine didn’t have the tools she needed to cope with her anxiety and loss.
In early 2015, our staff in CAR recognized that Clementine was struggling and invited her to participate in a trauma healing workshop designed to equip community members with strategies to recognize and reduce trauma in themselves and others. The workshop utilized a trauma healing toolkit we developed in partnership with community leaders from the InterChurch Committee of South Sudan and psychosocial experts at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). The toolkit incorporates traditional trauma healing practices of the local Zande people into clinical psychosocial modules, allowing for community members, like Clementine, to learn about trauma and how to cope with it through familiar cultural experiences.
At the workshop, Clementine learned how to recognize her own trauma and practice techniques to help her cope with the anxiety she was feeling. Now, when she begins to feel anxious, Clementine uses a breathing exercise she learned at the workshop that helps calm her and she’s able to seek support from others in her community when she needs it. Clementine has felt such a difference in her own life that, not long after the first workshop, she also participated in a training for trauma healing trainers and is now helping others in her community cope with trauma.
Today, Clementine volunteers with a transit center supported by Invisible Children in Obo, helping women and children returning from LRA captivity prepare to reunite with their families. The trauma healing trainings she’s participated in help her to recognize trauma, communicate with others experiencing it, and share tools and techniques that can help them heal. As a result, she’s helping LRA returnees prepare to more successfully reintegrate into normal community life. Clementine now sees the impact she and other community trauma healing trainers in Obo are having in the lives of others affected by trauma:
“Before the trauma healing workshop, nobody knew what trauma was. Now, thanks to this training, we are now are able to help people who have been traumatized. We are able to help them, advise them, and communicate with them. Before it was harder because we didn’t understand what trauma was. Now it is more peaceful to communicate with traumatized people because we know what to do and know that they have been suffering”
While Clementine continues to struggle knowing that her children are in captivity, she also continues to provide hope and healing to others fueled by her own hope that, one day, her own children will be free and that someone like her will be there — equipped and ready to help them heal.