“The first challenge we face here as pastors is not knowing how to counsel the traumatised people, as we are traumatised ourselves, so we need special training as leaders on counselling.”
This need was expressed by South Sudanese pastors now living in the refugee camps in Uganda. During March and May 2017, Aron Mwasile, Director of Incontext East Africa visited the refugee camps in Uganda to see for himself what the situation was like and compiled a full assessment report highlighting the need expressed by the pastors.
The brutal civil war in South Sudan that broke out in December 2013 resulted in millions fleeing the country. More than a million of these refugees now live in various refugee camps in northern Uganda. In response to this request, INcontext launched Project Restoration to provide trauma counselling and training in trauma counselling to South Sudanese refugees. The project aimed to provide trauma counselling for the refugee pastors whilst, training them, to do trauma counseling with their congregation members. INcontext International invited Petra Institute for Children Ministry to conduct the trauma counseling training for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
The first training took place from 7 to 11 August 2017 in Arua district in Northern Uganda. The training was attended by 34 refugee pastors from Rhino, Bidi Bidi and Moyo refugee camps. Ugandan pastors from Arua and missionaries at the Arua YWAM base were invited as well, bringing the total to 39 participants. The training was presented by three facilitators, namely Louwrens and Theunis Scheepers from South Africa and Samuel Malish, a South Sudanese refugee trained as mentor by Petra Institute for Children Ministry. Both Louwrens and Theunis are former employees of Petra Institute and now act as associates of the institute.
This year the training was held in the Rhino Refugee Camp, Ofua 3 section. The trainers from Petra Institute for Children Ministry and the Incontext team from Tanzania, who provided the logistical support, lived among the refugees, creating opportunity to create deep relationships with participants.
Ten South Sudanese pastors were selected from the group trained in 2017 to attend a week of tutor training from 27 – 31 August. They were trained to present two days from the Petra Institute course “Entering the World of a Child”, as well as Matthew 18, focusing on leadership. During the second week (3-7 September) 23 children’s workers from various denominations joined the team and the 10 pastors presented the first two days of training. Louwrens and Theunis Scheepers presented three days from Petra Institute’s “Walking with Wounded Children” course focusing on trauma and using sandbox and toys as tools to help traumatised people verbalising their traumatic experiences. Joseph Oyet, a South Sudanese refugee recently trained by Petra Institute for Children Ministry, joined the facilitation team during the second week.
The group of tutors were challenged on their view of their ministry and their attitude towards children in their communities. They looked at Jesus’s approach to the marginalized, especially children, through the devotional stories. The message from Mat 18:1-4 took root in many hearts and this was evident in the way they presented the content and process during practice.
Participants shared that they engaged for the first time in months with their small children due to the knowledge they gained in the training sessions. Israel shared that after the training in 2017, he recognised the symptoms of trauma in his son and with the skills he learned, he was able to help his son. Emmanuel and Michael told that they were challenged to take serious the relationship with their own children.
Emmanuel is very traumatised through the death of his four brothers in an incident that happened in front of him. In a practical session during the training, the participants played with children. When Emmanuel went home, he took his six-month-old child in his arms for the first time in four months.
The same day, when Michael went home but did not as he usually did, sent out his kids. He went to them, sat down and played with them. Both Emmanuel and Michael shared how the contact and playing with children help to bring healing in themselves and their families.
The tutors learned how to facilitate different aspects of the course content; do needs assessment; active listening skills and reflecting on course content with students.
TRAINING OF CHILDREN’S WORKERS
The tutors then presented two days of training to 23 children’s workers, putting into practise all the new skills they acquired. They performed very well in presenting the first two days and showed no hesitation in engaging with families and children in the community when they were sent out; setting a good example for the children workers they trained. The joy expressed on the faces of the participants and the children during 1-1 games, the board game and the sandbox was evidence that good relationships were established.
THE WAY FORWARD
This was the second step in a process to identify and develop tutors that can continue to present this training in the future. After discussions between the INcontext East Africa Director and Petra Institute for Children Ministry associates, the 10 tutors as well as the mentors representing Petra Institute, it was proposed that Samuel Malish and Joseph Oyet will do follow up trips to the camps to meet the 10 tutors. They will use as many of them as possible when they present the “Entering the World of a Child” course in the refugee camps. A follow-up training for the 10 tutors will be conducted within the next 12 months. The goal is to prepare them to present 5-days of training, including the material from the “Walking with Wounded Children” course.
May true healing come to the oppressed of South Sudan!