[These are journal entries from my recent trip To Uganda and Rwanda during the first weeks of July.]
Day 3, July 3
Today was the 2nd and final day of the first ever Community of Practice for the Bible Society of Uganda trauma healing volunteers. Another long day as the program did not end until about 7 pm! Today I presented on an overview and update on the impact and treatment of PTSD. This is a group that likes to ask questions! We discussed the role of demonic in PTSD and how to know the difference. Many of the participants were quite interested in discussing how to educate local pastors in understanding the nature of dissociation. I also participated in teaching the new lesson (added chapter to Healing The Wounds of Trauma material) on domestic violence. In discussing why victims “choose” to stay in DV situations we had some lively discussion about whether the Bible teaches that women must stay. Very productive I think and gave some people a new perspective on the need to bring this hidden scourge out into the light.
The conference ended with reports, public conference evaluations (loved the very direct and loving evaluation of my presentations: have me speak more, have me slow down!), the handing out of the certificates, and final words. One of the most moving items was that I received “thank yous” in every mother tongue present. Seemed like there were at least 30 different languages represented. It was hard not to be choked up. I recognized a few (Arabic, Swahili, Kinyarwandan).
Two take-aways I want to remember:
- We need special materials for ex-combatants. First, much of the focus in Uganda has been on child soldiers. But the country is full of adult ex-combatants who were in Amin’s military or subsequent militaries and who now feel disconnected and distanced from current society. Some report that if they get together for sharing with other ex-combatants, they get reported (falsely) for starting a rebel group. One reported being jailed briefly for such a matter. Several told me that they were suffering terribly from being in POW camps and from the violence they witnessed. But most importantly, they noted that much of the trauma healing materials only speak of soldiers as the cause of trauma and so they feel more isolated when they read about or attend trauma healing exercises. No one, they feel, speaks of the trauma of seeing comrades die, of being forced to carry out commands against their will.
- Trauma healing volunteers, financing, and the need for tangibles. Some of the volunteers believe that they must bring tangibles when coming to do trauma healing work. Words are not enough and participants expect some sort of handout: soap, money for transport, etc. The discussion we had about this ranged from criticism of this part of Ugandan culture and the need to develop a donor rather than handout culture to recognition that this culture has been formed, in part, by well-meaning foreign (Muzungu) NGOs that offer handouts as a means to increase participation in projects. Some volunteers noted they had been falsely accused of pocketing monies intended for participants when they didn’t come with any “gifts.” In addition, many discussed the difficulty of funding the trauma healing groups and the need to find sustainable funding using micro-enterprise.
My day had three other stimulating experiences. First, I was interviewed by a journalist for television broadcast. Supposedly, it aired across the nation this evening, though I did not see it. Second, a woman told me of meeting Joseph Kony about 4 years ago (during the failed attempt to negotiate with him). She said that he was very winsome and crafty. If she didn’t know better, she could have fallen for his lines. I guess this is one of the reasons he is able to stay “missing” by convincing others to help hide him. Finally, I received a text from my wife letting me know that the US government warned of a terror plot at Entebbe airport tonight (about 10 miles from here). I’m planning on being there tomorrow to fly to Kigali. I guess I will evaluate the treat in the am.