Post-Earthquake Trauma Relief Nepal
Post-earthquake trauma relief Nepal
We are passionate about supporting people in dire need and were grateful for the opportunity to give aid in a place that needed what we have got to offer: Nepal after the Earthquake. In particular the children are close to our heart.
Look at this boy and the lost look on his face. The earth shook. Not only once, but many times. How is he dealing with these earthquakes? Are they still waking him every night although the earth has calmed down? What has he lost?
Post-Earthquake trauma relief and self-care training for social workers in Nepal
In July 2015 we were in Nepal delivering intense trauma relief and (self) care training for social workers. These social workers are giving care in orphanages and street children programs in Kathmandu. The social workers are from partner organizations of the Dutch NGO Mountain Child Care, the organization we went on this mission with.
The training partners were:
- Marianne van Wetter PhD (The Netherlands), Founder of Mountain Child Care, trainer and certified Co-Active® Coach,
- Dilip Shrestha MSc (Nepal), degrees in Sociology and Psychology. He works as senior youth coach for Mountain Child Care and gave trauma relief training in Sindupalchowk disctrict after the earthquake of April 25th of 2015.
The impact of our training: 8000 Nepalese children receive trauma relief care. The snowball effect: we trained roughly 100 social workers in 14 days in trauma relief and self care skills. Each social worker gives care to 30 children.
Blog: Sharing the experience of the post-earthquake trauma relief Nepal training
Day 1 – getting into the experience
On the surface life has gone back to normal in Kathmandu. People are going on about their lives, going to school, attending social gatherings, cooking their meals, going to work, selling goods, hanging out, etc.
However, people are in heightened state of arousal. If there is a slight earth tremor, they are ready to run or hide. If anyone speaks of another earthquake coming, the hearts of people starts racing and their minds either go in a shut down or in overdrive. Many people have trouble sleeping at night and longest most of them go without thinking of the earthquake is perhaps 6 hours. If you talk about April 25, when the first major earth quake hit, they experience the day as if it just happened yesterday.
What gives hope and faith in speedy recovery from the earthquake is the enormous resilience. What comes to people in Nepal naturally is the ability and desire to reach out to each other, family, friends, community. All of them experienced help and support of and to total strangers and it creates a sense of meaning, pride and connectedness that carries them away from the bottomless pits and abysses of helplessness, powerlessness and loneliness.
In that aspect our work is easy. All we got to do is tap into that common shared experience, speak about it and celebrate the achievement of them as a community.
In other aspects our work is more challenging. Two language barriers and one of them is English. Most people attending the training speak English, but only to a certain level. Hence routine instructions during the training take longer to communicate, need to be iterated several times and sometimes translated to Nepali.
The second challenge is the language of the soul, if you like. What is meant with language of the soul is the ability to connect and talk about the feelings and emotions and tap into our innate sense of knowing. In general Nepalis are not encouraged to express the emotions, hence laying the link to their emotions and naming them appropriately is a learning process that all participants have to go through in this training.
Day 2 – awakening
What a day! Everyone started showing up as themselves and was less afraid to be who they truly are. We had authenticity and vulnerability in the room. Communication was getting easier. The flow of the first day and the effort of getting participants used to connecting to their feelings and expressing them came to fruition. We breached the initial language barriers and started to truly reach people. And as on the first days, despite the fact that several things didn’t go according to plan – for example for the compassionate body scan we had a beautiful recording that we couldn’t play because a truck outside the room was so loud (and smelly!) that no-one could hear it – everything was flowing. Nothing felt forced or artificial.
This training day is the most intense day of the curriculum. This “process” day is also the day on which the chance of re-traumatizing the participants is the highest. Hence for the exercise at the end of the day we had developed a very rigorous protocol using a combination of EMDR (Eye Movement De-sensitization Reprocessing) techniques, which are used to treat symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder), and Co-Active methods to bring the earthquake witnesses and victims closer to the emotions and thoughts that they have difficulties with. And it worked beautifully!
We lead them slowly and gently to the experiences that they have difficulties with, starting already on the first day by letting them share their own experiences and deepening it by letting them draw different trees – normal, comforting, wounded and healing tree – on the morning of the second day.
At the end of the day people felt connected and safe with each other. And they were brave! Even though it was challenging for them to be with their vulnerability they nevertheless tried to stay with it.
Day 3 – relief and forward focus
This is our moment of celebration! It’s the evening of our last training day and boy, did the training have an affect on the participants! People that came in with bottled up anger, shame and fear had at the end of our 3 day training a genuine smile on their face, joked around, reached out to each other, laughed with each other and felt light and alive again.
They all walked away with a renewed sense of purpose, hope and determination not to let the trauma of the earthquake rule their life or the life of their family members, friends and the children they work with. Their focus is forward, towards a future in which people feel safe and free again.
We knew that the time had come for psychological care in Nepal (3 months after the first major earth quake) but there is a big difference between knowing it intellectually and actually experiencing it! The feeling is indescribable happy and highly addictive. I wish I could this every day.