Sierra Leone teachers help students traumatized by war
Sept. 20, 2006
|Web-only photo by Phileas Jusu
"I am now slow to anger because I have been conditioned," Francis Hallowell says.
By Phileas Jusu*
YONIBANA, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — Following an 11-year civil war,
United Methodists from the United States and Liberia led a July workshop to help
leaders of this West African nation train teachers to rehabilitate the minds
and hearts of young people.
"Rehabilitating buildings and leaving the human mind, which was actually the architect
of our destruction, is dangerous," said Mariatu Kamara during the opening
of the July 17-27 "Trauma Counseling and Healing Workshop." She
described the mending of people as the "real bedrock of rehabilitation
and reconstruction of the country."
The need for such a workshop became evident last February, when students from
a United Methodist high school in Yonibana burned down a local police station.
After living with daily violence for 11 years, the youth used violent means
to oppose the police detention of one of their student leaders.
"This is a very, very helpful training because
... we still have the effects of the Feb. 9 students' riot," Kamara said. "We still
have problems in how to handle them, so this training is going to help me to
be able to counsel a lot of them." She said many of her students returned
to school “without proper rehabilitation of the mind."
|A UMNS Web-only photo by Phileas Jusu
Bishop Joseph C. Humper speaks at the opening ceremony for the Trauma Counseling and Healing Workshop.
Bishop Joseph C. Humper, who leads the denomination's
Sierra Leone Area, told leaders from United Methodist schools in the region
that since the war
ended in 2002, the government has been busy rehabilitating and reconstructing
hospitals, schools and police stations that were destroyed during the years
of fighting. He said it is now time to help people traumatized by the war.
"If anything good ever happened to the Sierra Leone Annual (regional)
Conference after the war ... it is our partners coming to say, ?We
have something to offer to Sierra Leone through the training of trainers at
a Trauma Counseling and Healing Workshop,'" the bishop said.
The 10-day training session focused on "Soul Restoration and Deliverance." The
opportunity to teach skills in trauma counseling and healing was funded by
Operation Classroom, a project of the North Indiana Annual Conference in partnership
with the Liberia and Sierra Leone conferences.
'The troops are gone'
Guy Hayes, a U.S. leader of the West Africa Trauma
Team, said he was happy for the progress in Sierra Leone.
"I was here in 2003, just after the
treaty was signed. There were many UN troops around the country, and I was
nervous. But this time we know that the troops are gone." He said other
nations are now going to bring money and development opportunities to Sierra
Leone. "Those things are very exciting to me," he said.
|A UMNS Web-only photo by Phileas Jusu
Jusu is director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s Sierra Leone Annual Conference.
At the end of the 10-day training session, Hays
said participants not only acquired skills to help others work through their
also "had the opportunity to work on their own traumas." It’s
difficult for people to help others when they haven’t worked through
their own traumas, he explained.
Forgive and forget
Kamara said the workshop helped her deal with
some of her own traumatic experiences. She especially appreciated the practical
offered by workshop leaders. "There
were a lot of gaps in my counseling skills," she said. "I have
been able to pick up a few hints and tips and skills from the training."
Other Operation Classroom training leaders included Sue Mullendore, and Magnus
Jusu of the United States, and the Rev. David Gbanah and Jennifer Dioh of Liberia.
Francis Hallowell, a Yonibana resident, exemplifies
the value of participating in such a healing experience. While sifting through
the remains of his father’s
burned house, he was asked how he felt about the rebels who destroyed the home.
"I have no alternative but to forgive and forget," Hallowell said.
attended a trauma counseling and healing workshop once. I know its impact.
Now I can live with former ex-combatants because of the workshop I attended.
I am now slow to anger because I have been conditioned."
*Jusu is a journalist and United Methodist Church communicator in Freetown,
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.