Trauma Team Returns from Nicaragua
August 16, 2011
by Rachel Judy
As they have each summer, Regent University's Center for Trauma studies deployed a trauma team overseas to work with trauma victims and communities in need of counseling for a variety of issues. From Sunday, July 24 — Monday, Aug. 8, the group was in León, Nicaragua, working with Open Eyes Ministries.
Under the supervision of Dr. Benjamin Keyes and Dr. Merrill Reese, the team of 21 students and faculty provided crisis and group counseling and offered training workshops for local mental health professionals, pastors, school children, police officers and families in the region.
Open Eyes Ministries is a Christian organization dedicated to showing the love of Christ to children and families by providing for their physical and spiritual needs.
“[This trip allowed us] to partner with a ministry in Nicaragua and further their ministry goals,” explained Keyes. “This is the annual immersion experience designed to give students enough practicum hours to be certified as a traumatologist with the Green Cross Academy of Traumatology.”
One of the highlights of the trip was the counseling and training the group provided to local pastors. Not only are pastors often placed in the role of being a counselor, but they often are in need of someone to talk to as well.
The team chronicled their trip in a number of blog posts, where they shared both the details of the day and the emotions of the sessions they conducted. “The family visits continued today,” they wrote. “The first family was suffering from the loss of their eleven-year-old son a year and a half ago. The father was a pastor who thought he could not show any grief for his son. He also believed that questioning God would be a sin. There was not a dry eye in the house when the father wept for the first time.”
The team used translators to work with the families and counselors during the trip. Because of the difficult and emotional nature of the words they were translating, the group also spent time helping them process the things they had seen and heard. “The interpreters not only translate for us, but actually take on the mannerisms and emotions that both the Nicaraguans and we portray,” the group wrote. “Sometimes the stories touched a theme in their life, causing them to reflect on their own pain. The debriefing provided a safe environment for them to share about their experience.”
The group also made a number of school visits, conducting workshops dealing with self-esteem, drugs, alcohol addiction and relationships.
While the group agreed that their time in Nicaragua was very productive, it was still difficult to leave. “We are leaving this family, the schools and all the other groups we worked with in God's hands,” they wrote. “We have done all we can and now must trust God to do the rest. This is the difficult part of counseling since we want to know that the families will be okay.”