Building a connection
So it begins…as the Regent Trauma teams were preparing for their assigned daily roles, diligent locals were already waiting outside the hotel ballroom where Green Cross training was scheduled. Years of challenges and difficulties radiated from their gracious eyes. Upon discovering their titles and personal experiences- Police, Emergency Preparedness, Teachers, Prison guards, Social workers, Church members, Youth and Military- it became evident that what we were doing here on the Island is far more than the natural mind could comprehend. The atmosphere was different than those of the trainings given and taken in the past, reminding the volunteers that unity and connection were imperative to cultivate.
In the school, after arriving with a police escort, the team along with Dr.Harris began working with local attendees to identify trauma in children and how it affects their learning skills. During the power point presentation, community workers and teachers present became reflective, remembering former students and children that the system would simply identify as “problem students”. Regret and interest surfaced in the discussions. Many during the closing remarks embraced the philosophy that they cannot always change the demands placed on them by an organization, but they can control their learning environment.
Concurrently, youth with military schooling were at the church learning communication and conflict resolution skills. With each presentation, mistrust subsided as the students identified with the speakers. Many of the young men were taking notes and genuinely engaged in discussion despite their initial disappointment that girls were not invited. Others watched from the peripheral, yet they were the group members who thanked the leaders for sharing. The day closed with a group hug, prayer for some, and counsel for others. Seeing smiles on formerly hopeless young men was rewarding.
As we met with a wall of resistance from front line workers who were feeling hopeless in the prison, the skilled and trained Regent team simply moved in with compassion while presenting their material. They slowly gained trust, and encouraged relationships with the understanding that people are valuable.
Hearts melted, skepticism remained…yet the desire for connection continued. As small groups formed with each of the teams, the various members of organizations attending began to see comforting similarities. Often, locals commented “you understand us,” sighing “you have your own traumas”. Sharing in a safe place created within the small groups brought about healing and common ground. As the trauma team debriefed in the evening some remarked how renewing it was to see eyes fill with hope, and hear appreciation on a deep level. Fatigued from the travel and a new environment, we stood resilient.
By Paula L. Henderson
BA Public Administration, MS. Cert Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Management