Minds and hearts
Our work continues this week as it is continuing to be evident that our presentations and counseling are timely. At the GCAT trainings, the members of the community are coming together as a unified force for the benefit of their country. Whereas these individuals represent a wide berth of agencies and government departments, they seem to be shifting their perspective about the ability to join together and address the effects of trauma in the Trini population. The participants are immediately putting the techniques related to self-care and compassion fatigue into practice. One woman shared that she has already used a specific relaxation technique, Emotional Freedom Technique, personally and found it very effective. At WPC, the team shared with a group of mostly young adults concerning conflict resolution and self-esteem, as well as counseled a few more individuals. The team at the prison training site are experiencing even more openness on the part of the prison staff to the information that is being presented. Our willingness to listen and validate their experience of trauma in an incredibly difficult work environment has opened the door for them to receive the tools and information we have brought.
Today the team that I was part of worked with Operation Salvation- a coalition of churches and other community organizations in the Morvant/Laventille area of Port-of-Spain "with a vision for community transformation through the Gospel of Jesus Christ". One of their leaders had approached Dr. Keyes last year and asked him to come with a team to offer help to Laventille, a community filled with an incredible amount of trauma in the lives of children and families including crime and violence, with multiple shootings and murders. Additionally, overcrowding, poverty, domestic violence and child abuse make teaching in this area incredibly challenging.
Our role this week has been to meet with multiple groups of teachers and give them information about the effects of trauma on children and how it shows up in the classroom. The trainings also give them practical tools in order to provide a positive and affirming learning environment despite the difficult behaviors and emotions that their students display. Another important piece of the presentation is informing the teachers and school officials about compassion fatigue, which is a type of PTSD for individuals who see and hear others' traumas over and over. Social workers, first responders, counselors, ministry workers, and these teachers are at a higher risk for experiencing trauma-based symptoms due to their helper's heart and the overwhelming amount of trauma that they witness in their community and students' lives.
We were escorted by a task force within the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service who have been designated to work within this specific community and who are dedicated to seeing change. I was struck by the police officers' and teachers' will to hope for change in their community. One officer described his previous work as part of a SWAT team, but now he is committed to working with "minds and hearts." The teachers talked passionately about their students and how they give and give each and every day. Most of these teachers both work and live in Laventille and so have experienced their own traumas, making our discussion about compassion fatigue and self-care all the more relevant.
It is a privilege to work with such inspiring individuals who then turn around and bless us with their hospitality and appreciation.
Amanda N. Trent, Psy.D.