Organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy programme in collaboration with Kecher Africa, the seminar—fourth in the series—drew young people from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Uganda, all of whom participated through Zoom, Facebook and YouTube.
The aim of the webinar was to give young people a safe space to share their experiences and learn from professionals.
Paul Boyle, founder of the Albain Institute, gave insight into trauma by encouraging young people not to look at the past, he said, “as we are hurt by the past which we cannot change—what we can change is the effect from the past and how it is affecting our lives.”
We cannot change the cause, Boyle reiterated. “We can overcome the cause through focusing on the effect,” he said. “If trauma is not dealt with, if not managed, if not controlled, the effect will be anger, aggression, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts as the brain–-hypothalamus, sympathetic nervous system—will be activated leading to fighting, acting, reacting as this will make one think about the past, which one cannot change.”
Boyle estimated that 85% of physiological disorders are related to stress and trauma, with young adults and children particularly affected because they have not developed tools of resilience.
Boyle gave the five tools of resilience, among them patience, hope, faith, gratitude, and trust. “Fake it until you make it,” he said.
He stressed that we should focus on the choices we make “as by chance we are hurting and by choice we are healing.”
Boyle added that it is important to heal the mind, soul, and heart. “When we heal, we heal others,” he said. Encouraging the young people, Boyle also stressed the need to avoid triggers.
Boyle concluded by talking about “discernment” as a spiritual word. “As we relate to people, connect, date, and have friends, it is by chance,” he said. “Young people should discern the people they are with, ask whether they are making a positive or negative difference in their lives—do they complement or complicate them?”
Robert Cooper, Kecher Africa, also encouraged the young people to “take home the wonderful teachings they had obtained, remain connected, and study their vision.”
Charlene Waiganjo, Albain Institute, highlighted that the stories and the journeys of our traumas and stresses is not always an easy one but it is possible to overcome. “Young people need to be empowered with tools to overcome trauma,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the young people, Shalom Njiru, WCC Steward, reflected that, to overcome trauma, we need to be balanced, centered and stable.
Faith Njoki, Kecher Africa, encouraged the young people to focus on the effect and not the causes, and to adopt the tools of resilience which are gratitude, faith, hope, trust, and patience. “This,” she said, “will help the young people cope with whatever stresses or traumas that we face in our lives.”
Rev. Dr Pauline Njiru encouraged the young people that as we will find ourselves in stressful situations, we should not stay there. “We have learned coping mechanisms, thus we learn and try to get ourselves out of the situation, try live in the present moment, and look towards the future and not dwell in the past,” she said.