Phase 2: Educating Refugee Leaders About Trauma, PTSD & Recovery

Update 5/23:
Help us raise $3,300 by the end of summer to launch this phase of the project.
Thank you so much for your support.

Online fundraising for Phase 2: Educating Refugee Leaders About Trauma, PTSD and Recovery

Wanna get involved?  Contact us at (949) 891-2005 or

Jump to:

Last December, we completed Phase 1 of Trauma Recovery for Refugees and the results of our survey to determine rates of PTSD among refugees in San Diego confirmed what we suspected. Many have survived terrifying and horrific situations and are still suffering with the after effects.

  1. 83% have endured traumatic experiences (e.g. forced evacuation, lack of food, water, shelter, access to medical care, violence, kidnapping, etc.)
  2. 85% are currently suffering from symptoms of trauma, ranging from mild to severe.

While responses indicated a wide range of difficulties, the top 5 most common symptoms of trauma in this population were:

  • Recurrent thoughts or memories of the most hurtful or terrifying events (over 65%).
  • Feeling exhausted
  • Sudden emotional or physical reaction when reminded of the most hurtful or traumatic events
  • Feeling that they have less skills than they had before
  • Bodily pain

Click here to see the full report »

Services for refugees remain extremely limited. Given these findings the obvious question is, what can we do to help with this, and how?

Trauma induced behavior cannot be rectified with the use of traditional crisis intervention techniques that depend on logical processing because trauma behavior is an illogical, instinctual response not under the control of the rational brain.

– David Berceli, Ph.D.

The challenge

♦  Stigma.  For many refugees, there is a stigma associated with seeking help.  While traumatic experiences may contribute to depression, anxiety and other debilitating symptoms, in traditional African cultures admitting to these difficulties is seen as weakness.  Additionally, having felt violated by others in the past, trust, especially of ‘outsiders’, does not come easily.

♦  Cost.  Even when someone realizes that they need help, cost is often prohibitive.  Very few refugees can afford to pay the hundreds of dollars often associated with individual psychotherapy sessions.

♦  Individual vs. group.  For many, it is the entire family that has been traumatized. Family members have shared experiences, feel responsible for one another and want to help each other heal.  Culturally, this extends even beyond the family into the community as a whole. The traditional western model of 1-on-1 psychotherapy is not ideal given the cultural context.

♦  Understanding trauma.  Often family and community leaders see the symptoms of trauma – substance abuse, violence, insomnia, poor concentration, anxiety, depression etc. – but do not perceive them as being caused by life-threatening traumas in a refugee’s history.  In the absence of understanding of what traumatic experiences can lead to, feelings of shame are commonplace, and the stigma about getting help is made worse.

♦  Talk vs. body.  Unresolved trauma is not merely a psychological issue.  When faced with life-threatening situations, the body’s survival response gets activated. For those with PTSD, much of this activation continues long after the actual event. While it is a necessary part of the healing process to be able to tell the story of ‘what happened’, traditional Western ‘talk therapy’ can be high-risk for someone who is in a state of hyper-arousal. It has the potential to re-traumatize by overwhelming the individual and flooding the nervous system. Part of the challenge is to address the aspect of traumatization that is physiological in order to help restore a state of calm.

After years and years of working in this and grappling with this, the conclusion that many of us are coming to is that in order to help these animal, frozen, inappropriate, fight/flight/freeze responses to come to an end, you need to work with people’s bodily responses. You need to help their body to feel like it’s over.

– Bessel van der Kolk, MD

✶ ✶ ✶

    Phase 2 of Living Ubuntu's Trauma Recovery Program: Educating refugee leaders about trauma, PTSD and recovery

Phase 2 of Living Ubuntu’s Trauma Recovery Program: Educating refugee leaders about trauma, PTSD and recovery

Our plan (Phase 2)

We intend to offer a Trauma Recovery Program for Refugees that will be able to address the challenges noted above.  Before we launch this program for the wider community, we need to ensure that refugee leaders have a good understanding of trauma.  Then they will be more able to recognize refugee struggles that are rooted in unresolved traumatic experiences requiring specific types of intervention.

For Phase 2 of this project, we are planning to:

  1. Create an abbreviated 6-session series (2.5 hours each) for a maximum of 15 leaders from the refugee community in San Diego.  These individuals are people we already have a good working relationship with, and are partners and supporters of this project.
  2. Include psycho-educational material about trauma and PTSD, and utilize Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) in each session.
  3. Get feedback from the leaders and make as-needed changes to the program prior to launch for the general refugee public.

This will help us move one step closer towards launching a community-based, ongoing Trauma Recovery Program for Refugees.  Why are we doing this?  Read more »

How can you help?

We need to raise $3300 to the cover the costs for this phase of the project.  Your contribution of:

  • $550 will cover the cost of 1 session for 15 refugee leaders. 1/6 of our goal.
  • $230 will cover the cost of training 1 refugee leader.
  • $100 will cover a fifth of the cost of creating the trauma curriculum.
  • $50 will cover the venue fee for each session.
  • $20 will provide 1 yoga mat for 1 refugee leader.

Can you help us with this?

Online fundraising for Phase 2: Educating Refugee Leaders About Trauma, PTSD and Recovery

100% of your donation goes towards covering the costs of this program.

The budget

  • Program costs for Phase 2 (recruitment, staffing, travel etc.) = $2,010
  • Yoga mats = $250
  • Marketing (flyers, printing) = $90
  • Venue fee = $300
  • Food & refreshments for 6 sessions = $150
  • Create curriculum = $500
  • Total = $3,300

Our team

  • Chuol Tut, Executive Director of Southern Sudanese Center of San Diego
  • Abdi Mohamoud, Executive Director of Horn of Africa
  • Barbara English, LMFT, CBT, Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
  • Anshul Mittal, Operations Director, Living Ubuntu
  • Jan Parker, PhD, LMFT, CBT, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, National University
  • Charles Tatum, PhD, Lead MA in Human Behavior, Department of Psychology, National University
  • Brenda L. Shook, PhD, Program Lead Faculty, Department of Psychology, National University

Living Ubuntu is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a focus on mind-body issues, specifically health and well-being, and the effects of stress, trauma and compassion fatigue.  We seek to increase awareness of the global and local impact of these issues, build a sense of community, and encourage living a more fully embodied life.  For more information, please visit

National University is the second-largest, private, non-profit institution of higher learning in California.  For more information, please visit

Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego is a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides support for those who have immigrated from war torn South Sudan. Most of its staff is unpaid volunteers who donate their time to support refugee communities.

Horn of Africa is a 501c3 non-profit community-based organization in San Diego representing and advocating for the comprehensive and diverse needs and opportunities of African refugees and immigrants in San Diego, with a particular emphasis on refugees from Somalia.

Sudanese American Youth Center San Diego is a non-profit organization based in the San Diego, California area focusing on mentoring Sudanese youth on how to become successful in the United States and still maintain the Sudanese cultural identity and value.

* * *

Thank you in advance for your support.

This is a crucial step toward our goal of creating a community-based, sustainable Trauma Recovery Program for Refugees in San Diego.  Thank you for helping us meet with success in this effort.

With gratitude,

Barbara & Anshul
Founders, Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n.
Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human being.

7 thoughts on “Phase 2: Educating Refugee Leaders About Trauma, PTSD & Recovery

  1. Pingback: Educating refugee leaders on trauma, PTSD and recovery. Why this approach? | Living Ubuntu Blog

  2. Pingback: Addressing trauma and PTSD among the most vulnerable amongst us | Living Ubuntu Blog

  3. Pingback: Update #4: Results of PTSD survey of refugees in San Diego | Living Ubuntu Blog

  4. Pingback: If their homeland had been a safe place to live, they wouldn’t have become refugees. | Living Ubuntu Blog

  5. Pingback: If their homeland had been a safe place to live, they wouldn’t have become refugees. (Part 2) | Living Ubuntu Blog

  6. Pingback: If their homeland had been a safe place to live, they wouldn’t have become refugees. (Part 3) | Living Ubuntu Blog

  7. Pingback: “My mother was beaten, what’s wrong with that?” | Living Ubuntu Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s