Phase 3: Trauma Recovery for East African Refugees in San Diego

Update 8/28/14:
Community outreach sessions were held on 8/16 at Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego and on 8/23 at United Women of East Africa and Horn of Africa. Well over 100 women completed the intake process and 40 have been confirmed as eligible to participate in our pilot research that will launch 9/6.

Phase 3: Trauma Recovery for East African Refugees
in San Diego

There are over 20,000 refugees from East African countries (e.g. Sudan, Somalia, Uganda) currently living in San Diego.

If their homeland had been a safe place to live, they wouldn’t have become refugees.

In December 2012, Living Ubuntu, in collaboration with faculty from National University and local refugee organizations completed a survey to assess the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress among refugees from East Africa living in San Diego.

The results confirmed high levels of unresolved trauma:

83% had endured traumatic experiences (e.g. forced evacuation, lack of food, water, access to medical care, violence, kidnapping)

85% were suffering from symptoms of trauma, ranging from mild to severe.

Services for refugees remain extremely limited.

Why is it difficult for refugees to get help for trauma & PTSD?

What can be done to help?

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

Our plan

Living Ubuntu seeks to offer an ongoing community-based Trauma Recovery Program for Refugees. Before we launch this program for the wider community, we need to document its effectiveness with a smaller group. Our long-term goal is to train refugee leaders as trauma recovery facilitators. This will enable increased access to culturally sensitive opportunities taught in refugees’ mother tongue.

Phase 3 – Research

  • The first group in the pilot project will include 40 female, age 18 or older, East African refugees divided into Treatment and Control groups.
  • The Treatment group will receive weekly 2-hour sessions for 2 months. The Control group will be on a waiting list for the same treatment afterward.
  • Each session will include Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE) led by 2 somatic-trauma-recovery-trained facilitators and psycho-educational material. What is TRE?
  • Progress of each refugee will be supervised by a licensed psychotherapist and evaluated by the research team from National University.
  • Each participant will receive $15 / session to assist with transportation and childcare.
  • Refugee leaders will assist in community outreach, translation and project retention.
  • Both groups will meet at local refugee community centers in City Heights.

Benefits of this approach

  • Each refugee will gain a deeper understanding of stress, trauma, PTSD, and the recovery process.
  • They will be more able to recognize symptoms and side effects of unresolved trauma and PTSD (e.g. nightmares, depression, anxiety, intrusive memories, substance abuse, domestic violence).
  • They will learn a method they can continue to practice unassisted on their own, to continue the healing process.
  • Statistical analysis of project effectiveness will guide us in best practice for future scaled-up programs for local refugee communities.
  • Current published research on refugee trauma and effective methods for recovery is extremely limited.

Why does trauma recovery for refugees require a somatic approach?

How can you help?

We need to raise $18,600 to the cover the costs of this first group in this phase of the project.
Your one-time contribution of:

$45 will help pay incentives to 3 refugees (e.g. for transportation, childcare, etc.).
$80 will cover 1/3 of translation and recruiting costs.
$200 will pay for TRE booklets for 20 refugees.
$300 will provide yoga mats for 20 refugees.
$755 will fund one session for 20 refugees.

Or, consider becoming a sustaining monthly supporter:

$38/month will provide one week’s services for 1 refugee in San Diego
$152/month will provide one month’s services for 1 refugee in San Diego

Will you help us with this?

Online fundraising for Phase 3: Trauma Recovery for East African Refugees in San Diego

100% of your tax-deductible donation goes toward covering the costs of this project.

The budget

Pre-project costs (translation & recruitment): $840.00
Phase 3 project costs: $3820.00
Incentives for refugees (transportation, etc): $6600.00
Retention of refugee participants (ongoing outreach from refugee leaders) $4800.00
Venue fees (refugee community centers): $1600.00
Supplies (TRE booklets, yoga mats, etc): $940.00
Total = $18,600

Our team

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

Faculty of National University, the second-largest, private, non-profit institution of higher learning in California,

Horn of Africa is a 501c3 non-profit community-based organization in San Diego that advocates for the diverse needs and opportunities of African refugees and immigrants, (particularly Somalis) in San Diego,

Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to assist all Sudanese refugees in their resettlement through education, social, economic, and cultural support,

United Women’s East African Support Team is a 501c3 non-profit with the goal of responding to the overlooked health needs of East African women and their families that affect their well-being,

* * *

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 English, LMFT
Founder & Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
(949) 891-2005

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

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