Some things seem meant to be. What happened had to happen and couldn’t have happened any other way.
When RJ Swanson, founder of New Hope for Children, contacted Lynea about sharing the practice of TRE (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises) with children in Africa, they felt an immediate connection. When RJ mentioned that she would also love to train African counselors how to lead TRE, they both recognized an amazing opportunity.
“Social work has always been a part of my world,” says RJ, whose parents also worked in the nonprofit sector. “And I had always had a sense that I’d do something in Africa.”
That something came to be in 2009, when RJ traveled to Kenya with an organization providing microgrants to developing communities. The nation was in the midst of a years-long drought. People were starving. You could see it in their vacant eyes. You could see it in the taut bodies of youth scavenging landfills for glass shards to sell. You could see it in the hardened expressions of street children, any number of whom had been trafficked and seduced by pimps, boys into the drug trade and girls into prostitution.
Feeling she had to help, RJ founded New Hope for Children. And now, their outreach would include TRE.
A Strange Blessing Made It Possible
A year ago this couldn’t happen, at least not so easily, as it would require physical travel to and from Africa. But one of the strange blessings of COVID is that TRE certification trainings were moved online, accessible to anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world.
Lynea was so inspired by RJ’s story that she shared it with David Berceli, the founder of TRE – the Trauma Releasing Exercises that help children and adults alike learn how to tap into their body’s own physical mechanisms for letting go of stress and trauma.
We talked at length with RJ about how to facilitate TRE trainings in Africa and connected her with David so she could share her vision – training “not just people working at the center,” says RJ, “but in other NGOs working with kids impacted by trauma.” Although the umbrella advocacy group was based in Nairobi, member organizations were in nations scattered across the whole of the continent.
After hearing RJ’s appeal, David suggested that he could help facilitate a group of 15 trainees.
“Think we could do 30?” asked RJ with a smile in her voice.
Turning the Vision into Reality
Alex Greene and Ellen McKenzie of Red Beard Bodywork were essential for bringing the initiative to life. While Alex co-taught the main TRE course with David, Ellen helped organize all the volunteers who had been recruited to mentor participants in small groups. All of this was coordinated through Zoom. The sessions were routinely marked by a sense of connection and even intimacy that can be surprising to find in virtual communication.
Due to the time difference, Lynea’s group of four women, all counselors, met with her regularly at midnight. “They were so gracious, grateful, and respectful,” she says. “And it was so powerful to do the TRE with them – and to think of this huge network of people that can connect online and learn together, do TRE together. We are all healing together. And they’re not just taking it to their work but to their own families, as well.”
Those who normally give support are thus also receiving the support they need to be able to deal with the vicarious trauma that those of us in the helping professions understand far too well. This is something crucial to David – to provide a kind of therapy that leaves people with something and helps them become self-sufficient.
One other aspect of TRE makes it particularly well-suited for this type of intervention: It is free of perceived cultural appropriation. It’s the only such modality that is not drawn from a spiritual tradition, such as yoga or meditation. Drawing on the body’s own built-in resilience, it’s like eating and drinking – it belongs to everyone. It’s incredibly simple to learn yet yields powerful results.
Looking to the Future
Meanwhile, the waiting list for future trainings grows. Many participants may well become Certified Providers themselves. RJ herself is on the path to becoming certified in TRE – as well as working on a master’s in psychology with an emphasis on trauma.
If you’re ready to learn TRE for yourself, our next Module 1 training – a live online course taught by Lynea, with David joining us for Q&A sessions and demonstrations – is scheduled for January 16 – 17, 2021. We’d love for you to join us. You can check out all the details and access registration here.
But sign up soon. These courses fill up fast – just as they do for the African group that’s making such a difference in lives that have been scarred by trauma.