What is trauma?
“Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of cir- cumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emo- tionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administra- tion (SAMHSA), U.S.A.
Development aid and political education often take place in surroundings and societies that have suffered from war, genocide, mass atrocities or crimes against humanity. Dealing with the past of those societies is a fun- damentally important step to heal old wounds and to overcome individual and collective trauma.
Equally important is to bear in mind that dealing with topics such as do- mestic violence, gender justice, child rights, parenting, and human rights can be linked to trauma. In addition, any (natural) disaster such as earth- quakes, tsunamis, plane crashes might cause trauma in the survivors and their relatives. Moreover, whereas trauma may happen overnight, healing does not.
Many projects in development aid both on small and large scale include survivors in their activities. And rightly so.
However, the inclusion of survivors in project activities requires thorough preparation in order to avoid re-traumatisation. Project goals of the activ- ities should include the strengthening of resources, coping mechanisms and resilience of survivors in a participatory manner.
The following recommendations can help to avoid negative outcomes of project activities that in the worst-case scenario could harm survivors more than help them. These recommendations are not understood as a toolbox that one simply has to tick in order to be successful but rather as suggestions how to be mindful of individual and organisational develop- ments that might occur in the course of a project on trauma and trauma survival.