August 27, 2013

Trauma and Managua

Managua is a city with historical trauma.  Trauma from natural disasters, civil wars, economic poverty, government corruption, unemployment issues, you name it and unfortunately it is most likely found here.

These events and/or situations create what social scientists name “multi-layered trauma,” basically one bad event after another, all accumulated on top of one-another and often not worked through or processed.

Because of this history, most tourists don’t stay in Managua for long.  Travel guides tell visitors to pass right on through.  And if your flight doesn’t allow you to leave the city immediately, only stay for one night.

And this is where we live.

At first I was worried (as many of you might recall) that we were moving to a city that has “nothing good to do or see.”  That was all that I encountered in all of my readings before our arrival.

But this has changed over time.  Managua is the heart of Nicaragua – it’s culture, it’s history and it’s people.

The people of this city do have stories, many of them have seen and lived through countless difficulties and traumatic events.  They keep on going, they are beautiful and resilient individuals, but there is often a lot of unresolved pain.

The city itself doesn’t stand out with it’s “beauty,” but I promise you, beauty can be found – in the eyes and hearts of the people.  The courage and grace of these ordinary people, and the desire to be whole again is a great resource, but one that is often unrecognized.  The very people and places most ravaged by this “multi-layered trauma” can be the most powerful resources in the painstaking work of rebuilding communities and reconstructing nations.  I hope that we as aid and development workers can recognize the capacity in the people around us – they are the greatest resource to this country.

To read more about the psychological impact of multi-layered trauma in Nicaragua, click below:

Being Sensitive to Trauma in Humanitarian, Development Aid by Carolyn Yoder

Living and Surviving in a Multiply Wounded Country by Martha Cabrera

Child Traumatic Stress Network - see page 7

How to Heal? by Adam Shank

Trauma-Sensitive Development and Humanitarian Aid by Carolyn Yoder

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