Healing Trauma in the Workplace

Healing Trauma in the Workplace

This article is part of the Easter 2020 Trinity Magazine issue. You can view the entire issue here.

ARDF is a mission partner of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

By Christine Jones, Director of Mobilization, Anglican Relief and Development Fund

Many people who live in Northern Uganda live with deep pain. In the not so distant past, the country experienced a brutal civil war. Children were taken as soldiers and civilians were taken captive and forced to witness unthinkable things. Although many of these events took place over a decade ago, trauma does not disappear overnight. In addition, the community still lives with the effects of poverty and underdevelopment due, in part, to the history of conflict.

One employer in Northern Uganda is working to heal the wounds of trauma and poverty. The Market Project (marketproject.org) establishes market-based businesses that provide sustainable, healing workplaces for men and women who have experienced complex trauma such as domestic violence, exposure to war, physical or sexual violence, and human trafficking. Stable jobs at The Market Project’s Nguvu Dairy help transform lives once debilitated by trauma and war. These jobs bring stability and opportunity to trauma survivors and those who might otherwise be vulnerable to exploitation.

The need is great. Over 70 percent of Nguvu employees have experienced two or more traumatic experiences. Seventy percent of employees financially support family and or neighbors outside of their household.

With funds from the Anglican Relief and Development Fund, and in partnership with the Bible Societies of Uganda and America, The Market Project implemented a variety of trauma healing activities for their employees. These activities have transformed employee relationships, strengthened interpersonal communications and built a team ethos.

One training focused on the dynamic that trauma brings in a work-related environment. Managers at the dairy learned what is significant about trauma and how to communicate with others about it. Scenarios and stories helped managers increase their understanding of what happens physiologically when a person experiences trauma and why people exhibit certain behaviors typically associated with trauma-affected individuals. Managers and staff are now better equipped to respond with understanding when staff are triggered. Everyone can design supportive responses that are critical to a ‘trauma-informed’ workplace.

A second series of workshops was for staff who have experienced trauma themselves.

The impact of this trauma healing program is already visible. One member of the group, a woman from the community who had experienced significant trauma, committed to follow Jesus as her only hope of true healing, prompted by the Spirit through the teaching in the program. She is not alone.

Gloria, is a production assistant. "Before I used to feel like everyone was in the wrong. For any small mistake a person would make, I would eventually grow annoyed, get irritated and would not control my tears, which would eventually trigger what I had gone through in the bush. I would feel like fighting and killing the offender -- but those are now in the past. Thanks to Nguvu Dairy and the Bible Society for bringing healing in my heart. I can now relate freely with colleagues at the workplace."

Doreen is the District Manager for the Dairy. She reports that, “Before the trauma healing training, most of the employees impacted by trauma were not friendly to each other, and they were haunted by their past. When we brought in the training, lives started changing. People forgave. They started working in a group. The business itself started growing rapidly. When you see the ladies [impacted by trauma] now, they are not like they were. They are able to support their families. There is a great change in them. Those people who were not on good terms with their partners have gone back and reconciled. At the workplace, we now have unity. We work as a team. That is what we advocate for at Nguvu Dairy.”

The impact of these trainings is undeniable. The Market Place regularly has participants complete surveys to back up the anecdotal evidence that the trauma healing programs – along with a stable job – are having an impact on people’s lives.

“We continue to pray that God would do a mighty work of healing in the lives of Nguvu staff through the gift of sustainable, dignity-affirming work.” - Dorothy Douglas Taft, Executive Director, The Market Project.

The employees are not the only ones to benefit. This programming has impacted Nguvu Dairy’s bottom line by bolstering the confidence of the sales force to sell yogurt.

ARDF is proud of the impact The Market Project is making in Northern Uganda. Join us in praying for the employees of the Nguvu Dairy, that their hearts would be healed and they would learn the power of forgiveness through Jesus Christ.