Being in Thailand helped me to understand a little bit more about trauma and the importance of trauma-informed care. I’m not a social worker or trained in any of that, but I think I understood for the first time, what trauma really is.
According to Peter Levine, “Trauma is in the nervous system, not in the event.”.
In his work “the body keeps the score”, Bessel van der kolk writes that “being traumatised means continuing to organise your life as if the trauma were still going on–unchanged and immutable–as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past.”
I was really struck by this when I was in Thailand. Previously I had understood trauma as an event, but rather, it is the imprint of that event living inside the individual, carried within their nervous system.
Brandon, who oversees our vocational training in Thailand shared with me his heart for the young people coming through ZOE. I was moved by the intent behind the training. It provides young people with skills that they can take with them, but there is always this therapeutic aspect underlying the training that really speaks to their trauma.
For many of the kids who come to ZOE, their only experience of business and working is being exploited for someone else’s profit.
Vocational training flips this on its head. Vocational training is all about agency and self-determination… it's built on the knowledge that every child is unique and has different needs, dreams, goals and passions! The aim at the moment is to expose children who come to ZOE to as many skills and opportunities as possible. We run many courses including agricultural studies - so, running our pig farm, woodworking and construction, sewing and fashion design, nail painting, hairdressing, hospitality, cooking and baking, computer skills, multimedia and photography, art, design and even a little bit of electrical and mechanical engineering!
When kids come to ZOE and take part in our vocational training program, our team will ask them all about what they’re interested in and what they want to learn and see what we can offer them. Brandon told me about one girl who came to ZOE recently and discovered that she had an amazing passion and skill for woodworking! She wasn’t going to be staying at ZOE long and was preparing to go back to her family, but she really wanted to make something that she could take home with her. So she made this beautiful high table with stools and she was able to take it back to her family. And this is what many young people want - they want to make something that’s theirs, that they can take back with them, a new skill, or something tangible - something that reminds them of what they’ve learnt and the skills that they have. It reminds them that they’re not a victim of their past, but a survivor, who can go forward to make, create and flourish.