Reconciling and reintegrating former child soldiers of Kony's Lord's Resistance Army with their communities.
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Jul 2016 08

The power of therapy: How a counselor’s phone call saved life!

Posted in News

By Okidi Richard Owor

Counseling has a huge impact in post-war communities, but it is one that is often hard to measure. The change that comes with counseling is seemingly invisible or at least difficult for the general public to notice. A counselor only finds comfort when a client develops positive coping strategies. The story of Susan (pseudonym), one of GRG’s peer counselors, shows just how much counseling can impact one’s life. In training to be a peer counselor, Susan was able to access the therapy that she also needed.

GRG trained Susan to offer counseling in the community where she lives. During the three days of residential training, Susan was troubled by nightmares. She would wake up screaming, disturbing the sleep of other participants in the hall. One night a member offered to pray for her. This helped her sleep. One morning Susan opened-up and shared her story with the group. She requested further counseling for herself after the training. The counselor took her phone number and promised to get in touch with her in a week’s time.

Within that week, Susan became suicidal. Other life challenges caused Susan to decide to take her own life. It was only the counselor’s follow-up phone call that came to her rescue.

That morning, Susan bought more than twenty pills to cause an overdose and carried water, her mobile phone, a mat and identity card. She left home, went to a busy center and sat under the veranda to execute her plan. But before she could begin, she received a phone call from the counselor to confirm the day on which they could have their first session. After talking to the counselor, she said to herself, “God does not want me to die,” and she abandoned her plan and went home.

Susan witnessed the murder of her three-year-old daughter and her aunt by the LRA. Her aunt had been abducted by the LRA but escaped and returned home. One evening, as she and Susan sat in a grass thatched hut, they saw a group of men approaching. Thinking they were government soldiers, they were surprised to hear one of them call her aunt by name. When her aunt came out, they started questioning why she had escaped from the bush. By then, they knew that the men were rebels, but they were speechless and motionless and sat helplessly. The rebels beat her aunt and her daughter to death.

“This pain remained in my mind, heart and soul for years,” Susan said. She did not get a chance to talk or to share it with anyone. This impacted her life in a range of ways, including nightmares, loss of appetite, loss of hope and a difficult relationship with her husband.

After three months of therapy, Susan began feeling more positive. “When I compare my life from the time I had not shared my pain with anyone and after, I find there is much improvement in my life, ranging from having good sleep at night, good appetite, an improved relationship with my husband and relatives,” she said. “Now I have great plans for my family. I have now planted two acres of cotton.” She plans to use the cotton as a cash crop.

Today, Susan’s contributions in the area of psycho-social support is immense in her village, in the last follow up session of peer counselor’s activities, she reported having counseled more than 20 people in the last four months after the training. She has managed to help couples faced with domestic violence, and suicidal people gain hope.

 

 

 

 

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