By Neehal Khatri
With Fijian communities still reeling from the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Harold and COVID-19, Transcend Oceania is working to provide psycho-social support to women and communities coping with trauma.
Transcend Oceania, a non-profit organisation based in Fiji, is taking its Integrated Community Trauma Awareness and Healing approach to communities in Vusuyu, Tailevu and Kadavu that have been severely affected by TC Harold. This is an initiative supported by Australian Government funding through the Australian Humanitarian Fund and the Fiji Women’s Fund.
According to the organisation, traumatic experiences faced by people who have lost loved ones and witnessed damage to their homes and sources of livelihoods can have lasting effects on individual wellbeing and community resilience, leaving them more vulnerable, non-productive and dependent.
They believe that helping individuals, especially leaders, to address their traumatic experiences will empower them to understand trauma effects and learn ways to effectively respond and cope during traumatic situations.
Since late July, a team of experienced facilitators from Transcend Oceania has been working with more than 100 leaders from three districts in Kadavu, using an integrated approach that blends learning and healing. The community leaders include women, men, youths, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQI community. In the program, participants learnt about trauma and basic coping mechanisms, as well as practicing some basic healing tools and strategies.
Merelita Wainiqoli, a women’s representative from Solotavui Village on Kadavu, said the program had helped her experience a release after the trauma she had gone through during TC Harold.
“During our discussions in the women’s healing circle, we were able to collectively share our experiences during TC Harold. I had shared about nightmares I used to have in the form of dreams that made me scared about the experiences I had gone through. I was also having flashbacks when the weather changes or when we experience strong winds,” Ms Wainiqoli said.
Another participant, Ana Maria from Waisomo Village on Kadavu, said she had learned a lot from the program and she would share this with her community.
“The women and children have a lot to learn from the session topics that I will share with them, especially the children who are still easy to impart learnings to. As a Fijian saying goes ‘na kau se lailai ga se rawarawa ni loveci’ – meaning that children are easily taught and disciplined when they’re young, but when they’re old it will be hard to teach them,” Ms Maria said.
“The women are the backbones of their families, so in sharing this information with them, they will be able to go and share it with their own family members. Not only do we have to share this information, but also demonstrate it and live it out to our families and communities,” she added.
Through this program, Transcend Oceania aims to build trauma-informed Fijian communities and help diverse communities explore culturally responsive and contemporary ways of coping and becoming resilient in the face of national disasters such as TC Harold.
About Transcend Oceania
Transcend Oceania is a Fiji-based non-governmental organisation that is committed to advancing sustainable peace and development through justice and non-violence in the Pacific. It was registered under the Fiji Charitable Trust Act in October 2014 and has offices in Suva and Labasa.
Transcend Oceania firmly believes that the ultimate goal for change in peacebuilding is transcendence – the attainment of a higher self through transformation that influences individuals, relationships, cultures and structures. It is grounded in non-violent approaches to relating with others and the environment, creating just, peaceful, inclusive, participatory, sustainable and resilient communities.
The organisation fulfills its mission through training and education, peace process facilitation and healing, justice and development initiatives, and research that builds on local knowledge systems, skills and approaches of Oceania and recognises other effective ways to building justpeace communities.
To learn more about Transcend Oceania, click here to visit their website.