Tree of Life (ToL), undertakes community-based trauma-healing in communities affected by decades of organized violence and torture (OVT). Interventions have resulted in personal and interpersonal healing for survivors alongside improved community-connectedness. Research has shown that personal healing involves a reduction of symptoms experienced by survivors; interpersonal healing is reflected in increased engagement with the community and an active concern in other peoples' wellbeing. The intervention utilises existing community- healing paradigms within a context of impunity for perpetrators and is facilitated by survivors. The trauma- healing intervention focuses on individual survivors. A complementary intervention builds community under- standing and support for trauma healing.
Tree of Life and the Centre for Victims of Torture (CVT) conducted quantitative research (2012) to measure the efficacy of the ToL healing intervention on the emotional health and connectedness of participating survivors of torture. Impact was compared to our Psycho-Education and Coping Skills intervention (PACS). A quasi-experimental pre/posttest intact-groups design was conducted in a naturalistic setting at intake. 2- and 5-month follow-ups were conducted. Of 194 participants, 74 were assigned to the ToL healing intervention, 72 to PACS and 48 to no-treatment (NT). Two dependent measures were employed: the 20-item Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20) and our Zimbabwe Community Life Questionnaire (ZCLQ). Qualitative research (2014) revealed how key respondents from target communities define a `healthy-community' and how ToL contributes. A critical-incident approach identified healthy community themes: [Figure 1] Sixteen narrative interviews were conducted. Respondents had not participated directly in the ToL interventions, but had observed positive changes in the community they felt were linked to ToL. Research was conducted in line with all the provisions of the Declaration of Helsinki. Zimbabwe's Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) reviewed the proposed research methodology and ensured that all appropriate ethical standards of research with vulnerable populations were met.
At follow-up, mean SRQ-20 scores for participants in both treatment groups demonstrated significantly greater improvement than for those in the no-treatment comparison group (RM-ANOVA F (2,156)=32.95, p<0.000, η2=0.297). ZCLQ results for community engagement, both for ToL healing and PACS, showed significant improvement (increased scores) (RM-ANOVA F(1,116)=56.87, p<0.000, η2=0.329). [Table 1] Three qualitative research key themes emerged: 1. Connectedness: People were not talking to each other; after ToL people reconnect. 2. Good cultural values, beliefs and practices were lost; ToL helped restore these. 3. Respondents viewed development as working together and living in harmony. Since ToL, families and communities are working together. A traumatised woman haunted after witnessing the brutal mutilation and murder of her relative shared: “My situation got better when I attended the ToL workshop… I got to share and listen… I am now a leader. Every individual is important and becomes stronger if we cooperate as family and community”.
Funding & No Conflicts Declaration
Research was funded by USAID through partnerships with ToL and CVT.
We declare that this abstract has not been submitted elsewhere.