When Faye Yu’s grandmother died, Faye was asked to do the eulogy.
Doing so, she learned things about her grandmother, who died at the age of 94, that she had never known.
Yu, country consultant for World Renew in Malawi, also was reminded that traumatic events affecting someone’s life are often kept hidden.
In her role with World Renew, Yu has led people through a program to help participants identify and begin healing from trauma—and to do the same for others.
A grandmother’s trauma
Yu’s grandmother, born 10 years after China ended imperialist rule, lost her birth mother when she was 4 years old and had an abusive stepmother. When she was 19 she entered an arranged marriage with Yu’s grandfather.
At 24, Yu’s pregnant grandmother fled to Taiwan with her husband, mother-in-law, and three small children after the Nationalist Party lost China to the Communist Party. She emigrated to the United States when she was 60.
“And those were just the highlights,” said Yu. “My grandmother didn’t like to talk about the past, and there were so many things we didn’t know about her. She focused on the future, gritted her teeth, used the resources available to her, and survived.”
Forging ahead despite the pain
Yu also sees this attitude of perseverance in her role with World Renew.
“Often, when we work in communities, we just talk about getting things done. We need to get a well dug; we need to help farmers adopt a diverse, drought-tolerant way of doing agriculture; we need to help communities access better markets. These are not bad things, but often we overlook the pain and trauma that people might have experienced.”
Yu said she would not be surprised if many or even all of the people World Renew works with have gone through trauma.
“It could be physical abuse faced as a child or adult. It could be the girls that were encouraged to engage in transactional sex to earn money for their family,” she said. It could be losing their home in a natural disaster, losing a child to malaria, or any number of other things.
“Trauma, if not dealt with, can fester and grow. It can prevent families from reaching their goals,” said Yu.
Recently, World Renew provided training on trauma healing to a group of people who work in communities that may have experienced trauma.
“This opportunity gave the participants a chance to identify the trauma they have faced in their own lives and to talk about it,” said Yu.
During the five-day training, they saw people leave the room in tears when they realized they could name the pain they went through. They learned that what they were feeling was normal and that they didn’t need to ignore it. Those that went through training also were encouraged to plan their own trauma healing sessions with people they know.
“It is our hope that our partner staff will begin to use trauma healing in the communities where they work—that they will be able to identify when they see trauma and be more equipped to handle it,” she said.