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Want to Build Peace? Understanding Trauma is Key – Part 2

Last month’s article “Want to Build Peace? Understanding Trauma is Key” introduced Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI) and provided an overview of the organization’s long-time dedication to addressing trauma as an integral part of peace-building efforts. The article finished with a quick overview of the organization’s most recent trauma-informed peace-building (TIP) program which was organized, designed, and delivered in partnership with the National Association of Mediators in Ukraine. More information here follows.

The aim of the program was to equip a pilot group of Ukrainian professional mediators and facilitators with knowledge to recognize effects of trauma in themselves and affected parties and to safely navigate the impacts during mediation and facilitation.  The trauma-informed peacebuilding model used for Ukrainian mediators and facilitators was adapted from similar models MBBI has used with peacebuilders in South Sudan, Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leone. 

From September to December 2022, nearly 30 Ukrainian mediators and facilitators, most living in Ukraine and several outside of the country, participated in the program which included asynchronous and live components. Concepts and tools information was delivered via a set of educational videos. Deeper learning took place as participants reflected in writing on the most salient course ideas and the intersection of those ideas with their own personal and professional experiences (asynchronous segment).  During live (synchronous) sessions, participants had the opportunity to share their reactions, discuss ideas, and to practice skills in large and small group settings while being supported and guided by five facilitator trainers, three Ukrainian and two American.  A support staff took care that everything was in place and ran smoothly, from materials on the learning platform, to appropriate number of breakout rooms for exercises during the live sessions. 

In April, three of the five facilitator trainers got together to reflect on the program. The link at the bottom of this article will take you to a 28-minute video that captures their frank and thoughtful conversation and offers a window onto what it was like to organize and deliver the training. Hear them talk about their expectations vs the realities of the program; the balancing that was necessary for instance, between being supportive, sensitive, and patient while aiming to deliver a robust curriculum.  They discuss unique challenges of running sessions during a live war and for experienced professionals who themselves share trauma with those they serve. Participants’ aha moments are peppered throughout. Trainers also touch on some of the strengths and weaknesses of the program structure, dilemmas faced, and lessons learned.

The three trainer facilitators in this conversation:

(MBBI) Mary Jo Harwood, LSW, DNCCM has spent over 30 years addressing the impacts of unrecognized and unresolved trauma on communities and individuals experiencing prolonged violence. Her experience with incidents of mass casualty and sexual assault survivors provides the expertise necessary to remove trauma as a barrier to sustainable peace and social cohesion. A member of MBBI since 2007, Mary Jo was instrumental in creating MBBI’s Trauma-Informed Peacebuilding Program. 

(Ukraine) Iryna Eihelson, PhD in Psychology, researcher, trainer, dialogue facilitator has over 20 years of experience in prevention, reconciliation, and transformation of identity-based conflicts. Since 2015 she has been facilitating dialogues with the support of OSCE Project Coordinator on the issues of decentralization, amalgamated communities, conflicts in media community, language issues in education with the representatives of national minorities, memory conflicts, migration and integration of internally displaced people, and Russian-Ukrainian relations.

(MBBI)  Martin Scott, MS in Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding, practiced landscape architecture for 20 years before becoming a professional mediator and international trainer – using his design skills to co-create systems to connect humanity through social entrepreneurship, sustainability, and peacebuilding. Martin is a formerDirector at the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM), a Rotary International Peace Fellow, and an Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) Global Ambassador. 

We invite you to watch the “TIP Conversation”:

Want to share your thoughts or ask questions?  Feel free to contact Agnieszka Alboszta at [email protected]


Agnieszka Alboszta

Agnieszka Agnieszka is a TIP Program Coordinator with Mediators Beyond Borders. Originally from Poland, Agnieszka lived in various countries before settling in Oregon, USA. With a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in international relations, a Master’s from the California Institute of Integral Studies in philosophy and religion, and… MORE

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