Warm breezes welcomed our team of six healers to Managua on Feb 18, 2016. The group settled in at Quaker House where we were greeted with a delicious meal and hugs from ProNica staff. The team included massage therapists, yoga teachers, a psychologist and a sex therapist. For several team members it was their first visit to Nicaragua. Our mission was to lead workshops and retreats on trauma healing for ProNica staff and partners in various parts of the country.
The first day the team visited sites in the city of Managua and listened intensely to the history of the country. It was important to understand the context of the country and the inter-connectedness of our nations. The tree-lined Salvador Allende Bolivar brought us to present times as we admired the “trees of life” that were created by first lady, Dona Rosario Ortego. The well-lit metal structures loom tall and powerful on the avenue and around the city. Political billboards proclaiming the strength and goodness of the Ortega government are everywhere. A tourist might surmise there were no other political parties in Nicaragua.
Our first workshop was a one-day AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project) training on trauma healing held at the Kairos Center. ProNica partner, Harold Urbina, and other AVP facilitators from around the country enjoyed the intense “advanced” workshop experience. For most of our team, it was an introduction to AVP and the popular education modality.
Next we traveled to the Centro de Retiros La Palmera in Diriamba to spend the next few days with Los Quinchos staff. Initially, we visited the children and were entertained by a visiting circus working with the former street children for a month. Our team was excited by the holistic approach of Los Quinchos to the traumatized street children. We observed them learning new skills (like sewing or drumming), cooking together and a cooperative family approach.
“The best part of the experience for me was working with Los Quinchos staff. It was amazing to see their resilience, desire to learn and help in spite of all they had been through themselves. Sometimes I feel jaded about the world, and working with them boosted my sense of hope.” This statement is from Melanie Ricaurte, one of the team members. Her reflection was shared after several days in retreat with the amazingly resilient and resourceful staff of Los Quinchos.
Our third – and final- retreat was held in San Ramon at the Sueno de la Campana Retreat Center. Retreatants came from ProNica’s northern partners, and some traveled for many hours by bus to join us. Casa del Nino, Casa Materna, Rio Blanco Women’s Network were all well represented at the retreat.
Each person was scheduled to receive a massage and got called from the circle when their turn came. Again we explored types of trauma with a popular education format. We spoke of stages of grief and how to deal with them. There was ample time to share stories and learn some new information as well. For many the five circles of sexuality were a welcome way to explore issues of relationship and violence. The circles include: sexualization, sensuality, intimacy, sexual identity and sexual health and reproduction.
In addition to leading the three retreats, the team had time to swim at Laguna de Apoyo, stroll along the lakeshore waterfront park in Managua, and have a mini-retreat at La Garnacha near Esteli.
The healers were all pleased to participate in this project. They were deeply moved by their interactions with ProNica partners who are so deeply committed to the work of social change. Several described a deep healing that happened to them during the experience as well.
Understanding the historical and political context was crucial for the healers in addressing the origins of trauma in the country. We hope and trust that out healing work with ProNica partners affected them as much as it did us. Just Peace Circles, Inc plans to return with another team of healers in February of 2017, as way opens.