Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand

Reflecting on the First Session – “Understanding Trauma and Self Care”

But peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people….  So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace and willingness to work for peace, in the hearts and minds of all our people. I believe that we can. I believe that the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings. John F. Kennedy (1917-1963).


With the first week and initial session of the program focused on Understanding Trauma and Self -Care, I was glad this topic was put in the first session. Starting the program with this topic was a clever move as it was an effective way of facilitating and encouraging positive professional relationships and a sense of connectedness amongst our group of 24 peace fellows from 17 countries. Inspired by Dr. Sambat’s extensive knowledge and valuable experience, sharing his insights and practice wisdom with our group, I was able to critically reflect upon and learn about constructive ways of coping, capacity and strengths development. I also learnt much from the peace fellows as they shared lessons from their personal experiences which helped me to develop creative ways of thinking and improve my problem-solving skills.

The art of  ”telling one’s story” for those who experienced trauma or adversity was one of the most valuable learning experiences I gained from this session. Our group of 24 rotary peace fellows from 17 countries had only just met for the first time and during this first session we managed to create a safe and open space, a place of trust, where we shared our personal stories of trauma and adversity. The stories were powerful and highly – emotive enhancing our sense of connectedness.  As I listened respectfully and attentively to my peace fellows’ stories I could strongly identify with them as they communicated similar experiences. For some of us there was a heartfelt communication of “my story is your story is our story.” The group provided strong social support, a coping mechanism that helps to deal with trauma or adversity. Participation in community activities promotes the development of social networks and mutual relationships between groups such as family, peers, neighbours and the wider community.

Dr. Sambat explained the importance of self- care as a strategy using practical examples drawn from his personal experience for example, Dr. Sambat trained psychiatrists and psychologists to deal with traumatised patients from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Burma and also on violence prevention with children and youth. There are also self-care strategies based on activities such as story- telling, creative expression (poetry, art, autobiographical writing and film), publications, group support, mentoring and learning from peer professionals. He also talked about Post Traumatic Growth and the ability to rebound from trauma, and to overcome difficult circumstances in one’s life. I gained a better understanding of the nature and characteristics of Trauma, Post Traumatic Growth and Psychological First Aid. Dr. Sambat provided useful examples of self- assessment tools such as the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire, the Post Traumatic Growth Inventory and Scoring. I’m sure all the peace fellows from my group would agree that our first session was a stimulating introduction to our program, thank you Dr. Sambat.

Patricia Garcia – Australia

Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 22


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