Supporting Community Wellness in Pakistan

When Wajid Syed and Pat Omidian of Focusing Initiatives International began working with community leaders from the war-torn Western region of Pakistan, they found that these leaders were often as traumatized as the people they were being trained to help.

Their first task, then, has been to find a way to create safe spaces where the program participants can explore both their own and their communities’ responses (psychosocial, physical and spiritual) to loss, pain and suffering from war and natural disasters.

Drawing on the strong local tradition of hospitality so key to survival in this region, they introduce the community leaders to Focusing techniques, with a variety of practical exercises that can be practiced at home and in their communities. These include a Focusing visualization of a calm place, some practices in gratitude, and the use of the metaphor of the honored and valued guest as a way to hold and be with trauma and emotional pain.

Once these skills are practiced and can be used comfortably, the community leaders in training are led through a series of activities, based in Positive Deviance, that illustrate how most problems have local solutions and that there is someone in their community that is already doing what needs to be done. Workshop participants are encouraged to explore Positive Deviance in their families and communities.  Who is doing well, despite the trauma experienced in the community, and how are they doing it?

This positive approach leads to discussions about resilience and provides another opportunity for program participants to become grounded in locally-based ways people adapt and to learn how to share and spread this positive adaptation. Often this discussion brings out the spiritual side of a community, as much as it does their close connection to each other.

Pat and Wajid have discovered that most community members have only a limited understanding of stress and stress reactions, and are often afraid of their own body responses to fear or prolonged stress. Many of the workshop activities, therefore, include basic information on the physical reaction to stress and how, through Focusing, one can more readily recover.

All activities in the workshop are designed to be shared at home and with community members, and include a variety of participatory approaches and activities, such as role plays, puppetry, Focusing and visualizations, art and body movement.

The workshop specifically aims to integrate psychosocial wellness into everyday activities in the participants’ agencies, communities and homes. Each participant brings to the course their own experiences and expertise, and shares with others as part of mutual learning. And so, through the use of Focusing, personal narratives, case studies and experiential techniques, the participants begin to develop trauma recovery modules that are specific to their own communities and their local culture and that they will implement themselves.

The Program Objectives are to

To explore cultural variables in resiliency and coping with stress and to help individuals and communities develop an understanding of the connections between resilience and the capacity to manage stress in positive and healthy ways.
To develop some key exercises, appropriate for the participant’s community and culture to support resilience
To learn or enhance individuals’ skills at Focusing, listening and pausing, to promote individual and community healing
To explore tools and options for community-based interventions
Much of Focusing International’s work in Pakistan has centered on communities in FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of western Pakistan – the tribal areas that border on Afghanistan). This is the war affected area that sees drone attacks and fighting between local armed groups (including the PaksitanTaliban) and the Pakistan Army. Most people in this remote, mountainous region subsist on farming and livestock but more than 200,000 families have fled their homes to seek shelter in camps set up near urban areas. Others stay in the area of the fighting because they fear losing their crops and animals.

Mr. Syed Wajid (Peshawar based Focusing trainer, Master Trainer with a background in social work) leads and trains the local teams. Much of his work is with community health workers and community leaders, and centers on violence reduction, particularly on the reduction of family and domestic violence. His trainings are conducted in Urdu (the national language), Pashto (the dominant local language), or English. He helped develop a Pashto manual on Focusing and Psychosocial Wellness.

You can support Wajid and others as they take these wellness programs to the people who need them the most.  Your tax deductible monthly donation will help us sustain this work.