• Megan Stuke

I Am, Because You Are


The Willow and our service community have focused for the past few years on investing in a trauma-informed approach. This means that instead of taking a "rules" or "consequences" approach, we look at the trauma behind the circumstances and ask "what happened" instead of "what's wrong" with a person. We want to look at the whole person, in a continuum of time, rather than simple incidents. We understand what trauma is and how service provision can retraumatize folks, even when we have the best of intentions. We are vigilant and work on a case-by-case basis, delving into particulars instead of relying on basic and simple policy or principles.

And this has been amazing. The result is a more welcoming, safer, better service provision, and greater outcomes for participants.

But I begin to ask myself, "What's next?" when we start to get comfortable with a way of doing our work, it seems like it's time to take stock of what more we can do.

For me, it keeps coming back to the community. Not only do we want to do effective treatment of trauma, but we also want to get at the roots of trauma and work hard on prevention. Historically, prevention has looked a lot like presentations and training, and still, those are good mechanisms to spread information. But I am imagining something bigger and more meaningful than that.

One step in that direction is our Claire's Community project, done in collaboration with #bemorelikeclaire in order to do a massive scale community training of people who can be mentors and enlightened witnesses to young people and adults in order to help them navigate unhealthy situations, or prevent those situations from arising.

But still, I can see a need for something bigger. Call me a pipe dreamer. But I believe our community can do more. I've been reading more and more about "healing centered engagement" which moves past "what happened to you?" to "What's right for you?" I love this idea. What's right for people is a bigger question that implores us to be interconnected. To value each human life and to see its importance to the whole.

The South African Term Ubuntu means literally, "I am, because you are." It means that humanity is valued in each person equally and in deference to one another. It makes meaning of service and collective engagement. What if we made our motto "Ubuntu," every day? Not just social service agencies, but businesses, governments, neighborhoods, and all the parts of society? What if interconnectedness was our top priority? Then if we asked the question "What is right for you?" the answer would be meaningful.

The Willow will continue to be trauma-informed in our words and actions, but we will also move toward Ubuntu as our community's center. I believe that so much good is happening in all of our service area communities. We have a responsibility to be an ongoing and meaningful part of that.

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