Doreen Ruto, director of Daima Initiatives for Peace and Development, leads a retreat for first responders, including participant Charles Mugo, on trauma healing after the attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya.(MCC Photo/Katie Mansfield)
MCC Photo/Katie Mansfield

Doreen Ruto, director of Daima Initiatives for Peace and Development, leads a retreat for first responders, including participant Charles Mugo, on trauma healing after the attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya.

WINNIPEG, Man. — In the wake of a deadly attack on a popular shopping mall in Kenya, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is funding retreats for about 60 people. Participants will learn about trauma awareness and skills to cope with future traumatic events.

With its partner Daima Initiatives for Peace and Development (DIPaD), MCC is working with people who responded to the attack, including caregivers and first responders as well as police officers and soldiers.

Gunmen from al- Shabaab, a militant group from Somalia, attacked shoppers at the Westgate mall in Nairobi on Sept. 21, killing more than 65 people over four days.  The attack drew worldwide attention.

Outreach has begun for an initial processing session. Then in the spring a four-day learning retreat will deepen participants’ understanding of trauma and the cycles of violence. They also will learn strategies for self-care and moving forward after traumatic events.

After the September attack, most advice in the media focused on short-term counseling without acknowledging the often long-lasting effects of trauma. “We see few educational approaches focused on self-help strategies, group processing and the understanding that healing from trauma can be a lengthy journey,” said Doreen Ruto, director of DIPaD.

In addition to the individuals directly affected, 20 people from caregiving and public organizations such as police, soldiers and the media attended a four-day learning retreat in November. These participants learned ways to help their organizations understand the complex process of healing. Many have requested follow-up activities to share the knowledge with their colleagues.

This response draws on MCC and DIPaD’s ongoing trauma work in Kenya with rural women, teachers, peace and social workers and members of the judicial system.