Doreen Ruto of Kenya, pictured working in Somalia, is playing a key role in a USAID-funded project using materials developed at EMU for Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR). The goal is to introduce trauma-healing principles to about 115,000 Somalis and thus decrease the likelihood of cycles of violence.

Ripple Effect: Grad Leads STAR Trainings in Somalia for USAID

A graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), as well as the center’s Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) program, is playing a key role in a USAID project that hopes to introduce trauma-healing principles to more than 100,000 people in Somalia.

In April, 2012, Doreen Ruto, MA ’06, trained eight Somali “master trainers” in STAR principles, using curriculum purchased by USAID and adapted for Somali audiences. Since then, Ruto has served as a mentor for this core group of trainers, checking in with each regularly for updates and debriefing them from her home in Nairobi, Kenya.

After that session, those trained by Ruto led a round of STAR trainings in Mogadishu, Somalia, for 32 people from each of the country’s districts. These people have since begun using the STAR curriculum to teach trauma awareness and healing principles to hundreds more volunteers tasked with leading yet another round of training sessions throughout Somalia.

According to a USAID news release, project leaders estimate they’ll eventually introduce 115,000 Somalis to the STAR curriculum. The project is supported by USAID’s Transition Initiatives for Stabilization program.

Ruto, who took her first STAR training at EMU in 2001 and has since led numerous trainings elsewhere in Africa, including Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Kenya, said the program’s principles have been met with great enthusiasm in Somalia and elsewhere.

“It talks about the reality of what everyone goes through. That’s the thing I really like about STAR,” Ruto said. “It combines a broad spectrum of disciplines that resonates with everyone, from different cultures, different religions, and different academic backgrounds.”

Ruto spends most of her time working in Nairobi, Kenya, with her non-profit organization, Daima Initiatives for Peace and Development.

She added that the impact of the STAR trainings and curriculum spreads far beyond the scope of whatever project they’re associated with, because trauma resilience, restorative justice, conflict transformation, building peace, and other STAR principles have such wide relevance.

“They are applicable in people’s personal lives, in their households,” said Ruto.

A USAID news release quoted a participant in the ongoing STAR project in Somalia named Ahmed, who reconciled with his estranged brother after the training:

“[Trauma] affects the mind, soul and the human brain … I think it is what kept us apart for the last three years,” Ahmed said. “This training is changing my life and has given me happiness. I am really grateful to be lucky enough to participate in this training.”

For a related story, see “New Somalia President Studied Peace at EMU.”