Elaine Zook Barge ’84, MA ’03 (left), & Carolyn E. Yoder ’72

STAR breaks cycles of trauma

Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) emerged from the ashes of Sept. 11, when hundreds of millions of people were grieving over the deaths and destruction caused by hijacked airplanes flying into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

To mark STAR’s 10th anniversary, founding director Carolyn E. Yoder ’72 collaborated with current director Elaine Zook Barge ’84, MA ’03 (in conflict transformation), to produce a 38-page booklet, STAR – The Unfolding Story, 2001-2011, that explores the program’s astonishing growth. The teachings of STAR are also outlined in the booklet, which is available as an e-book at emu.edu/cjp/star.

STAR began when Church World Service asked EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) to design a trauma-training program for civil society leaders whose communities had been affected by Sept 11.

In developing STAR, Yoder tapped the expertise of the professors at CJP, as well as of experts in religion, psychology and neurobiology in the larger community. She came as a licensed professional counselor, also licensed in marriage and family therapy.

parked by Yoder’s quest, CJP began to break down disciplinary boundaries, melding the principles of restorative justice, conflict transformation, trauma healing, and religious faith into better practices for positive change. The result was a week-long training program to raise awareness of the links between trauma and cycles of violence, along with ways to de-couple those links and thereby emerge from the cycles.

I work and live in an inner city where people have experienced multiple layers and kinds of trauma,” said New Jersey pastor Sheila Holmes in the booklet. “The youth are very angry and frustrated. All the STAR materials have been helpful in my work. The most helpful in my community is the understanding of ‘abnormal becoming normal’ and how we just come to accept that and don’t realize we can be set free.”

As STAR’s first director, Yoder facilitated over 50 trainings with about 800 people from 60 countries during STAR’s first five years. The number of people who have now taken STAR tops 7,000.

“The general perception is that trauma healing is soft, a warm fuzzy, that it has little or nothing to do with realpolitik and no role to play in reducing violence,” wrote Yoder in her 2005 book, The Little Book of Trauma Healing. “Yet trauma and violence are integrally linked: violence often leads to trauma, and unhealed trauma, in turn, can lead to violence and further loss of security.”