SEATTLE — Combine “caring” and “confronting” and you get “Carefronting” — the name and mission of a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that has become a source of hope and healing for traumatized communities and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northeastern Nigeria.
Carefronting is an organization that facilitates dialogues, training and workshops that use peacebuilding education to engage individuals imperiled by tumult and instability. The focus of the organization’s activities shift to reflect the societal needs of a given moment ranging from volunteerism and disaster preparedness to youth mentorship.
In the wake of the violent and casualty-heavy Boko Haram insurgency, the subject of trauma consciousness and resilience has risen to the fore of Carefronting’s agenda. Missions to train first responders are currently underway in Yola, Mubi and other locales in Adamawa State. The effort extends to Maiduguri, the biggest city in Borno State and a former Boko Haram stronghold.
The responders play a critical role in helping trauma victims confront their pain and find peace — not only within themselves, but with each other.
Trauma Workshops Use Understanding as a Path to Peace
Carefronting Coordinator Maji Peterx described what he called the “experiential methodology” of trauma workshops as an intervention that “connects with people, connects with their emotions and connects with their experience.”
“We take a topic and get into it, exploring that topic in a deeper space,” he told The Borgen Project.
The space Peterx speaks of is built to facilitate personal catharsis and interpersonal connection in equal measure. Within three days, each workshop becomes a forum in which universal themes — such as anger, conflict and power — are mediated through individual experiences.
For some participants, the workshop represents the first time they have confronted their respective traumas head on. The collective sigh of relief that concludes every session, according to Peterx, is unlike any other.
“We always come out with the participants feeling empowered because they have been listened to,” said Peterx, “Empowered because their voice was important.”
In 2000, Carefronting was founded in Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna State, where its headquarters remain today. The same year, the city’s controversial decision to institutionalize Sharia as federal law inflamed existent tensions between religious sects, catalyzing a series of brutal riots that reverberated throughout the country.
Thousands perished within the span of four months, adding to a death toll and timeline of religious violence in Nigeria that, through the actions of Boko Haram, continues to evolve.
More than 2 million Nigerians to date have been forced to flee their homes, and more than 9 million in the Northeast have been affected in some way.
Peterx said that Carefronting’s work in conflict-struck areas revolves around “building trust and relationships” disrupted by sectarian divide. Trauma workshops, in addition to unpacking core values that transcend religious boundaries, train attendees in the art of listening and understanding.
Building a Future
Many of Carefronting’s personnel are also active in the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), a training network that promotes peaceful, proactive conflict resolution strategies to an international audience.
Peterx, who serves as a lead facilitator at AVP, is pioneering the integration of trauma consciousness into AVP chapters across the globe. His ultimate goal is to construct, with the help of Carefronting, at least two trauma centers in Adamawa and Borno.
The centers will establish a stable and accessible source of trauma therapy to populations in dire need of it, taking Carefronting’s ground-up peacebuilding approach to the next level. Similar to the workshops, such services would encourage communities to take charge of their own recovery and look to one another for solutions.
When asked about the implications person-to-person peacebuilding can have at a nationwide level, Peterx reiterated his belief in the strength of fellowship and awareness.
“We all have a tendency to believe we have no stake in what happens around us,” he mused. “But when we’re endowed with a connection to the process, people in communities stand up for themselves. People explore their own potentials.”
– Jo Gurch