We are an independent Irish charity that partners with organisations, both here and abroad to leverage our expertise and experience for greatest impact and results. Here are some of our current projects.
In Ireland we are working with Irish women who have experienced gender based violence in their domestic communities and refugees who have experienced conflict in their countries of origin. These women have been forced into prostitution and many of them have been trafficked here.
The Sarah Bird Foundation has partnered with Ruhama, to offer women a programme introducing them to trauma healing techniques that help reduce anxiety and stress levels allowing the Women to build resilience and confidence.
The programme teaches them confidence building skills and is proving highly successful with Ruhama staff reporting unprecedented transformation in the women.
“It gave me part of my life back”
Ruhama was established in 1989 and is a Dublin-based organization that works on a national level with women affected by prostitution and with women who are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. Its services are comprehensive to meet the broad range of needs of its clients. It advocates on behalf of its clients, works to effect policy change at government level, as well as raises awareness of the realities of prostitution. Ruhama aims to offer a hope-inspiring service, a safe place, advocacy and ultimately empowerment which leads to the woman recovering from her experience of sexual violence and regaining control of her own life, thus achieving independence.
By the end of 2015, we will have delivered three successful programmes for 38 severely traumatised women who were trafficked into prostitution in Ireland.
Our work has allowed them to transform their lives and build resilience and the confidence to deal with day to day issues.
A fourth programme will be delivered early 2016.
If you would like to support these programmes please donate here
“I don’t have bad dreams at night anymore”
Nepal Earthquake Trauma Healing Programme February 2016 Summary
Using very limited funding resources, we successfully conducted an international project for earthquake survivors in Nepal that engaged with 420-430 children, teachers and adults in 5 different locations over the course of 10 days. We received and captured extremely positive feedback from participants (children, school principals, teachers and parents). In addition, we created opportunities to return to Nepal to continue this work in a number of locations and in particular in communities in the higher foothills where the devastation and loss of life were great, and for future projects with Cordaid and Caritas, (and discussed the potential for a project working with conflict survivors)
- “peace of mind, it should be continued”
- “scared talking about earthquake before now, …feels calmer”(Student)
- “happy to learn something new, if I’d have stayed at home, I would have missed out”
- “concentrating on breathing, distracts from thinking about the issues” (Teacher)
- “fear has been reduced to zero” (Younger pupil)
- “ feeling relaxed, no more tension left” (Older pupil)
- Korina, a parent, stated that she “feels lighter, slept very well after the first workshop
- One participant stated that “stress and pressure is now gone
- “everybody noticed a difference, felt better”
- “TAT lessened fear”
- Everybody put their hand up when asked who felt better.
- Words used to describe how they are feeling – ‘nice’, ‘feeling changes’.
MYANMAR / BURMA
For decades, there has been ongoing conflict with 11 of the 50 local ethnic groups in Burma resulting in massive internal displacement. Individuals and communities have suffered enormous trauma as a result of the violence, especially women and children. The Sarah Bird Foundation is hoping to start trauma healing programmes within the country, working in partnership with local and international organizations, building up local skills in trauma work to ensure sustainability and long lasting results.
Throughout 2013, we were in discussions with Burmese partners assessing needs and in February 2014, two members of the Sarah Bird Foundation travelled to Myanmar to initiate relationships and organise trauma healing programmes.
The programmes we hope to run are:
- trauma healing programme for 400 boys from 8-18 years who have been in conflict with the law, are orphaned or living on the streets and training the staff who are caring for them
- trauma healing and self-development programme for 30 young adults who were ex-child soldiers or sex workers
For the past few years, Sarah Bird has been assisting Project Light, which delivers trauma healing and leadership development to victims of the Rwandan genocide.
As you read this, there are currently over 40 conflicts, many natural disasters, and hundreds of other unreported situations in the world today, where people are struggling to come to terms with the pain and suffering caused by traumatic events.
In most cases long after the event is no longer newsworthy, the problems still remain where individuals and communities are struggling without the benefit of outside help, to come to terms with the loss of loved ones, their homes and communities the physical loss of limbs, or the consequences of violence (which can often be gender based). They have become the “forgotten” as the world’s attention moves on to the next crisis.
The Sarah Bird Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation focused on empowering individuals and communities to transform the stress, trauma and suffering resulting from conflict and natural disaster, into lives of resilience and fulfilment, accompanied by dignity and respect.
The Foundation will use proven methods, including the emerging field of Energy Psychology, Nonviolent Communication and the practice of Talking Circles, to facilitate a holistic approach to healing trauma.
We believe the Sarah Bird Foundation can make a significant and lasting contribution in areas of the world where the trauma of past events is still impacting individual lives and communities.
We wish to focus on women affected by gender based violence and child soldiers who are living with the mental anguish of the trauma they have experienced.
Estimates indicating six out of ten women, according to UN Women, face abuse in their lifetime and have to live with the trauma and suffering caused by it. We wish to end their suffering and heal their emotional pain thus returning them to lives of resilience and fulfilment accompanied by dignity and respect.
We work with local people on the ground to assess and implement projects.
In 2012 Sarah partnered with ADEC and delivered a trauma-relief programme to a group of 25 women in the Handikos Centre. Read a detailed case study here.
CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF LOGISTICS AND TRANSPORT (CILT)
We are working with the Humanitarian Response team in CILT, developing training in pre and post-deployment trauma. If you would like to help us in our domestic work in Ireland, please donate here.
Volunteers and Agency Workers
One of the challenges agency workers and volunteers face is a condition described as compassion fatigue, or secondary trauma from witnessing or hearing about events. They may also experience personal trauma as the threat to themselves.
Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubt which in turn leads to burn out and depression.
When returning home from conflict-affected areas it can often be problematic for the individual to re-connect with normal life, family and friends.
We partner with Humanitarian organisations to reduce the risk of compassion fatigue in their employees whether in the field or at home.
We aim to teach our processes to agency workers and volunteers so that they recognise the warning signs, and have tools that they can use to enable them to reduce their risk of compassion fatigue in the field.
We offer programmes to workers on their return home so that they can release any symptoms of trauma, secondary trauma and burn out and transition to “normal” life.
We are keen to continue our work with local agencies in Ireland and their field staff and continue to partner with existing organisations in Ireland so if you would like to talk with us, please get in touch.
Energy Psychology is increasingly being used by counsellors deployed to disaster zones by the Green Cross.
“Energy psychology is rapidly proving itself to be among the most powerful psychological interventions available to disaster relief workers for helping the survivors as well as the workers themselves.”
Charles Figley, Ph.D., psychologist, founder of the Green Cross (1995) and a leading figure in trauma treatment.
“Thank you very much for all your support and sharing of knowledge with the Pakistani and Afghan refugee communities. It was one of the best trainings that we received during our professional life. Each individual gets benefits from it, and I hope that the knowledge will disseminate further with all stakeholders, earthquake affectees, and Afghan refugees.” – Ali Gohar, Just Peace International
One of the key criterias for the success of the Foundation is the need for individuals and communities to have ongoing support.
SBF is focused on the provision of consultancy, training and mentoring in the field of trauma to individuals, groups and organisations.
This will involve the provision of customised and bespoke training in trauma management techniques and personal stress management. Training will take the form of individual and personalised training, group workshops, in-company training and in-the-field training.
Each training delivery will be customised to meet the needs of the specific demographic within their physical, cultural and socio-political environments.
Working with Veterans
Our Philosophy is that we remain completely neutral and work without prejudice, with anyone that needs our help. Thus we are happy to work with armed forces and those directly involved in conflict anywhere in the world.
We have the opportunity to help someone come to peace within themselves, and come to peace with their environment, by healing the trauma of their experiences. In order for society to heal, we have to start with healing the individual. Our experience is that as people begin to release their trauma, their values start to change and they open to a bigger world view.
We are inspired by His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s personal outlook on conflict and peace:
- Universal humanitarianism is essential to solve global problems
- Compassion is the pillar of world peace
- All world religions are already for world peace in this way, as are all humanitarians of whatever ideology
- Each individual has a universal responsibility to shape institutions to serve human needs
Noel, Armed Forces Veteran
Read more about Combat Trauma and PTSD.
Post training, the mentoring of individuals is seen as a key component to the learning and implementation of their training, to support the building of a resilient and sustainable society.
Mentoring services will be provided to:
- Community groups
- Social development programmes
The SBF plans to design and deliver programmes in all of the projects we undertake to train local people to become leaders and facilitators of the SBF, and work with them so the projects continue to expand and flourish.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb
In recent years, Sarah has worked on a voluntary basis in some of the most difficult areas of the world, including Kosovo and post-earthquake Pakistan, and has been invited to deliver support services and training to the following projects:
For more detailed reports on our case studies click here.
Sarah was invited by Pakistani NGO’s to work in post-earthquake Pakistan and Kashmir, to provide trauma-relief-based humanitarian and relief work to survivors of the 2005 earthquake, and to train Pakistani NGO staff to help their communities recover from trauma.The Pakistan earthquake occurred on October 8th 2005. Unofficial estimates say that 200,000 people died. The final number will never be known as the mountains swallowed up whole communities and their bodies will never be recovered.During the two weeks of our visit, we worked in Balakot, Muzaffarabad, Peshawar and Islamabad. In that time we trained 160 Doctors, Nurses, Paramedics, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Counsellors, Community Development workers and Teachers how to relieve trauma.We taught them how to use Energy Psychology techniques Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Tapas AcupressureTechnique (TAT) for themselves and their communities and families. They were all dealing with survivors, trauma and illness, as well as their own compassion fatigue.We visited some of the temporary schools in Balakot and up in the mountains. Here we had a chance to work with the children. We showed 350 school‐children how to get rid of their fear of the earthquake by demonstrating the techniques using drawings and with the help of their teacher’s translation. We got all of the children following along as we explained and made it into a game for them.They loved learning one technique called EFT, (Emotional Freedom Technique) where they tapped on acupuncture points on the hands face and upper body while thinking about their fears.. When we finished with one group of about200 we asked them to put their hands up if they felt better when they thought about the earthquake. Every hand shot into the air! So, when we asked them how they felt the replies we got were “relaxed, happy, better”. We later passed a group of boys who were sitting on the side of the mountain using EFT. It was wonderful to see them smiling and laughing as they waved to us.Dr Khan from the Balakot Earthquake Affectees Rehabilitation Association said at the end of the training “If this was in all our schools we wouldn’t have the trouble we are having with our children now.”Read the Pakistan case study.See the Pakistan video testimonial.
Sarah had the experience of being taken to the high Mesa where indigenous ceremonies take place and had the honour of hearing about some of these traditions.
Sarah was a volunteer on The Catherine McAulay Open Door Project aimed at helping women refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers. She ran a support group whose aims were to heal the trauma of displacement and teach personal development skills to help the women integrate into life in Ireland and look for work.What the women say:
- “All of what we do is very helpful for me and helps my stress”.
- “Life is sometimes difficult for me in this country, coming here makes me feel happier”.
- “When I walk down the street I am in fear but this fear is lessening each time I use the techniques I am learning in the class”.
- “My heart is lighter since coming to the class”