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Preventing and Healing Climate Change Enhanced Trauma and Violence in Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania, and Nigeria

To distribute free trauma prevention and healing information, teach resilience skills & link millions of people via their mobile devices

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

The droughts, food shortages, wildfires & other disasters hitting Africa due to climate change are causing widespread psychological traumas including severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicides, as well as psychosocial traumas including increased aggression, violence, and conflict. Climate change is also aggravating Boko Haram and other groups that are committing human atrocities. Climate change will only worsen in coming decades. Innovative approaches are needed to help people respond to the growing climate change aggravated traumas in ways that help them learn how to think and act in healthy ways even in the midst of unhealthy conditions, and learn how to use those adversities as transformational catalysts to enhance personal and collective health, security, and peace, as well as environmental conditions. 80% of adults in Africa now own a mobile phone. We propose to launch a mobile technology program in Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania & Nigeria to prevent & heal traumas generated by climate change. By calling a free number people will obtain vital information in their own language about: a) how to calm their minds & body in the midst of trauma and prevent reactions that harm themselves, others, of the natural environment; b) how to help other people & groups respond constructively to trauma and toxic stress; c) how to use climate change aggravated adversities as catalysts to find new ways to increase personal, collective, and ecological wellbeing; and d) how to link up with individuals & organizations that can help them build personal psychological, collective psychosocial, and ecological health and resilience. The program will give millions of people free access to wellness-enhancing and potentially life-saving and transforming information & skills. The outcomes will: a) greatly reduced mental health and psychosocial maladies: and b) grow coalitions working to prevent climate change-aggravated adversities in ways that increase human and ecological wellbei

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The beneficiaries are adults and children in Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania & Nigeria traumatized by the droughts, food shortages, floods, wildfires, and other disasters generated by climate change and by the increased aggression, interpersonal violence, conflict, and human atrocities those impacts produce. Viamo already offers free mobile information programs in Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania and Nigeria that are receiving a tremendous response. It is promoted by the cell phone company itself as a public service. In Rwanda more than 1 million calls were received in the first month of launch (Feb - March 2018); In Botswana 52,000 unique calls were made from July 2017 to Feb 2018; and in Tanzania 118,000 unique calls came in during in first three months of the program (Dec 2017-Feb 2018). People will find the service from advertising and public service announcements by the mobile companies themselves, and by referrals from friends who use the service for other issues or the trauma program.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

We know of no similar program of any type in Africa (or most other nations). A number of local programs run by members of our team (and others) help small numbers of people heal trauma. No program in Africa, however, comes close to providing millions of people the information, skills, and linkages this program will offer. This is unique--and will provide a model that can be replicated in many other nations in Africa, Asia and elsewhere

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The International Transformational Resilience Coalitions works around the world to build psychological and psychosocial resilience to prevent adverse human reactions to the traumas and toxic stresses generated by climate change.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

After Typhoon Yolanda devastated her nation, Catherine participated in a Community Resilience Model training program. She responded: “…Thank you very much for this resource…it has strengthened my resolve about the health benefits of grounding. I am also happy to tell everyone how I was able to help a co-worker through Help Now to get back to her resilient zone when she faced a stressful situation. The quick exercise helped her calm down and get her breathing and heartbeat steady. God bless you!

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The disasters and toxic stresses generated by rising global temperatures cause psychological traumas that lead to severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, suicides and other mental health problems. They also lead to psychosocial problems such as increased family abuse, interpersonal violence, and intergroup violence. The underlying driver is the way the human brain is structured to react to real or perceived threats. A growing body of research and ample experience show that when individuals and groups understand how adversity affects their minds and bodies and can lead to behaviors that harm themselves, others, or the natural environment (become trauma-informed) and then develop skills and resources to calm themselves when distressed (learn presencing skills) as well as skills to use traumas as learning catalysts to find new ways to increase personal, social, and ecological wellbeing (learn purposing skills) these maladies not only can be avoided--- people engage in many pro-social actions.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The project is led by a team of the 4 NGOs listed below working in Africa. We have not worked on a project together before this, but have been meeting regularly for 6 months to plan and develop the project. The International Transformational Resilience Coalition (ITRC) ( Viamo ( Rwanda Resilience and Grounding Organization (RRGO) ( Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) (https://

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Each of the project lead organizations have extensive expertise in either trauma prevention and healing (the ITRC, RRGO, and HROC) and in the delivery of free mobile phone information, skills building, and coalition building programs (Viamo).

Geographic Focus

Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania, and Nigeria

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The mobile climate change trauma prevention and healing program can be up and running within 9 months and made available to millions of people in 36 months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

We began to plan the project 6 months ago and our team has grown, we have developed content, and now only need the funding to launch.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Amanda Cox

I really like that the number is called and information provided via a voice (I assume) vs. just text message or text style communication. This will allow for those with lower literacy to access the support and ideally you could tailor the information for audiences of different ages (youth for example might benefit from information that is tailored to them vs. adults or elderly.) Could I advocate that in the information provided that you include a message encouraging people to AVOID using orphanages as a response to climate change/disasters? We work in Africa on Deinstitutionalization which is the process of transforming systems of care from orphanage systems to family based care systems. One area of family strengthening that is really needed to avoid the placement of children in orphanages is resiliency for families suffering the economic circumstances of climate change (drought/lost crops, natural disasters, etc.) There is a lot of good information out there and I bet that you could include a few sentences in the information provided via mobile call about the importance of raising children in families, not abandoning children, seeking support and resources around family strengthening, that orphanages are NOT a healthy answer for children, children do better in families and families help children overcome trauma, etc. Just a plug for that idea because it is one that needs global awareness raising and can easily be melded into other forms of awareness raising. Thanks!!

Photo of Bob

Hi Amanda,

Thanks for your comment. If we are successful in receiving a grant we will give your suggestion great consideration. There will be a number of sub categories people will be able to seek information about and this might be an excellent one to include! Thanks again!

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