Action for Child Trauma International is new working name for Luna!

Luna Trustees have agreed that ACTION FOR CHILD TRAUMA INTERNATIONAL better describes what we do, and will help us to make more of an impact with our fundraising and partnership working with other international charities. It will be our ‘working’ name – we are not changing our registration or bank details, but we will have a new ‘look’ – watch this space and our social media posts for more information.

Support for Mohammed and children in Gaza

Mohammed has now completed CATT training in Bristol and is spending the rest of his stay with us meeting a variety of people with knowledge of child trauma, raising awareness of the needs of children in Gaza, and improving his spoken English. Sad to say his colleague Haitham has not been able to join him.  We are planning ongoing support for the work he does in Gaza, so we are keeping our appeal open and will provide more details soon. You can still donate here:

Mohammed was a Project Manager for USAID, until last year when funding was withdrawn. He has ten years’ experience of working with children in Gaza on behalf of international aid agencies and the UN.  Feel free to contact us if you want to know more about him!


What is Esther doing in Uganda?

Hello, I am Esther Mulders and for the past four weeks I have been working as a volunteer therapist at the Bishop Asili Counselling, Rehabilitation and Community Centre in Ngetta, near Lira in northern Uganda. Whilst I am here, I am also doing research for my MA in the Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation at the University of Sussex. My subject is the mental wellbeing of women who became a mother during the time when the Lords Resistance Army was active and threatened this part of Uganda.

I graduated as a psychomotor therapist in the Netherlands exactly five years ago, and worked for a few months before I left to travel in South east Asia. Being both disturbed and inspired by all I saw and the people I met, I wanted to try to contribute my knowledge and experience to the development of mental health care worldwide.  Within my MA I am focusing specifically on issues related to global mental health. In my work I use creative approaches to help people change their lives, including activities such as movement and dance. Here in Uganda I am working with the symptoms of trauma through body awareness, body control and relaxation.

Just like Sister Florence and her fellow sisters of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Mother of the Church, who run the Counselling Centre, I also want to empower women and young people within their communities by promoting resilience, leadership and independence. Not only do many of the Centre’s clients struggle with the legacy of the violence inflicted by the Lord’s Resistance Army, they also continue to face the threat of violence in their daily lives. Many of the women I am working with have, for years on end, had to run from their homes and flee ‘into the bush’  (ie any landscape covered, often by long grass, anthills etc which is located at a safe distance from inhabited areas). Whenever they heard a gunshot they would take their children and run for their lives. Violence is still a central element in the lives of many of these women, one of whom still regularly flees into the bush from her home with her children, only this time in an effort to escape the violence inflicted on them by her husband.

In these first few weeks, I have taught grounding techniques to help these women stand physically and mentally firm and strong, the use of voice and body in verbal and non-verbal communication, helped them to identify and express personal boundaries, and to  offer and receive support.  This is an alternative form of therapy, not based on talking but on helpful experiences and practicing new things.  I want the Centre’s clients to get to know and understand their own bodies, themselves and each other a bit more. This approach does not replace other forms of counselling – instead it supports and supplements other programmes, and brings a new dimension to work aimed at relieving mental health issues. It also fits very well with Luna’s work in promoting the use of rights-based approaches to trauma treatment, such as CATT with children and young people.



Jordan training completed!

We are delighted to welcome our 21 new CATT practitioners who were trained in Amman last month, together with new trainers Manar and Ghalia, who have already been using CATT extensively with children suffering from PTSD. We are especially grateful to Manar for all the work she did to organise everything for us in Amman. Now we really have a team who can sustain therapeutic work with children who so badly need help as a result of their experiences of was and violence.  Thankyou to everyone who has made this possible by donating both time, energy and money.  In particular, we want to thank the young people of City and Islington College, members of the United Church Winchester, those who gave at the Waverley Singers’ concert in March and everyone who found our BT MyDonate page!

Aref’s story: please note real names and some details have been changed to protect the identity and safety of individuals involved

9 year old Aref grew up in Daraa, Syria, where thousands of barrel bombs caused devastation to civilians and homes. In 2014/15,120 people were killed in Daraa alone. At aged 7, Aref saw a bomb drop by his house killing Mahmoud, his cousin and best friend. Until then Aref thought it was safe to play in the street by his home. His family hid underground for 3 days before fleeing to Al-Zataari camp in Jordan. There, Aref met Khaled, a counsellor trained by Luna to use a psychological technique for helping children overcome trauma (CATT). Aref had signs of PTSD; he was unable to talk about what he’d seen. He had regular flashbacks about Mahmoud’s death and was deeply anxious of losing anyone he loved. For 2 years he had nightmares. Any sounds he heard, he thought were planes. His concentration was poor and his thoughts were jumbled. He had great difficulty learning and avoided large groups of people. Khaled worked with Aref using CATT. After only 5 sessions, Aref could talk about what happened. He no longer had nightmares. He was able to play with friends and take part in social gatherings. He was able to tolerate sounds. He was able to work towards his goal of doing better at school.

Fundraising appeal for Jordan in April 2018

We have launched a special appeal to raise funds for our next project – check out our fundraising page at BT MyDonate. Here you can read the story of Aref,  and how Luna’s training helps local professionals to treat children who have escaped to Jordan but still suffer the effects of their experience of the war .

A Luna team is returning to Jordan at the end of April, to train another 20 CATT practitioners.  But not only that, three of those we trained two years ago will be joining us to be trained as trainers – ensuring the sustainability of effective one-to-one trauma work with Syrian refugee children, like Aref.

Luna works entirely with volunteers who share our values – so you can be share that not a penny of your donation will be wasted!

Our plans for 2018

Luna is now gearing up for more training in 2018, in Uganda, Liberia and the Middle East.

At the end of January Elias and Gerald will run a week’s course for 20 health workers and counsellors working in Nakivale refugee camp in Uganda’s Isingiro district. It is the biggest camp in South Western Uganda, home to over 180,000 refugees who come from Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia and Ethiopia. Most children living in the camp have had traumatic experiences. In August 2017 Luna trained four camp staff in Mabarara, and a follow-up visit by Elias in October showed that they were using the treatment effectively but were overwhelmed by the need. So this has become Luna’s top priority project for 2018, and we are trying to raise a total of £860 to fund the course. In future we hope to extend our work in the growing number of refugee camps all over Uganda.

In April we hope to run courses for both potential new trainers, as well as new CATT practitioners, in the Middle East so we can create the same level of sustainability as we have in Uganda.  The first will be in April in Amman, Jordan, where psychologists and counsellors trained in 2015 have been using CATT with large numbers of Syrian refugee children. Then if funds permit we will return to Turkey later in the year where there is enormous need.  We are seeking significant donations to fund this work, and launching an appeal in the New Year.

In February  we hope to join experienced Ugandan CATT trainer James Nsereko in Liberia to offer training to local mental health workers treating children who have been the victims of both civil war and the ravages of ebola. This is a totally new part of the world for us, and we are looking forward to building on the excellent work James has already done there for the Carter Centre’s Mental health Liberia Program.

Introducing Elias and our next phase of work in Uganda

The task of setting up and sustaining Luna’s training activity in Uganda has recently been given a big boost due to the efforts of Elias Byaruhanga, one of our experienced CATT practitioners and trainers, who took up the role of Uganda Operations Manager for Luna in April.   Here he is receiving his original Level 2 certificate from Dr Godfrey Rukundo and James Nsereko in 2013.

With Elias’ support, we are now in the midst of final preparations for our next training trip to Uganda in August. Trustee Brenda Graham will be travelling from the UK to support two training events, beginning in Kampala with a two-day update for our 9 Ugandan CATT trainers. This will take place at the PCO School at Butabika Hospital, which has been the location for many of our courses since 2012. Brenda will also have the opportunity to visit our many friends and colleagues at the hospital, and to visit the children on the ward on behalf of the ‘Friends’. After that, she and fellow-trainers will travel to Mbarara where Elias and his colleague Syson Katushabe will deliver a week-long CATT Level 2 course for 25 participants coming from Mbarara and the west of Uganda. The course is supported by the Mbarara Mental Health Team led by Dr Godfrey Rukundo. In particular, they are looking forward to meeting 10 child care workers put forward for training by community-based organisation Reach the Poor, which works in the Kasese district. This will enable first-line trauma treatment to be given to children and young people living in one of the poorest and still troubled parts of Uganda.

We wish everyone a good trip and successful trainings!

Pippa’s thankyou and goodbye to Kalerwe

It is me who must thank you, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this exciting project in Kalerwe.  

My very special thanks go to Mirica Kisitu for everything she has done to make this project happen…her love, her passion, her faith, her commitment to the community of kalerwe and its children and especially those with special needs and disabilities. She has not benefitted in anyway from this programme, except to have me as her guest whilst I have been staying in Kampala, which has probably been a mixed blessing for her. You are incredibly lucky to have her devoting her time and energy to you and this community…there are not enough people  like her in the world.

Also to Iryn who has worked with us all week and arranged the programme. And a big thank you too to Peter for all his help during the week , his involvement in the workshops and for decorating this room for this celebration. 

Thanks also to Milly who has worked long and hard to help this project to happen, and thanks to Nanteza Harriet for cooking us lunch every day. 

And of course thank you to the trainers, especially Evelyn who I first met in January and very quickly realised what an amazing woman she is. I am so glad that she agreed to come and join us this week and share her knowledge and enthusiasm with you. It is amazing what people  have been able to learn in such a short time. 

You know, children with special needs have the same needs as all of us..

we need to be loved, 

we need to be valued for who we are, 

we need to be accepted, 

we need to belong, 

we need to be able to make a living, 

we need safety and security, 

we need to be able to bring our children up to be happy and healthy and to be able to support themselves later in their lives. 

For this we all need education and health and resources. 

It is an accident of birth that I was born in England, and you were born here. I did not choose to be born in one of the richest countries in the world You did not choose to be born here, but that is what has happened . 

On the outside we may look very different, our skin, our hair, our language, our culture, but beneath our skins we are exactly the same. 

We all have hopes and dreams and wishes. 

We are all deserving of respect and should be treated with dignity. 

We are all equal. 

No one is better than anyone else 

We all have the potential to do good or bad..depending on how we choose to live our lives.

 No one should be more valued or respected because of what he or she has, what clothes they wear, what kind of car they drive, what kind of home they have, but by the person that they are,  by their character , what is in their heart and by their actions.  

I don’t care how much money you have, or don’t have, how big or small your home is, how many clothes or shoes you have ,

what I care about is whether you live life to the full,

 whether you make the most of the talents and and opportunities you have, 

whether you are able to go the extra mile for someone who needs it, 

whether when you are pushed down you get up and try again, and again and not give up, 

whether you treat  others with kindness and love in your heart. 

 I have met and stayed with people during my stay here who have put me to shame by their strength and resilience under such difficult circumstances, whose ability to enjoy life despite its challenges and  generosity of heart and spirit is second to none.  

We have many things in the UK that you do not have here in Kalerwe, and it is tempting to think that money is the solution to all problems . I want to tell you that relationships matter as much if not more. It is relationships that sustain us in good times and bad times, that give us joy and peace and make us feel that we matter, that we belong and that we are loved.

in the UK relationships often break down , due to conflict, competitiveness, jealousy, even the use of social media which results in people spending more time on their phones than actually talking to people face to face and spending time together, leaving people isolated from family and friends and feeling lonely and depressed. 

We all have the opportunity to make a positive difference, to make  the world a better place during the short time that we are in it.

something as simple as a kind word or a smile, 

raising a happy child, 

looking after a family, or 

using the skills and talents we have for the good of the community,  

We must take the opportunities that are offered to us and make the most of them. We must take control of our own lives and be leaders in our own lives and not wait for someone else to sort our problems out, to tell us what to do.

This is what the people have  been doing during this week of training. Despite living in extraordinarily  difficult and challenging circumstances, they have come together to learn skills that will help them to make a living for themselves and their families. They have shown hope and determination and enthusiasm, some even arriving early to practice the skills they are learning. 

I would like to remind you of the story that Jesus told about the sower and the seed. 

Some seed fell on hard ground and shrivelled up and died. Some seed fell on rocky ground and grew very quickly but was weak and bore no fruit. But some seed fell on rich ground and grew strong and bore much fruit. I believe that what we have done this week in kalerwe has been sowing of seeds in rich ground and that it will bear much fruit. 

Now it is up to you. I have helped to start this project, it is up to you to continue it.  I have done my part, now it is up to you. This  project needs to be self sustaining, which means you will need to work out how you will fund the rent for the building, the cost of future training and of materials that you will need, for maintenance and security. It will take time and patience and a lot of effort but I believe you have all these things and with God on your side, anything is possible. 

It is said that if you want to go quickly on your journey, you should go alone. If you want to go far you should go together. You need to support each other and then this project will thrive and grow and be strong and be something that you can be proud of because it will be your efforts that have made it a success.

I hope that we have also planted some seeds of friendship that will continue to grow, not just because of the money that I have given, but because of the people that we are and the connection we have made with each other. 

It has been an honour for me to be a part of this exciting new venture, and I wish it every success in the future. I hope to come back one day to see how it is getting on and to see how you are all doing. Till then I thank you and bless you. Mukama abakuume


Luna in Uganda – Brenda’s blog

We arrived at sunny Entebbe after an overnight flight on friendly Ethiopian airways via Addis Ababa. Moses from Red Chilli welcomed us as returning visitors and helped us with heavy bags through puddles to the car – it had rained all morning. November is wet here!

We settled in at Red Chilli – everyone as friendly as ever and remembering us amongst the many who stay here for wildlife trips, NGO work, and placements at Butabika Hospital. It’s a calm, low-key place to stay where we can mull over what we’ve achieved each day and the concerns we are left with.

Making plans

What are we here for? We spend our first morning confirming what we hope to achieve overall and planning who we need to see, while getting through pots of strong Ugandan coffee. We have some appointments already, and others to make. We discuss Pippa’s project, which sees her leave us to stay with Mirica, the headmistress of St Nicholas school, and work with parents and teachers on understanding the impact of trauma on early child development. She has also initiated a sewing project for parents – making re-usable menstrual pads – which could give them a source of income and help their daughters stay at school.

Stella will go to Mbarara to support our Ugandan CATT trainers in setting up a Level 2 CATT programme. Brenda will go to Lira to support our special project at Bishop Asili Counselling centre. We make travel arrangements, and hope we don’t get (too much) rain on the way. Stella is going by coach, reassured that there are new vehicles on the route. Brenda will go by car with Fred, an experienced and trusted driver who talks Ugandan politics, has strong views on corruption, and faces a moral dilemma if stopped by traffic police – an everyday experience for drivers in Kampala’s challenging traffic jams – to pay a fine with all its bureaucracy and hassle? Or to pay a smaller bribe?

We walk to Butabika hospital, enjoying the sunshine in January, hoping to see the Head of Nursing for the children’s ward and ask if we can visit. Stella will be reporting back on progress to the CAMHS Workstream of the East London NHS Link, as well as the ‘Friends’ of the children’s ward. It would be so easy to walk straight in, but this is one of our many concerns – visitors can enter the ward grounds without challenge and the children are still able to open the gate and leave the grounds with no consistent vigilance for their safety.  However, we notice that more guards are around keeping an eye of things, and everyone we speak to tells us how much better cared for the children are, and speak of many improvements over the past year.  We are so pleased to hear this. Over the coming week we hope to find out more, and to return again before we leave. Watch this space for more news as our visit proceeds!