Our research journey
Dr. Manda's research work predates the registration of the Manda Institute. As early as 2009, he started the Trauma Healing Research Project in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Pietermaritzburg was the epicenter of the political violence of the 1980s and 1990s that locked KwaZulu-Natal culminating in the civil war between the African National Congress Party (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) in 1990 soon after Late President Nelson Mandela was released from prison. The Seven Days Civil War between March 25 and 31, 1990 saw more than 200 people killed, tens of thousands internally displaced, and destruction to property. After the democratic general elections of 1994, the dust started settling down, but one could feel the tensions in the air. After the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) finished its mandate of facilitating public hearings of victims and perpetrators of human rights violations committed during the apartheid regime, some organizations started creating safe spaces to help people heal. Such organizations included Manda's former employer, Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness (PACSA), Institute for Healing of Memories, etc. During this time, Manda was facilitating HIV/AIDS awareness, gender-based violence, and healing of memories workshops besides the counseling sessions he was offering to the community. In May 2008, South Africa saw the worst xenophobic attacks on foreigners, and around 62 people were killed (41 foreigners and 21 citizens), leave alone the injured. Seeing the enormous emotional and psychological pain people were sitting with, Manda took an interest to find out how Pietermaritzburg and the refugee community, were working through the past trauma of political violence, the infamous Seven Day War, and xenophobia. That is when the Trauma Healing Research project began in 2009 with a stress and trauma healing workshop, facilitated by the Diakonia Council of Churches. The project started with 38 men and women from Pietermaritzburg and its surrounding communities including the refugee community.
The project was successful in that the trauma survivors experienced healing and were later trained as trauma counselors to take further the healing work to their communities in their own languages.
Written Research Output
Manda discovered that allowing trauma survivors to document their own stories enabled them to express things that could not be conveyed in words and brought to light what had been suppressed. Writers were able to imagine new possibilities of living meaningfully in a changing world. Thus in 2013, 14 stories of trauma survivors were documented and published in a handbook as the first written output from the research project. This was the highlight of the research project as the book bore witness to the traumas that every participant experienced before the Trauma Healing Project, the journey they took during the project lifespan, and the measure of healing gained at the end of the project. It is evidence of the significant contribution to the healing of South Africa's multiple-woundedness and empowering of traumatized individuals and communities to restore relationships, recover faith, hope, meaning, and dignity. This type of healing is transformative.
Since the project was linked to the principal researcher's doctoral studies, some of the stories in the book were selected and subjected to textual analysis and scholarly interpretation. After the five years of longitudinal participatory action research, the thesis was submitted and examined. It was passed by examiners with distinction, (however there is no distinction at Ph.D.), and was successfully defended on January 28, 2014. Thus on April 25, 2014, Manda was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria.
Expanding the healing work
Having gained significant knowledge and skills in working with people who have been exposed to emotional, psychological, moral, and spiritual injuries during the five-year Trauma Healing project, Manda began expanding the frontiers of trauma healing work to Asia, Europe, and the United States of America. In 2013, he accompanied the director of the Institute for Healing of Memories to Asia (Sri Lanka), Europe (Luxembourg), South America (Colombia), and the United States, where they facilitated the healing of memories workshops and meetings in several states including Hawaii helping create safe spaces where participants can tell their stories. It was after listening to hundreds of stories that Manda understood the pain of America and purposed to register an Institute that would focus on dealing with unresolved trauma and pain of the past in the US.
Manda facilitated healing work with one hand, and with another continued research. He was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of South Africa, which ran from August 2014 to July 2016. During this time he engaged in rigorous research, presentation of papers in national and international conferences, and published seven peer-reviewed journal articles. In 2018 he was appointed as a Research Associate at the University of Pretoria as a principal researcher in the project "Pastoral engagement in psychological, moral, and spiritual injury". During this time, he engaged the theology and social science or behavioral science disciplines to come up with a holistic model of care. On November 28, 2019, America's Thanksgiving Day, his book: Re-authoring Life Narratives after Trauma: A holistic narrative model of care was published.
The book is an interdisciplinary, specialist resource for traumatic stress researchers, practitioners, and frontline workers who focus their research and work on communities from diverse religious backgrounds that are confronted with trauma, death, illness, and other existential crises. Thus Manda developed a holistic narrative model of care that must integrate an understanding of and respect for the many forms of religion and spirituality that clients might have. It will not only bring a spiritual perspective into the psychotherapeutic dialogue, but it will also assist in dealing with the different demands in pastoral ministry as related to clinical and post-traumatic settings.
Current research projects
Manda Institute continues to invest human and financial resources in research to explore ways to heal individual and communal trauma and promote human flourishing. We are aspiring to offer research fellowships to research scholars in the field of mental health and spiritual care spectrum to find holistic solutions to the pain of humanity.
Negotiations are in progress with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Malawi to lead a Trauma healing project in Zomba and the Lower Shire, an area that experienced the devastating 2015 floods. More than 176 people died with some unaccounted for and hundreds of thousands displaced. We seek to set up a Trauma Healing project.
Research Project in Congo
MICS seeks to set up a Trauma Healing project in the Eastern Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo to facilitate the healing and recovery of individuals and communities exposed to the trauma of civil war. We seek to work in partnership with the University of Lubumbashi.
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