Transformational Care

Alicia, 22 years old, recently returned to live in her home village in rural Thailand, reunited with her two children and her mother, who had been looking after her children these past “how many?” years. She’s struggling to remember some of the good things she was taught, but life is so different here in the village. Food, customs, and values… It’s familiar, but not always so comforting.  She is concerned about her future, but she still needs to deal with the daily concerns. She still struggles with alcohol misuse, chronic headaches, and her monthly periods are still not quite normal. Trauma triggers seem to come from out of nowhere. One of her kids is sick. What should she do? What can she do?

inequalityLiberation requires true transformation, and vice-versa. What does it take for someone like Alicia to move from being a victim of chronic trauma into a thriving independent person? It’s quite a journey of transformation! People must move through many changes in many facets of their lives. Alicia has come a long way for her to be back with her family. But the journey is not yet over for her. How best can assistance programs facilitate transformation?

Health care is one of those facets, and given the myriad of physical and mental health consequences that they suffer, addressing these needs is a formidable task for any person. Relentless’ vision is that people are liberated through health and wellness. We want to see people’s lives transformed inside and out. Health is not the only aspect, but certainly a core aspect.

“Strengthening the provisions of health and security of survivors is of paramount importance from the moment they are rescued and enter assistance programs until they pass through (re-) integration. Indeed these components of physical resilience are important throughout a survivor’s life“. (Chab Dai Butterfly Project Resilience 2014)


Consider for a moment about some things that perhaps you take for granted that set a more healthy background for your health care.

  • Alicia, growing up in a poor rural village may have never been to a doctor (vaccinations are given at the local health station) and may have no idea what is involved.
  • Alicia may find the historical questions and physical exam is potentially traumatizing – she doesn’t care to reveal too much about herself and worries that they’ll “see through” her anyway.
  • Navigating the laboratory and/or imaging exams can be daunting.
  • Keeping track of and showing up to follow up appointments can be a challenge.
  • People who have been trafficked often come from backgrounds of abuse and exploitation, perhaps beginning in his/her childhood. They may not ever have had the opportunity of learning about the “birds and the bees” from their father and mother, or even a teacher.
    • I have met prostituted women who lack the most basic understanding of reproductive physiology. We can’t assume anything. We can’t even assume that just because someone sells sex for a living s/he knows how all the “plumbing” works.
  • Sexually exploited people may have had health professionals as clients, and may be reluctant to visit one professionally.
  • Consider that someone trafficked from another country may need to access health care in their host country and have to do so without knowing the language.
  • There is always a question of who will pay? How can they afford the care if they are already saddled with an enormous debt? Is there any insurance or social services and who can figure it out anyway?
  • People like Alicia likely have a very low or poor education background – they may not be able to read or write. Some may even have a cognitive disability, which made them vulnerable to exploitation in the first place.

Assistance programs do recognize the need for better health care for their beneficiaries. Many case managers will tell you of the countless hours spent waiting in queues, trying to figure out prescription medicines, trying to get a clear idea of what exactly are the medical problems, sorting out bills and funds, and other issues related to the health care of the beneficiaries.

The task then turns to equipping and empowering the beneficiary to eventually handle his/her own health care. A gradual process of developing confidence, responsibility, and decision-making regarding the interface with a health care system.

IMG_0442Another aspect of developing the health care facet of transformation is equipping someone how to manage their daily care for maintenance of health and disease prevention. Health classes may be provided, but is the format the best way for transforming practices? Many people, even those working in assistance programs, fail to realize is that someone like Alicia may be lacking the fundamental understanding of health and hygiene necessary to learn from the health classes provided at their shelter or drop-in center. Even the basic foundations of health and wellness have never been introduced into someone’s life. What makes us sick? How do we practice good hygiene? What makes a healthy lifestyle?

A more effective way is “life-on-life” learning. Take advantage of the teaching moments that arise in the activities of daily living instead of relegating it to a “health class”. Richard Rohr, at The Center for Action and Contemplation, states it well: “We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking”. This is “transformational education”. The process is transformational care.

Team Relentless is currently developing a health and wellness curriculum for assistance programs to employ in leading beneficiaries from a point of helplessness to confident autonomy regarding their own bodies as well as their children or other family members. The journey to wholeness is a long one. Relentless is available at every step.

Are you interested in learning more about this curriculum and other services Relentless can provide? Please be in touch!

Thanks to all who give generously – this work cannot continue without you!