How do we help people recover from trauma?

Participants of SYNC Health’s resilience programme, Liberia (Source)

How do we help people recover from trauma? Enspiral Dev Academy and Code Innovation have built a pro bono app for SYNC Health to enable Liberian locals to run an effective resilience programme in community mental health groups. SYNC’s mission is to bridge neuroscience, culture and technology to advance responses to trauma in humanitarian emergencies.

Dev Academy founder Joshua Vial met Ellie and Nate Calhoun from Code Innovation at the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship, where Joshua was speaking about social organisation.

“They said their developer had fallen through and they were in a tight spot, they needed someone to volunteer to build an app at short notice. The work was remote and took maybe 15–20 hours. The spec was super clear and the technology quite simple — we turned it around with only one iteration. React and Cordova take a bit to setup but are a super effective way for web developers to build simple apps.”

SYNC’s founder Jana Pinto has developed the resilience programme with Liberian refugees over years of working together.

Traumatic experiences create an enormous amount of shock that causes the dysregulation of many of the brain’s processes and cognitive dynamics. The eResilience app teaches a combination of mindful body-based exercises, executive function and interpersonal tasks which help resynchronise these processes.

The tasks are designed with simplicity, such as regulating breathing, muscle relaxation, planning and community engagement. Community health workers are able to successfully lead the curriculum after a short 2-day training.

In prioritising the safety of participants, the programme does not include a discussion of trauma, nor encourages sharing of traumatic experiences among its members. It promotes a fun environment that resembles a casual community gathering to learn new skills, rather than a group therapy session.

Code Innovation has been a partner in co-creating the app platform.

“Working in Liberia, we saw the impact that SYNC’s programs have on communities’ ability to recover after the horrors of war,” notes Elie Calhoun, Director of Operations. “The eResilience model resources people so that they can cope with the aftermath of war and get on with their lives. I’ve seen the impact and it is absolutely game-changing, which is why we had to digitize the approach and help it scale.”

Pinto notes, “Creating an app of our eResilience program helps us to standardize the protocol so that facilitators know they’re supported in preparing for and leading the groups. This is going to allow us to scale not just in Liberia, but across Africa and around the world.”

Dev Academy are thrilled to be able to support this project. “It was a delight to build and we would love to help more of our graduates find meaningful opportunities to volunteer.”

Enspiral Dev Academy rapidly teaches the skills of web development in Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand. If you’d like to learn the skills to use technology to help people, check it out today: www.devacademy.co.nz.