An article recently appeared in my new feed about a refugee center in Germany where children uprooted by war in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are living. The author of the article stated that “The refugees I met in Germany told me unfathomable tales of horror. I heard of family and friends killed in bombings, of being tortured by militants and of boats capsizing in pitch-dark seas. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to live through all that, or how such experiences could change someone. That’s why I was struck by the resilience of the children — the ones I’d expected to be the most vulnerable. But I couldn’t help but wonder how these uprooted children — who have seen and known horrors few of us could imagine — could still be kids. Their smiles were real, and their laughter was contagious. I watched the girls pile into a giant group hug with their teacher at the end of class, and was deeply impressed by their resilience.”

I thought of this article during our discussion of trauma informed care in the workshop I taught this past week. We were talking about the traumatic events that some of the people served have experienced and in some cases continue to experience. One participant commented that she had served children who were engaging in challenging behaviors that only made sense after she learned about their trauma histories and was surprised that their behavior wasn’t worse. The group agreed that it’s actually pretty amazing that some of the folks we serve function as well as they do considering the events they been through.

There is little doubt in my mind that many of the children in the refugee center are doing as well as they are because they are in a safer place now. While I’m sure they still struggle with being displaced from their homes, friends and extended family, being in a place where their needs are met and having workers who care for them is certainly helping them deal with their experiences and situation.

In The Mandt System, we emphasize the need to provide safe places and to be safe people for the individuals we serve ensuring to the best of our ability that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Sometimes we know the histories and life situations of the individuals in our care and sometimes we do not, and sometimes when we find out what people have experienced we realize that their level of resilience is pretty amazing.

Doug ZehrVogt, Mandt Faculty