I have a promise to keep to Rachel A. Cohen, Ph.D of Common Threads Project, to share the story of Promesse, who benefited from the healing power of the textile arts. It's a quick read, but has the power to stay with you much longer.
This is why I love the work I do.
'Would you mind helping me keep it by taking only two minutes to read this story?
Last year, I met a 19-year-old woman who ‘struck gold’ every day. But not in the way you might think. No, she spent ten hours a day pounding rock with a huge pole to release traces of gold in a mine close to her village.
Her name is Promesse. She lives in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She worked in a gold mine for many months. She was paid meager wages, but she had a family to feed and she did what any mother would do.
Her days became darker when she finished pounding. When it was time to pay the workers their meager wage, the gang bosses who ran the mine would often force the women to a nearby forest and rape them. If they resisted, the gang bosses would withhold their pay. If they reported the crime, the bosses would charge them with gold theft and have them jailed.
For months this is how Promesse lived - in terror and shame. Eventually, the mine closed, but the terror and shame didn't leave Promesse.
For some time, she quietly endured the trauma. A neighbour who saw she was troubled encouraged Promesse to find support in a "Kamba Moja" circle. (Kamba Moja is Common Threads in Swahili.)
When Promesse first joined the circle, she was withdrawn, lethargic, suffering from chronic headaches.Wary of others, she watched from the sidelines.
Trauma therapists trained by Common Threads Project patiently allowed Promesse to join in at her own pace. After a few weeks, she slowly engaged with the other women in the Kamba Moja circle.
She found friends with whom she could begin to connect and trust. Within her healing circle, she practiced muscle relaxation, movement, and breathing exercises to release tension and feel more alive. Her headaches even diminished. While playing Kamba Moja games, she laughed for the first time in ages.
Painting activities allowed her an opportunity for self-expression. She learned hand embroidery quickly and it gave her a sense of pride to assist others with their work. While sewing Promesse found it easier to talk. She also felt a sensation of calm in her body with the rhythm of stitching. With the support of her circle, Promesse felt less ashamed about her past and began to open up. For many weeks she worked to piece together and stitch a textile - her story cloth - that could visually tell her harrowing story.
The other women in the circle honored Promesse's courage in sharing her experience. They supported her with empathy and insight as she let go of self-blame and embraced self-respect. She gained the confidence to take on literacy training to find a safe path to employment.
As Promesse and the other women gained strength, they worked together to create a collective story cloth called "This is what we will no longer tolerate." Its message is that we must all stand against the atrocities they had endured.
When she showed me her work, she placed her story cloth in my hands and asked me to do something for her and her circle of friends. "Take this home with you. Tell our stories. Let the world know what is happening to us," Promesse pleaded with me. I am sending this email to you to keep my promise to Promesse. I know it is upsetting to hear these stories, but this is why we stand together as Common Threads Project. This community doesn't turn away from pain but listens carefully and finds a way to help. If these stories move you, I want to invite you to join our global 'Common Threads’' circle. These women need your help to continue their journey and to bring others to a healing circle. Would you please consider a generous gift of $50 or $100 today? Here are some examples of the type of support needed: $50 could pay for art and sewing supplies for two women to participate in a Common Threads healing circle $130 sponsors one month (18 hours) of effective CTP trauma treatment for a survivor $480 pays for a week of transformative healing for a circle of 15 women/girls $1,250 can train a therapist to lead Common Threads circles in her community A gift of any amount goes a long way to helping women recover from trauma. When you offer support for these women, you become part of their lives and their circle of hope. Help them by making your gift today at www.commonthreadsproject.org/donate.
With profound gratitude,
Rachel A. Cohen, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director
Common Threads Project
Journal Of Success Entry
Enjoying contact and discussions with Rachel;
researching Promesse and Common Threads Project; joy of sharing important stories and therapeutic arts interventions; volunteered to make video of #givingtuesday; new friends and contacts