SEI Connections Somatic Experiencing® as an Answer to my Search for Trauma Healing at Afya Holistic Healing Center for Women

by | Mar 28, 2024 | POINT OF VIEW


My name is Euphrasia Joseph Nyaki popularly known as Efu, I am a SEP and a Faculty member for SE modality for healing trauma. I was born and raised in Tanzania where I lived till, I was 28 years old. In 1990, I began a journey, following my calling, which is to make our world a better home for all.  I joined a religious congregation called Maryknoll sisters of saint Dominick, a missionary group, not just for religious activities but mainly for a way to meet human needs across the planet earth. Thanks to Maryknoll community I was able to grow beyond my village, region, and country to meet a global community. I begun with my formation and integration to the Maryknoll community in New York where I studied Creation spirituality and feminist theology, as well as doing volunteer work with a drop in center for homeless people. Three years later, I opted to come to Brazil for the continuity of my cross-culture experience, in contributing in the creation of a better home for all 

On my arrival to Brazil, I was immediately introduced to my fourth language, Portuguese.  After three months of language study, I began to slowly work with the Brazilian people, especially with women on the periphery of the northeastern city of João Pessoa, in the state of Paraiba.  

In collaboration with other Maryknoll missionaries and with the local Brazilian people, I developed work that supported women who were living on the periphery of the city, and needed help for their mental health and trauma healing from living in the extreme poverty, domestic and urban violence. As I engaged in this work, I also felt a necessity for creating a physical space where these women could go for a deeper healing, and especially for those who suffered from severe symptoms like: depression, panic attacks, chronic pain and repetitive rage and explosive behaviors.   

Together with my fellow Maryknoll Sister, Connie Pospisil, and other Brazilian colleagues, I co-created a Holistic Healing Organization for Women in 1998. This organization was formally recognized by the local government as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) on International Women's Day, March 8 of the year 2000. We named this organization “Afya – Women’s Holistic Healing Center”.  

Assuming a leadership position in this organization, I helped to develop a variety of therapies and activities for women to find support and healing for themselves.  We began using organic gardening and developed protocols for using herbal medicines for healing. We taught the women from the community different kinds of massage therapy, reflexology, Reiki, ear coning (waxing) and mud therapy. We also gave orientation on how to plan a healthy diet which contributes a great deal to overall health. For those who were suffering with emotional problems, I had to search for other means of healing.  

As I began to work with women, I witnessed the trauma that so many had endured and the effect it had on their health. At first, we used a method of discussing mental health, which employed the technique of sharing stories about their suffering and pain from trauma in the context of a support group. In this work, I noticed that some of the women with depression and high levels of anxiety got worse just by telling their stories of trauma.   

    Then I began to search for ways that I could help them to find resolution for their trauma symptoms. Fortunately, a friend of mine who was one of the psychologists, and that she  did volunteer work at Afya, knew about the SE training that was happening in another city of Brazil. She gave me a brochure, that was prepared by Sonia Gomes, one of the first Faculty members in Brazil.  As soon as  I read it, I was compelled to go for the SE training, and deep in my heart, I felt this method of healing trauma was an answer for my search  

After the beginning level of the training, I came back to my city, experiencing intense joy, well-being in my body, and enthusiasm to do everything as I never did before. I felt like I was even more in touch with myself and affirmed of the project of trauma healing that I had been doing. I began to attend the women from the community daily using SE. I attended up to fifteen women per week, and all of them had positive results.  These women went back to their homes healed of the many physical  symptoms that they were experiencing, and with new awareness about their situations of violence and extreme poverty.  Then they came back to Afya with their children who were involved with drugs, and their husbands who were constantly drunk and violent, asking us if they could also receive help from the Women healing center.  Even though the center was meant for women only at that time, we had to accept their family members, who are part of their systems. 

I moved through the training fairly quick, and today I have been teaching SE not only in Brazil but in many parts of the world. 

Multiple International Experiences with Trauma healing 

My experience of working with SE internationally, outside of Brazil, began with my first trip to Haiti, which took place one year after the devastating 2010 earthquake. I was invited by a fellow Maryknoll Missioner, Fr. Dennis Moorman, a co-missioner and friend. He had gone to Haiti with a medical team right after the earthquake. Overwhelmed by the situation of trauma that he encountered there, he immediately thought of Somatic Experiencing and the positive results it had for resolving trauma.  

In order to provide relief to those he had met in Haiti, he invited me to return with him and the team, so that we could offer trauma healing training to those coping with the impact of the earthquake. The people there were suffering from nightmares, frequent dizziness, headaches, extreme fears, heart arrhythmia, frequent bodily pains, rampant explosions of anger and violence, and difficulties in learning and concentration among school-aged children. These symptoms could not be explained by a doctor's diagnosis.  

As a result of these five-day training modules, which also allowed for one or two personal sessions, many shared their stories of how they felt relieved from the pain and anxiety they had been experiencing since the earthquake. They were also able to sleep better at night and experience the life movement in their whole being. In addition, they were able to learn to manage their anger and the constant activation that created an extreme sense of fear in their bodies. They found that they had diminishing outbursts of anger, which led to experiencing a greater sense of peacefulness in their lives. Also, they noticed that they had more energy for life and were becoming aware of the addictive behaviors of alcohol and cigarette use. Some said that just understanding what was going on in their bodies was a great relief.  We continued this work in Haiti returning each year for the next 4 years and saw a lot of  positive outcomes.    

In 2013 we were invited to South Korea to work with Union workers, many of whom had experienced traumatic events that occurred during the 1980s. Most of these individuals had lived through violence from the military police and had even experienced torture committed against them for organizing themselves and protesting for their rights as workers.  Since that time, these people had been presenting symptoms of nightmares, alcoholism, depression, frequent anger outbursts, constant fatigue, chronic pain, and a high number of suicides. Over the past eight years, we have worked with this population throughout Korea and many people have reported a significant decrease in these symptoms of trauma and an increased quality of life.   

Over the past fifteen years, my work in trauma healing, such as: shock trauma, trans-generational trauma, emotional/developmental, Systemic, collective, and social traumas have extended from northeastern Brazil to other regions of Brazil as well as to other countries, including: USA, Bolivia, China, Tanzania, Egypt, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.