When I was a student at Gordon College, I attended church in Beverly Farms, near another liberal arts institution, Endicott College. A beautiful, artistic, Brazilian poet from Endicott also attended church there and we hit it off like Anne-and-Diana-style Kindred Spirits. I remember horsing around with Jana at church retreats and attending poetry readings, musical performances, and more together. When she graduated, I got to meet her family from Brazil and celebrate her milestone with an American Idol themed Karaoke party. I promise to come back and insert a picture of the two of us when I am able to locate my college album!
As we moved on in life, we stayed in touch occasionally through email, and then two years ago my globe-trotting friend was back in New England and made a special visit up to Maine. While she was here, she received her acceptance to her Ph.D. program in Neuroscience at the University of Sydney, and she also had a promising Skype meeting about a non-profit she had begun in Liberia called Second Chance Africa. It was an honor to share these mountain-top moments with her!
Years ago, Jana had embarked on a back-packing adventure that brought her through Africa and face-to-face with lives torn apart by the trauma of war. She was moved with compassion, so she stayed in a refugee camp and helped, and recognized that little was being done to address trauma. She began Second Chance Africa in 2008 and has operated on a shoe-string budget through crowd-sourcing, offering therapy to over 7,000. And now she has developed an innovative therapy app that will extend her life-changing therapy groups to thousands and hopefully millions in the near future. Jana is calling this the Sankofa Project, after the sankofa bird that walks forward while looking back over its shoulder, representing the importance of reflecting on the past in order to move ahead into the future.
Watch this short video for a quick description of the Sankofa Project:
I’ve had the great honor of joining the Second Chance Africa board as the Secretary and state-side rep to assist with banking needs and receive mailings. Last week, I met Jana at the airport and we accomplished tasks big and small (banking, printing, laundry, etc.) in a matter of hours before she flew to Liberia to launch her app with trauma therapy groups. She is relying on crowd-funding once again to make this project successful. Donations can be made here. This is an opportunity where even a small donation can make a big impact, and I assure you that Jana and her team are motivated by tremendous love and a desire to change lives. Please share their mission with your friends and family!
On her website, there are moving testimonials from people who have already been treated through Jana’s organization, Second Chance Africa. Here are just a few:
“I really wanted to write you in the second week that you left, but I really wanted to see if the transformation that took place my life was something real or magical. I am convinced that it was something real that took place in my life. I want to be grateful to God who directed you in Ghana to the Liberian Refugee. I am grateful that I ever met you. There’s no more nightmares, bad dreams running every night for safety. I can see myself as somebody still useful in life. I believed that there is hope for the future me. I know that with your traumatic therapy treatment you can heal anybody who have been living with trauma for twenty to fifty years. I am saying this because of what took place in my life. I have been living with trauma for the past sixteen years and for you to make me overcome my trauma in less than a month it is something I can’t still believe. However, I am bit sad because there are many Liberians who are going back home still traumatized. UNHCR have been doing well for REFUGEE all over the world but we need more trauma counselors to help these people going back home. Many Liberians do not want to go back home but they do not have any choice. For now there is no more resettlement program for Liberians refugee by UNHCR, therefore they have go back home. It is my prayer that you will be able to get help from other people”. – S.G.
“While at the Monrovia Central Prison, an organization by the name of Second Chance visited the prison and we were helped by the means of their training, such as exercises, counseling and lectures. I personally benefited, there were exercises we were introduced to that when you are down or depressed, it helped you lift your spirit. It helped me many days to relax and have a good night rest despite my problems at the prison. It made me at times to even think that there was a second chance in my life. And I will like to encourage them to keep up the good works, because it made people feel important, that whatever problems in their lives is not the end of their lives. May the good God bless their effort and keep them strong”. M.R.
“She guided through the trauma healing and from that healing today I am able to recover, I came to myself, I came to my senses. I really feel good that now I am a human being, and I am safe, I feel fine in my body” – F.D.
To Jana’s great delight, her friend Bono has been wearing a yellow Sankofa Project bracelet and plugging Jana’s work on U2’s 2017 Joshua Tree Tour! Here is a picture of him wearing the yellow Sankofa Project bracelet. When it is available, I will update with a link to purchase your own. For only $10, you will receive a pack of 10 bracelets and sponsor a full trauma relief program in a post-war region in Africa, for a group of 10 participants during our field implementation phase in 2017-2018.
To read more about Jana’s work through Second Chance Africa and The Sankofa Project, please visit http://secondchanceafrica.org/sankofa/. And again, please consider giving to her work here and sharing this project with your friends and family. Thank you!
P.S. In addition to her amazing, loving work for trauma victims, my friend is also a brilliant artist. Check out this painting she showed in a RAW Sydney exhibit last year!In the RAW Sydney post describing her art, they said,
Jana’s work arises from the need to give a voice to her thoughts and ideas that may speak louder through silent speech. Her paintings are not meant to be pleasant to the eye nor serve as a decor piece. Her colours are bold and aggressive. Her aim is to create discomfort and challenge one’s misconceptions about themselves and the world. She is a self-taught artist, and a PhD student specialising in post-traumatic stress. The stories she has heard and the violence she has seen while traveling, working and living in war impacted countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia deeply affects her artwork imagery and aesthetics of advocacy.