Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

PART TWO: Tree of Life Narrative Approach

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

PART TWO: Tree of Life Narrative Approach

Article excerpt

The Tree of Life is an approach to working with children, young people and adults who have experienced hard times which was initially developed by Ncazelo Ncube and David Denborough (Ncube, 2006; Denborough, 2008) to assist colleagues who work with children affected by H1V/A1DS in southern Africa.

This approach is now being adapted and used with children, young people, and adults in a wide range of countries and contexts (see This approach enables children to speak about their lives in ways that make them stronger. It involves children drawing their own 'tree of life in which they get to speak of their 'roots' (where they come from), their skills and knowledges, their hopes and dreams, as well as the special people in their lives. The participants then join their trees into a 'forest of life and, in groups, discuss some of the 'storms' that affect their lives and ways that they respond to these storms, protect themselves and each other. The Tree of Life enables children to speak about their lives in ways that are not retraumatising, but instead strengthens their relationships with their own history, their culture, and significant people in their lives.

History of the Tree of Life narrative approach in India

in late 2012, Srishti Sardana, Louise Carmichael and Caresse Cranwell collaborated to deliver the Tree of Life to staffand children at Odanadi Seva Trust, in Mysore, Karnataka, who work to rescue trafficked and sexually exploited women and children. Srishti Sardana won a national academic award* for the research paper produced from this project. The feedback received from staffand children confirmed the applicability and adaptability of the Tree of Life narrative approach to Indian communities. Several of the women participants wanted to go on to study the process further so they could run the workshops themselves

Due to the success of this initial program, Miriam Samual at Madras Christian College Department of international Social Work in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, made it possible for the Tree of Life approach to be used within the India Community Welfare Organisation (1CWO).

Tree of Life with the children of sex workers in Vadapalanni, Chennai

Facilitated by Sathesh Kumar, Mashreeb Aryal, Louise Carmichael, and Caresse Cranwell

The India Community Welfare Organisation (1CWO) is auspice to the Indira Female Peer Educators Collective (1FPEC), which represents over 2,000 women sex workers in Tamil Nadu. Initial conversations with a group of the women representing 1FPEC identified that their main concern was that their children do not get trafficked into the same sex-work industry that they themselves were in. Many women in 1FPEC had been abducted by traffickers as children, or as young women, or forced by family into sex-slavery due to pressures from poverty. The women felt they had had no choice, but wanted to ensure that the same did not happen to their children.

Under the guidance of Mr Hariharan, Secretary of 1CWO, many of the women's children had recently been enrolled and were now attending school. How then could we build on the knowledge and resources that the women, children and community already had, to protect the children from sex trafficking? It was agreed to begin the journey with the Tree of Life process.

Training: learning from the inside

Twelve Social Work interns, from several Chennai Universities, were then trained in the Tree of Life approach to become facilitators. The training involved experiential learning. The interns participated in the Tree of Life process themselves before considering the narrative theory that informs the approach. This *learning from the inside is crucial in cross-cultural learning, for both trainer and participant.

We also used our time together:

* to adapt the Tree of Life activities for the Tamil culture and children:

* to research which Tamil games, songs and rituals would be appropriate to use as part of the process

* to practice facilitation. …

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