Our Stories

A trauma-informed school in South Africa

Students who attend Christel House South Africa (CHSA) come from some of the most vulnerable communities in Cape Town – areas notorious for crime, gang violence, substance abuse and unemployment. It affects students in a multitude of ways and often leads to deep-seated trauma. Christel House provides life-changing support for our students.

It is widely believed that children who have had more than a handful of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) suffer from trauma and struggle to thrive. ACE’s are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood and negatively impact the child’s life and education. In adulthood, the person may experience issues like chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance abuse. Receiving love, understanding as a child, and having the ability to trust someone, like a teacher or counselor could mitigate the effects of trauma. “As a trauma-informed school, our teachers and staff acknowledge the multidimensional nature of trauma – and commit to meeting our children with care,” says Danielle Kinshella, CHSA Junior School Counselor.  She explains that poverty causes emotional and social challenges, health and safety issues, and acute and chronic stressors in children. “Our social services department includes nurses, social workers and counselors who work with our teachers to help students overcome issues such as stress, anxiety, and trauma.” The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), an independent research agency conducted interviews with CHSA students and alumni in August 2020. They found that students appreciate the “warm and positive institutional culture” and alumni believed that “without interventions from counselors and social workers at Christel House, they would not have been able to overcome traumatic circumstances at home and successfully navigate their schooling and professional careers.” Research has proven that children who experience poverty and have undergone severe trauma are not likely to excel. Yet, Christel House students continue to break the mold. “We believe that this is a direct result of our holistic model, our trauma-informed practices and the remarkable resilience shown by our students.”

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