The Life Reclamation Project

It is exactly one month today since the second Christchurch earthquake. Thinking of you Canterbury.

“We at the Life Reclamation Project (LRP) believe that if we continue to leave trauma unhealed in our community, survivors will continue in their attempts to manage their distress through unhealthy methods. Not only does this directly affect their immediate family, extended family and their community, it will have a direct effect on the health, welfare and justice systems in Aotearoa New Zealand and other world communities. This proposal is designed to directly address the core issues and eliminate the person’s desperate need to gain help through acting out in unhealthy ways, whilst giving them the internal skills and tools necessary to move on through life in a resourced and self-sustaining way, which will also benefit their family and wider community.” Odette Hoffmann (Registered with the Psychotherapists’ Board of Aotearoa New Zealand and a Member of the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists.)

My friend, Odette, has been working with the idea of some sort of bulk-funded easily accessible therapy service for over a year. It began when the NZ government in their wisdom  (sarcasm intended) cut a readily available source of funding for access to therapy for the adult victims of sexual abuse. At that time we talked about accessing government funding through the local health authorities etc, but with a world-wide recession in progress, that was not to be.

Odette was raised in Christchurch and her mother still lives there. The recent earthquakes (along with the Queensland floods and then the Japanese multi-disaster situation) made her more determined than ever to try to set up some sort of organisation that could help people heal their trauma. Along with her friend, Claudette (also a psychotherapist), she is developing The Life Reclamation Project.  This will be a charitable trust, which eventually will be accessible and recognisable world-wide.

I’m taking on the role of chief nagger and prodder, which means I have to have coffee meetings with Odette every fortnight (Hey, someone’s got to do it!). During these discussions our mutual passion for healing all childhood trauma has become a main topic of discussion. At our last meeting we were discussing the comparisons between earthquake survivors who are emotionally falling-apart now, and those who appear to be stoic. Unfortunately, many people in the ex-colonies have a strong sense of stoicism – and many are proud of their ability to ‘suck-it-up’ when things go wrong. Stoicism, like it’s best friend perfectionism, is not healthy. So while the people who are falling apart emotionally at the moment seem not to be managing, they at least are processing what has happened to them. Those who are being brave and not causing a fuss are going to have long term problems. The human body and brain are resilient, but only to a point – then things start to go wrong in one way or another.

This being the case, I’m sure most of us in the western world, particularly in the post-English-colony world, can identify some amount of stoicism in our personality. It is a not-so-useful gift from our ancestors, passed down through the message: “do not show any emotion under stress”. Many of those who left the old world, did have to just get on with life in order to survive, they often didn’t have other family members, or even neighbours in the earliest days, to help out. Stoicism was possibly their survival strategy. It doesn’t have to be ours.

So, I guess my message is this: unless someone in our past has wildly broken away from the parenting they received themselves, chances are many of us, too, could benefit from the services of a trust like The Life Reclamation Project. While it begins as a project to help those who have survived disaster (it’s meant for people who’ve experienced any type of trauma, whether natural, developmental or at the hands of someone else) I, for one, hopes it will grow into the organisation that Odette and Claudette envisage. One that circles the world and helps to heal all childhood trauma.

Watch this space for progress reports.


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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22 Responses to The Life Reclamation Project

  1. hakea says:

    My mum went through the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in February 2009.

    She says that the emotional scars are still evident in the community, but the biggest hurdle for many who survived was survivor guilt.

    • Were they two years ago – crikey it seems like yesterday.
      Those fires were horrendous and the stories people told about them, incredible. I imagine anyone who has been through something traumatic like that and survived, when others haven’t, would find it difficult to answer that ‘why’. I hope your Mum has found some sense of peace with it all.

  2. Li-ling says:

    What a fantastic idea! I’ve friends who are psychologists who would be interested I’ll pass along your message and if I/we can do anything to help (we design websites and learning environments for a living) let me know. You’re welcome to PM me.

  3. adhdwith3 says:

    What a great project and good for you in supporting your friend to do it. I’ve never heard thought of stoicism in that way. Unfortunately, I think men deal with it more because they have been taught to “suck it” up and be strong for everyone else.

    That’s why so many can’t deal with the wars they’ve fought in

    • I agree, I think stocism is a huge problem for many men. I cringe when I see small boys being told not to make a fuss when they are hurt or sad. It amazes me how many men have not ever talked about their experience of war, how awful to have all that churning inside and trying to wrestle it into submission, rather than process it. There has to be a better way, surely.

  4. Elena says:

    I admire your dedication. It’s wonderful that you aren’t fooled by people’s exteriors as they try to put on a brave face, but you remember that there are feelings in there. My parents and grandparents are very stoic and I know that it’s all bottled up in there somewhere.

    • Hi Elena,
      Bottled-up emotions are a problem for many people of previous generations. I’d like to think we’re moving forward from generation to generation to a greater acceptance and understanding of the role our emotions play, but sometimes I look around me and wonder…

  5. Laura Weldon says:

    You and I have been stomping down the same path recently. Resolving trauma, particularly the body basis of trauma, for personal and planetary healing is a fascination I developed years ago as I learned about heart coherence and alternative therapies such as EFT and EMDR. I just finished reading an amazing book, “In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness” Peter A. Levine Ph.D. and hope to get a copy of “Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society” by Bessel A. van der Kolk MD.

    Long ago I worked in several positions with abused children and their families, as well as in support groups for adult abuse survivors. The entrenched misery drove me to find more positive work, which I did by teaching non-violence. I’m all about the power of positive efforts that go beyond talk therapy to recognize the impact of body, spirit, and the larger networks of family and community.

    • I’ll have to have a look at those books, Laura. I’m new to the trauma side of things, but am fascinated with the whole idea of a LRP especially with how it could relate to the parenting we receive. And I agree, unless we work in a holistic way we are unlikely to really break any cycles or truly reach people at their core. Keep stomping…it’s all good! 🙂

  6. MamaWerewolf says:

    What a great project. I’ve spent a lot of time in dialogue with colleagues about how to give children (especially boys) the tools to process their emotions in early childhood – when they are typically in the safest environment to do so – so that when adult traumas happen they at least have some tools to rely on. I’m very interested to hear more updates.

  7. Hi Mama Werewolf,
    I think it’s a great project too. It certainly seems to be needed and I love the idea of it being international. With regards to boys processing their emotions – my post ‘Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing’ has a great strategy I picked up from Kiwi family therapist, Diane Levy. I am also working on a post about teaching children about the difference between violence and anger. I agree, there are many children particularly boys who could do with learning some effective tools while they’re young. I will certainly keep you up to date with the LRP.

  8. this is lovely. they say we write love letters, do services, give gifts not because of what it will do for others as much as it will do for ourselves. I hope with you that this explodes for all of our sakes! keep on!

  9. Call me a freak but I notice when regular bloggers/peeps aren’t around for a spell. Are things OK?

    • Hello there Allycat,
      Yes,I’m fine, thanks for asking. 🙂
      I have been trying to get a bit more of a daily pattern of busy times and still times sorted and my body has taken over in the most peculiar way! Will be back early next week to write about it and to catch up on everyone elses’ news. Look forward to seeing what you’ve been doing. 🙂 And thanks again, always nice to know I’ve been missed. 😉

  10. Intend to be back in a day or two…thanks for stopping by anyway. 🙂

  11. Hello a bizzare twist of fate lead me to your blog. My work is called Life Reclamation and as such I may have something of use to yourself.

    Kind regards
    now at

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