Community-based social healing approaches in South Africa: a case study of the Institute for Healing of Memories
In this study, the researcher aim is to examine the approach to social healing used by the Institute for Healing of Memories (IHOM). The focus is to explore how the approach has been employed within the community to enhance social transformation and healing. This study comes from a most recent field of social healing which explores the ways of dealing with social ills that are caused by conflict and collective trauma. In South Africa, the majority of the population were oppressed under the apartheid regime for a period that lasted from 1948 to 1994. As a way of dealing with the ordeal after the abolition of apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was formulated. This created a space for both the perpetrator and the survivor of apartheid atrocities to have public hearings. Although the TRC contributed in laying the foundation for South Africa’s social transformation, it could not meet the population demand. To date individuals and communities in South Africa are struggling to triumph over their past experiences. IHOM is an organisation that has embarked on community healing programmes and has identified the healing needs of the communities in the Western Cape but on a small-scale, at grassroots level. The research design took the form of a case study of IHOM. A qualitative approach to the study was followed to examine the IHOM approach to social healing and the interpretation of the findings would be useful in enhancing the IHOM’s programme. In-depth interviews were used to gather data where IHOM’s facilitators and participants were interviewed. The research found out that IHOM approach is a combination of several methods including spiritual, emotional and psychological methods and that storytelling is the core feature of the approach of IHOM. The results of the research show that the approach caters for the needs of individuals who had suffered emotionally and psychologically due to exposure to traumatic conditions caused by human rights violations. With an exploration into personal narratives, participants experienced emotional relief. Therefore at the Institute for Healing of Memories making sense of one’s suffering through empathising with another is the core finding: making sense of suffering together creates an individual inner awareness of healing strength. Own feelings plus experiences become clearer. Thus the study found that there is a correlation between narrating and healing. Listening and sharing creates sentiments of connection and commonality. Also creates the possibility of empathy and in the process something happens in the spirit and a sense of transcendence emerges. These processes prepare the ground for forgiveness and reconciliation between diverse populations, races, cultures and religions.