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Pictured: Dr. Bill McKinney, Executive Director of NKCDC at a demonstration in Kensington, protesting against the closure of Somerset station. Photo: Nigel Thompson, AL DÍA News
Pictured: Dr. Bill McKinney, Executive Director of NKCDC at a demonstration in Kensington, protesting against the closure of Somerset station. Photo: Nigel Thompson, AL DÍA News

Kensington community organizers release a guide for trauma-informed community engagement

“Community-led trauma informed work should be the new norm.”

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The most recent work of community members in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia has been years in the making. 

Two Kensington-based community development organizations, Impact Services, New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), and Philadelphia LISC and have launched a new online resource for “trauma informed community engagement.” 

Leaders want it to improve the effectiveness of community-based work in neighborhoods that experience high levels of modern and historical trauma. 

“Connected Community, a Trauma Informed Community Engagement Curriculum” took three years to come to fruition, through a collaboration between Impact and NKCDC. 

They say it took collaboration with Kensington residents, through workshops, meetings, and listening to feedback that ultimately shaped the curriculum that is now available to all. 

For decades, Kensington has suffered high rates of poverty, disinvestment, crime and violence. Curriculum developers said that this level of community trauma has produced high rates of “toxic stress” and low rates of “collective efficacy.” 

“Success will be long lasting if a paradigm shift occurs that centers community members as the leaders in weaving trauma-informed care into as many efforts as possible within the community,” said Dr. Bill McKinney, Executive Director of NKCDC.

He added that “community-led trauma informed work should be the new norm.”

Throughout the process, NKCDC and Impact services say they also spoke to as many groups putting together similar initiatives. 

From local entities like HopeWorks, 11th Street Health Clinic, The School District of Philadelphia, Jefferson Counseling School, The Wooden Boat Factory, Saint A, Pottstown, Esperanza Health, United Way, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Violence Intervention Program, the Network of Neighbors, and even Dr. Robert Macy from the International Trauma Center in Boston, and organizers in Pittsburgh.  

There are three goals of this project, curriculum developers wrote: “To educate community members on the prevalence and impact of trauma, to equip them with trauma informed skills, and to ready them to teach the curriculum to others.”

The curriculum contains five modules, each consisting of multiple workshops: Orientation and Welcome, Introduction to Stress, The S.E.L.F. Framework on Safety and Emotions, on Loss and Future, and leadership. 

The curriculum uses a “teacher-to-teacher” approach, as it also teaches users how to use the guide itself.

AL DÍA asked an NKCDC spokesperson if they have hopes that the curriculum will be used outside of the Kensington neighborhood, and outside of Philadelphia, to which they replied, “absolutely.”

“We wanted to share the work because we saw how important it was to the community members who went through the curriculum,” said Zoë Van Orsdol, Co-Director of Community Development at Impact. “They told us how much the work meant to them and the effect that it had on their lives, which galvanized our belief that it should be accessible to anyone who was interested.”

“Connected Community: A Trauma Informed Community Engagement Toolkit” is free and accessible at traumainformedcommunity.org

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