It was Sonya’s and my pleasure to host 3 professional counsellor volunteers hailing from Calgary and Cochrane, Alberta, Canada for a 2-week posting to deliver trauma-informed care training to the iHub Africa Leadership Team, Students and Coaches in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.

This HFI posting came about through Jordan Bell, a member of the HFI Board, taking the initiative to deliver in-person training following a period of engaging with the iHub leadership remotely since September 2020. Together with her colleagues Robin McColl and Debbie Will, they curated training curriculum from multiple trauma-informed counselling sources as well as content they have delivered as part of their professional practices.  It was then tailored to meet the specific needs of the iHub leadership, program facilitators, coaches and students; and packaged on a Learning Management System (LMS) online platform which provided a self-study resource to lay a foundation of Trauma-informed understanding for all participants ahead of the in-person sessions delivered while onsite.

A key premise to the need of this training is rooted in understanding the personal journeys and backgrounds many of our iHub students bring with them into the classroom and thereby its impact to their ability to learn, thrive and successfully graduate from the intensive, 10-month program.  Our students – like the 43 who are a part of the 2023 cohort seen below, arrive into our program with a complex set of challenges, often brought on through generational trauma, poverty, and living conditions they go home to that form the confluence of life experience and which compete against their success.

The Trauma-informed Care Training (or TCT for short) helped participants understand better practices and approaches that promote a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. How we as iHub leaders can improve the design and delivery of our program; and how facilitators, coaches and other support personnel respond to students who are walking through trauma, can help reframe the student’s perspective, pull out their strengths, cultivate trust and relationship and help them attain new levels of resiliency.  As we learned from Jordan, Robin and Debbie – It’s all about providing an atmosphere of SAFETY.

To help our three volunteers gain Insights into the South Africa’s struggle for democracy, as well as a provide a background to some of the learning challenges brought on through generational trauma, poverty, and home living conditions already mentioned, we took them on two tours, one through the oldest township in Cape Town, called “Langa” (see photo collage above) and then the township of Soweto outside of Johannesburg where they were able to take in the Hector Pieterson Museum and walk through Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s home (see photo collage below).

Both these tours helped the ladies better appreciate the expectations of iHub student’s parents to be “the one” in their family who will break out of the cycle of poverty and overcome the lack of opportunities South African society currently provides for a better life for its young adults.

The majority of the training was delivered onsite at the iHub in the Media Mill complex in Johannesburg, seen below.

TCT curriculum delivered by the three volunteers included learning about these topics:

  • Boundaries – instilling healthy boundaries and implications of boundary injuries and unhealthy limits experienced by students;
  • Understanding Trauma – it effects on the brain and nervous system and the resultant impact to learning; recognizing types of trauma responses and how to facilitate healing through reframing and self-regulation;
  • Building a deeper understanding of Addiction and the differences between Anxiety, PTSD and Depression plus the contribution of genetics attachment and Stress that becomes toxic; and
  • Building the Relationship with students through creating places of safety, becoming an active and empathetic listener and tools to help process emotions; to make use of resources that help us all be more mindful in every situation we encounter people around us walking through trauma.

Jordan Bell acted as TCT team lead, seen below and brought her seasoned, endearing and competent approach into every training session.

The three groups of attendees to the training sessions were the iHub Core Leadership:

  • Sibusiso (Sbu) Ncala, Managing Director
  • Liz Skosana, Program Director
  • Thendo Netsinada, iHub Manager
  • Training Facilitator Interns (Chiko, Siphiwe, Thando and Nthabi)

…. seen in the photo collage below

Followed by an online remote evening session to Professional Coaches (local- and internationally-based) who are paired up with 1 or 2 students and provide biweekly coach-mentoring sessions to our students (17 of the 30+ coach community attended the online Zoom training session shown below)

And finally a selected set of 15 student representatives who had already displayed strong leadership qualities during Phase One of the iHub program and were invited to take in a TCT session tailored just for them.  You can see by their engagement and smiles in the photo collage below how much they learned from and enjoyed the training day.

Another aspect to the posting was for the ladies to meet up with some iHub Graduate Alumni who have been successful in pursuing their digital marketing careers as full-time employees for the last 1-3 years with our longest standing Placement Partner – Comarketers.  The picture below was taken following a luncheon session alumni meet-up at Comarketers offices located in the central business district of Cape Town.  iHub team members Drew and Brandon who give oversight to our student alumni were also present.

My # 1 learning (of which there were many!) from participating in the TCT sessions was what they taught us about the “Relationship Pyramid” (left) – an illustration they drew on whiteboards several times during the training as they unpacked concepts and applied them as part of our “tool-kit” to help students. The model reinforced for me the need to create a place of safety as the foundation of all my relationships in order to attain healthy and deep connections with people.


No trip to the Cape Peninsula is complete without taking in some of the iconic places Cape Town is famous for: Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain and the Waterfront, Boulders Beach Penguin colony and Franschhoek in wine country.  Following very successful delivery of the training program, we enjoyed a handful of days at the conclusion of the trip enjoying taking the ladies to some of our most favorite places we’ve come to enjoy during our last 10 years of living and serving here under HFI, captured in the photo collage below.

And to wrap up the trip we were pleased to be able to take the ladies to our most favorite private game reserve – Botlierskop where they enjoyed two safari game drives and a lovely 2-night stay at the lodge.  As you can see from the photos below, they were able to enjoy some close-up sightings of the “big five” and other wonderful animals in the bushveld this part of the world is famous for.

All I all it was an amazing time together with all three ladies going home positively impacted by all they saw and experienced and them leaving a huge investment that will bear much fruit for the iHub Program, it’s leadership and students for years to come!