Ilya Yacevich Transforms Trauma Victims from Survivor to Healer

Ilya is creating the new standard to decrease the effects of trauma and PTSD, while increasing peaceful conflict resolution in the world's most war-torn countries.

How do you dramatically decrease PTSD symptoms while increasing peaceful conflict resolution in one of the world’s most war-torn countries? Ilya Yacevich’s Global Trauma Proje

Ilya Yacevich transforms victims of trauma into caregivers. Across East Africa, her Global Trauma Project (GTP) provides capacity building to individuals in low-income and conflict-affected communities where mental health facilities are non-existent.

Her primary goal is to reduce the detrimental impacts of trauma and stress so that families, women and children can reach their full potential. Ilya empowers locals, often trauma victims themselves, to be mental health providers who support fellow community members as part of a collective healing process.

Ilya Yacevich

Ashoka Fellow since May 2015

Interested community leaders participate in weeks-long workshops where a key component of the learnings is how to move individuals from relying on their “lizard brain”--or survival instincts--to more rational thinking. During these workshops, Ilya applies localized, culturally informed programming rather than Western methodologies for more successful and sustainable outcomes.

The resulting Trauma Informed Community Empowerment (TICE) framework is at the heart of GTP’s work. It aims to reduce familial and community violence while increasing communities’ capacities to engage in meaningful dialogue, peace building and developmental activities. Its largest project to date was in partnership with UNDP in South Sudan where several weeks of TICE training was carried out across the country.

In an innovative partnership with the New School for Social Research’s Trauma and Affective Psychopysiology Lab, GTP measures physiological changes that are not susceptible to biases of self-report. TICE participants demonstrated a 64% decrease in symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress (USA Gold Star standard is 15%), significantly decreased emotional dysregulation (which can lead to violence or lack of hope and motivation), and reduced critical heart stress by 15% (USA Gold Star standard is 2-3%.)

As conflict continues to thrive around the world, Ilya persists believing the way to achieve peace-building and conflict transformation is by breaking cycles. “When we are hurt or victimized, we also tend to hurt others. In this way, cycles of victimization and aggression are perpetuated in a vicious cycle. Unless we can interrupt this cycle, cycles of violence and abuse will continue.”

[Ilya] soon found out that her skills would play a critical role in a global dialogue, shifting mental health care from solely direct services to a more holistic, systems change approach. - Forbes