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New Richmond family helping trauma victims in Iraq

Tents spread out into the horizon at a refugee camp near Duhok, Iraq, where Tutapona is based. Being close to the camps allows the organization to provide trauma counseling as soon as possible to those who need it. Submitted photo courtesy of Helen Manson.1 / 4
The streets of Mosul, Iraq were destroyed by ISIS and other attacks. Tutapona is based within miles of the city to help those who suffered during these attacks. Submitted photo courtesy of Helen Manson.2 / 4
Tents spread out into the horizon at a refugee camp near Duhok, Iraq, where Tutapona is based. Being close to the camps allows the organization to provide trauma counseling as soon as possible to those who need it. Submitted photo courtesy of Helen Manson.3 / 4
Women take part in group trauma counseling with Tutapona in Duhok, Iraq. Tutapona was founded by New Richmond couple Carl and Julie Gaede to heal those who have experienced trauma. Submitted photo courtesy of Helen Manson.4 / 4

Forced into marriages and slavery, taken as prizes of war, many women in the Middle East have experienced brutal treatment at the hands of ISIS. A New Richmond couple is doing what they can to help them heal.

Carl and Julie Gaede founded Tutapona, a trauma counseling organization, in 2008 in Uganda after hearing about the atrocities occurring there during the war.

"We just really felt like we needed to get involved and do something," Carl said.

So Carl and Julie moved their family, including their two daughters, to Uganda to provide immediate counseling to those dealing with trauma. After a few initial visits, the Gaedes were able to make partnerships with local communities to develop their organization.

"It was just amazing to see God open the doors," Carl said.

Their role quickly went from providing counseling, to training local staff on the techniques. Thanks to that focus, the organization began running smoothly with less and less oversight, allowing the Gaedes to expand their focus to an area of great need — the Middle East.

"It was quite apparent that there was massive needs there," Carl said.

With continuous attacks by ISIS causing destruction and displacing thousands, Carl said they felt called to expand into Iraq.

"We really need to go to where that is taking place," he said.

The organization is based in Duhok, Iraq, near Mosul, where many military operations have taken place and is the former home of many refugees. There, the Gaedes are close to the refugee camps, more than 20 in the area. Most camps are at capacity, holding up to 20,000, and just as many live just outside the camps in makeshift tents.

"They would like to go back home when it's safe but it's just not safe," Carl said.

Members of the camps, both official and otherwise, are fleeing the destruction in the wake of ISIS — their homes destroyed, villages taken over and families killed.

One group the organization has worked with extensively in Iraq is the Yazidi, an ethnic and religious minority in Iraq specifically targeted by ISIS. Yazidi men were killed and many women were taken as captives. These women were often sold multiple times and experienced multiple sexual assaults.

"ISIS was really brutal in their attempt at genocide," Carl said.

Those who survived and made it back home struggled with shame and trauma, Carl said.

"That's why our program is so important," he said.

The Gaedes work in refugee camps so they can help people as soon as possible. Though people may initially be reserved, Tutapona has already developed a reputation for success, and now has waiting lists.

"People hear about it and they want to come," Carl said.

Counseling at Tutapona is focused on group work, following a two-week process. The program is designed to connect with survivors as soon as possible after the trauma, helping them process what they have experienced before it can do further harm.

"It's an early intervention program that really helps to prevent trauma from taking root in a person's life," Carl said.

The goal is to help those who have suffered grow through their trauma.

"In essence to help them move beyond what they ever would have been had this trauma not happened," Carl said.

Tests are given before and after the counseling, and Carl said participants have seen signification reductions in signs and symptoms of post traumatic stress.

"The results have been amazing," he said.

For the Gaedes, their faith is what drives them to serve others, but their organization is first and foremost a humanitarian one.

"We serve everybody," Carl said.

As Tutapona continues to serve those in need of counseling in both Uganda and Iraq, Carl said there is always the possibility of further expansion.

"I can't do much to stop the wars from happening, I wish I could," he said. "I wish there was not a need for our services, but as long as there are wars and conflicts then I would like for Tutapona to be involved in healing and restoration to those people who have suffered."

To support Tutapona, Carl said people can donate at its website at www.tutapona.com/, and pray for their work.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

(715) 426-1066
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