Participating in the Trauma Healing and Reconciliation in Divided Communities course, as part of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc.’s Annual Peacebuilding Training in 2015, was a great experience for Debbie Satentes-Dasang, a Guidance and Counseling Director at Southern Christian College (SCC), Midsayap, Mindanao. The topic that influenced Debbie the most was “Prejudice Bias on Social Dimensions of Education.” She learned how to become a tolerant person in different contexts.
Dimensions of education are actually part of the curriculum in SCC, an institution where Debbie also lectures. The trauma healing course enhanced her knowledge and contributed greatly to her performance as an academician, counselor and postgraduate student. During the time she was with MPI, she was also fulfilling her last academic requirements in her graduate studies prior to her thesis writing. As such, she was able to use the course material—methodology, concept, and strategies—as reference sources for her lectures and her thesis.
As a counselor, she firmly upholds the principles of neutrality and impartiality. Finding the best solution without offending any parties is an important value in her work. Many students rely on her trustworthiness and advice. Debbie prioritizes her time so she can be a good listener during their emotional sharing even if it disrupts her schedule. Feeling discriminated against in society and family issues that interfere with academic performance are the frequent problems of students with whom she deals every day. Every time the students thank her and express relief, she feels contented and satisfied. Helping students to regain their confidence and passion to finish their studies is a meaningful achievement in her life.
Debbie serves as a resource speaker in several projects: Summer Institute for Peace and Development Motivators (SIPDM), Cotabato of Interfaith Leaders Association (CIFLA), Stress Debriefing for Women, and a parenting seminar in Local Government Units (LGUs). SIPDM is a program of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Extension (OVPRE) of SCC, which was started in 2000. It aims to provide a venue for building solidarity among tri-people youth (Bangsamoro, Indigenous People and Migrant-people from outside Mindanao) through fostering a culture of dialogue, healing, reconciliation and transformation.
Debbie facilitates trauma healing sessions primarily through developing skills on and knowledge about Appreciative Inquiry (AI), teenage relationships, and reproductive health. She has facilitated several Focus Group Discussions (FGD) for CIFLA to promote interfaith understanding between the leaders of Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, and Langkat (Indigenous People’s religion) traditions. Facilitating interfaith communication requires her to be more respectful about other faiths and their worship rituals.
In 2016, in partnership with a church, she conducted the Stress Debriefing for Women. The women were arrested and detained over a land conflict between farmers and the government in Arakan, Cotabato, in Central Mindanao. The conflict was triggered by the scarcity of rice during the El-Niño in Mindanao. The sessions were very emotional and tearful, but she had to be sure to maintain her professional integrity, competence and responsibility.
Adjusting to multitasking is one of her greatest challenges. Yet, learning much from the variety of experiences has enabled her to overcome this. She enjoys her activities very much. On top of all this, Debbie is excited to be welcoming her beloved baby in a couple of months.
Debbie believes MPI has a great impact on peacebuilders, especially those who try to build peace in the midst of the complexity of the conflict in Mindanao. She encourages peacebuilders to “keep burning the fire” of promoting peace and to nurture peace within ourselves, for we cannot find peace anywhere if we do not have peace within us.