Some children have done the unforgivable. Neighbors have devastated neighbors. But people have no choice – they have to live together.

How do communities with this much pain, this much history, find a way forward? What do you draw on when families have scattered, there are no NGOs, and the government can help little? When people have lived long-term in survival mode without the norms that hold people together; indeed, that’s all some children have ever known.

The answers remain to be discovered in each context, and in the lessons that show themselves during the slow rebuilding process. And yet, the literature gives us some clues. Some connections return immediately. Some need to be deliberately built or rebuilt, through experiences that give the opportunity to be trustworthy, to be interdependent, to take responsibility for each other, to make decisions together. From our perspective, much of this happens in the practical day-to-day, slowly building a new experience that can be trusted.

Many will need support in healing from trauma. Some will seek recognition and apology from those who did grievous harm. Ceremonies often contribute to drawing people back toward each other.

Collaboration Specialists has contributed to work reintegrating Liberian child soldiers after their return from refugee camp. We also worked in a community of nine tribes to form a network of women who, by modeling peaceful, interdependent coexistence, began to reweave the lost social fabric.


The garden – the aim was not just to produce crops and sell for profit, but the main aim was to train the women in how to work together. From the beginning, because of tribalism, some women said, ‘oh, I can’t work with this tribe of women, this other women’ and we told them, ‘yes, it is true … this is not about how strong you are, this is about how tolerant you can be.’

- Garmai Davies, Psychosocial Consortium of Liberia