Lemonade International Blog

The Long Lasting Effects of Childhood Trauma

La Limonada | Lemonade International
In her 2014 TEDMED talk, Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris sheds light on the effects of childhood trauma – something that is unfortunately all too common for the children who grow up in La Limonada. Burke Harris states that high doses of abuse, neglect, and trauma affect “brain development, the immune system, hormonal systems and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.”

She also shares a wonderful example of how our bodies were created to respond to trauma with life-saving physical flight or fight reactions. If you were hiking in the forest and came across a bear, your body would have an adrenal, stress response that could save your life. “But, what if the bear comes night after night?”

The physical damage done by ongoing childhood trauma is very real. Burke Harris points to holistic intervention as essential to address the physical responses.

Watch the full TedMed Talk here:

In Guatemala, we see the high rates of emotional, physical, and sexual violence against children and youth – and all the more in La Limonada, a large slum community governed by the local gang culture.

A few statistics from the UNICEF Hidden in Plain Sight Report show the kinds of trauma children are experiencing:

  • Highest homicide rates in the world among children and adolescents. In fact, homicide is the leading cause of death for boys ages 10 to 19.
  • One study showed about one in four adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 said they were beaten or physically mistreated before age 15.
  • 38 percent of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19, respectively, reported ever experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional violence at the hands of a husband or partner.

Knowing the high level of trauma children see as part of normal day-to-day life in La Limonada, and in light of the connections Dr. Burke makes in her TED talk, we are all the more compelled to provide holistic programs that seek the physical, spiritual, and emotional flourishing of the children living in La Limonada. Providing positive spaces for children to feel safe from violence and trauma is essential to their development and their future.

 – Katie Hoiland

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