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Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on iactivism.org

re·sil·ience noun \ri-?zil-y?n(t)s\

: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

Resilience, it has become such a buzzword in all kinds of fields—economy, ecology, psychology, education, and many, many more. There is also, of course, the well-received book, “Resilience” by Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy. In their book, they say:

“If we cannot control the volatile tides of change, we can at least learn to build better boats. We can design—and redesign—organizations, institutions, and systems to better absorb disruption, operate under a wider variety of conditions, and shift more fluidly from one circumstance to the next.”

That same type of fluidity and ability to “absorb disruption” and bounce back is good at the individual, personal level. People can become stronger after disruption, but it normally takes preparation and the development of skills.

In general, the human being is very resilient. We survive in the most difficult conditions. But just surviving is not what they talk about using this newer concept of resilience. How can people and communities not just bounce back but thrive after suffering extreme trauma?

When visiting the refugee camps, I see amazing resilience. I see markets, gardens, the raising of animals. Refugee entrepreneurs have opened restaurants and hotels (not like the ones you imagine, but still!), and one camp even has peanut oil factories. The tents are long gone, and women have built homes out of sticks, grass, and mud. Children play football (soccer) with improvised balls made out of socks, rags, and plastic. They are more than surviving, but is it enough?

We’ve seen so many places being locked in cycles of violence. Children growing up in camps and then, as adults, becoming either victims again—or perpetrators. It doesn’t have to be. As bad and wrong as life in refugee camps is, it should also be an opportunity to invest in promoting resilience, the type of resilience that will help individuals and communities thrive and create peace for themselves and the next generations. We (the world) have to start with the youngest, most vulnerable and from there up.

We know what should be done, and we just have to get going and start building better boats.

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Gabriel co-founded Stop Genocide Now in 2005, which gave birth to i-ACT in 2009. He became involved in the situation in Darfur out of a sense of personal responsibility. He believes the power of community and compassion, combined with personal empowerment, can bring about meaningful change.


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