Dr. Shannon Hodges, professor and coordinator of Niagara University’s clinical mental health counseling program, spent four weeks performing volunteer work in South Africa during May and June. He volunteered his counseling, training and consultation services in six different orphanages, making 18 presentations (ranging from 1-5 hours apiece) and assisting in group and individual counseling. He also served as consultant on treatment issues with children ranging from 6 months to 18 years of age.
“Many of the children are HIV orphans, though others have been removed from their families due to neglect of various types of abuse and neglect,” Dr. Hodges noted. “Thus, most of my work was focused on understanding the role trauma plays in the lives of the children and how the staff can promote resilience.”
According to Dr. Hodges, roughly 90 percent of the orphans were Zulus (the large cultural group in the KwaZulu-Natal region) with roughly 10 percent Afrikaner children (European origin).
Dr. Hodges also keynoted a conference for social workers and childcare workers in Durban, South Africa.
“The mental health needs in South Africa are tremendous, especially with regard to addressing trauma recovery,” he said. “Of the nearly 500 children and adolescents in the orphanage systems, virtually all have experienced significant trauma. Yet the amazing thing was just how hopeful many of the children seemed to be. The staff members at the orphanages were doing a very good job, especially given the circumstances.
“Though the pace was very busy and the issues overwhelming at times, the experience was very fulfilling. I would like to return in the next couple of years and take a student or two with me as the experience would be transformative.”
Dr. Hodges possesses more than 20 years of counseling experience in community agencies, university counseling centers, and in residential living communities. He is a former director of a university counseling center and clinical director of a county mental health clinic. An award-winning researcher and professor, Dr. Hodges began teaching at Niagara in 2000.