Before I came on this trip I was anxious about the responsibility and ethicality of hearing stories from people who survived the genocide of Srebrenica. I was wondering how I could hear narratives of unimaginable trauma knowing the pain and potential retraumatization that may live in this constant retelling. I have heard countless stories of emotional tourism facilitated by power, resource, and cultural inequalities of western culture. To use a story of such horror for my own impact did not sit right with me, and I was concerned about this experience. I would suggest that personal growth it is the easiest thing to do with information they share, as it is nearly impossible to do otherwise. What actually happened was something else entirely.
Spending time with Hassan over two days was an enormous privilege. He did share with the group his story of losing his family and surviving the death march at Srebrenica in July of 1995. But he also humanized his pain with humor and humility, as well as countless other examples of his own post traumatic growth. He charged us to spread truth, remember the personal impact beyond statistics, as well as value the inherent goodness of life. Hassan reminded me of the power of relationship and connection in initiating social change and individual and societal healing. So the answer is of course this experience impacted me personally, but social work is defined by what happens next. The power of his story for me lies in the quiet but steady voice of truth, and I hope in one that informs not only my personal life and direct practice, but the acknowledgement of the pain and resilience of the human experience.