International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

ISTSS Travel Grant Program Empowers Recipients to Connect, Collaborate and Learn

Posted 18 May 2014 in StressPoints by Sarah Wilson, MA

Due to logistical and financial obstacles, many trauma specialists who live and work in low- and middle-income countries are unable to travel to the ISTSS Annual Meeting. ISTSS addresses this situation by fostering international research, clinical work and discourse through its Travel Grant Program. The Travel Grant Program is 100% funded by ISTSS member donations, which in recent years has been less robust, reducing the number of grants that were offered.

Travel Grant awardees regularly contribute high-caliber scholarly presentations and posters. Past conference titles presented by grant awardees include: “Cuckoo’s Nest: Providing Care of Former Child Soldiers,” “Family-Based Prevention of Mental Health Problems Among Children Affected by HIV/AIDS in Rural Rwanda: A Pilot Feasibility Study,” “Child Sexual Abuse in Post-conflict Societies: A Rwandan Example” and “Rwanda: Healing The Wounds of Genocide.”

Past recipients of the ISTSS Travel Grant are grateful for the opportunity to attend the annual meeting. A 2013 awardee, Father Paul Satkunanayagam (shown left), traveled from Batticaloa, Sri Lanka to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, for the annual meeting. Of the conference, he said:

“This scholarship has been an enriching and enhancing capacity-building experience in my professional field of trauma counseling in a geographic location where civil war, natural disasters and economic constraints have stressed and traumatized a majority of the people.”

Father Paul also noted the long-lasting effects of his experience at the ISTSS Annual Meeting:

“I have harvested the fruits of the conference and have shared and am sharing the fruits gained with the counselors and in my own professional counseling work with vulnerable emotionally confused people in need.”

Charles Ingabire, MS, (shown left) also received a Travel Grant to attend the 2013 Annual Meeting, traveling from Kigali, Rwanda. He noted that he was able to utilize information learned at the ISTSS Annual Meeting in a crucial way:

“In Rwanda we have people who were born after genocide, or who were outside Rwanda during the genocide, but are showing PTSD symptoms related to genocide. Before I attended the ISTSS meeting, we could not say that they have PTSD as they did not experience or witness genocide. However, with new DSM-5 criteria, we can. It was a relief to hear at ISTSS that indirect exposure can be a source of trauma. We now have the facts here.”

Charles demonstrated his ingenuity, dedication and passion to trauma work by his attendance at the ISTSS annual meeting. Because his ISTSS Travel Grant did not cover the full cost of his travel he quickly took action by starting an online fundraising campaign to cover his remaining travel costs:

“I don't think I would have been brave enough to start fundraising campaign to cover other expenses if I had not been awarded initial funding by ISTSS.”

Those who receive the Travel Grant note that the value of this experience lasts for years. Jeannette Uwineza, MA, (shown left) was awarded a Travel Grant to attend the 2008 ISTSS Annual Meeting. Her journey from Kigali, Rwanda to the meeting in Chicago, Illinois, USA, inspired her to pursue a research career:

“In September 2010, I began a psychology doctoral program at Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. The idea and courage to pursue my studies to the doctoral level began with the ISTSS Travel Grant. Receiving this grant allowed me to establish new ties with people that inspired new ideas and the new methods of work. The ISTSS annual meeting was the first time that I particpated in an international conference with a poster presentation.”

Eugene Rutembesa (shown left), a professor at University of Rwanda echoed these sentiments in his description of receiving a Travel Grant:

“I’ll never forget that great moment when I received the letter saying I got the grant. This conference is an opportunity to know more about trauma and treatment of trauma. It is also an occasion to learn about other cultures. You meet and discuss with researchers from all over the world.”

Overall, the Travel Grant Program greatly benefits both the recipients of the grant and the ISTSS annual meeting overall. Given that the program entirely relies on member contributions, it is the responsibility of every ISTSS member to consider supporting the Travel Grant Program through a charitable donation. We invite members to use this link to donate today!

(Donations to the Travel Grant Program may be tax-deductible. For more information, consult a tax advisor.)

About the Author

Sarah M. Wilson, MA, is a PhD candidate at Duke University, in the Duke Global Health Institute.

The ISTSS Travel Grant Committee:
Sarah Wilson, Chair
Megan Berthold
Mary Fabri
Hugo Kamya
Andrew Stone
Steven Weine