Lighting the Way: Connecting Rwanda and Sandy Hook Trauma Survivors for Powerful Healing with EFT

Lori Leyden Rwanda “I feel so blessed… it’s extraordinary what happens when we follow our hearts,” shared psychologist and long time ACEP member, Lori Leyden in a recent interview.

For the past seven months, Lori has been living and working in Newtown, CT (having relocated from California) helping to build an EFT-focused community-based model of trauma relief and resiliency training in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that shook the world last December. The project is called the Tapping Solution for Newtown and was launched by Nick Ortner, a resident of Newtown, and Dr. Leyden.

“The shootings happened on December 14 and I was in Newtown on December 18,” said Leyden. “Given my experience working with orphaned genocide survivors in Rwanda, I just knew I had to be there. I knew healing was possible even in the most horrific of circumstances.”

She also knew how important it would be to establish an appropriate model of training that could deeply and sustainably serve the community over the long term (and be replicable in other communities). “What typically happens with humanitarian relief work is that volunteers flock in from afar to sites of tragedy with good intentions, but they’re often not nearly skilled enough to be truly present to the level of trauma presented. And, because they’re not from the community, they have to leave even when much of the work is still unfinished,” explained Leyden.

With appropriate and sustainable outreach as the foundational premise of the project, volunteers are taught first to heal their own wounds as a way to prepare for facilitating and holding the space of healing for others.  “My dedication in my Rwandan work is to train people to be as fully present in their hearts as they can possibly be—and they need to heal their own wounds to be able to do this,” said Dr. Leyden whose organization, Create Global Healing (CGH), has worked with over 2,000 genocide survivors in Rwanda (and reached thousands more through the ambassadors of Project LIGHT: Rwanda, a CGH program) . She sees her work in Newtown as the natural unfolding of Project LIGHT and recently had an opportunity to demonstrate the incredible transformation that can take place in connecting young people who have healed with those who need healing.

JT Lewis, age 12, lost his six-year-old brother Jesse in the Sandy Hook massacre. He was having incredible difficulty after the tragedy and hadn’t been to school in two months. While his mother, Scarlett Lewis, was finding relief from the trauma in EFT, JT thought it seemed crazy and would have nothing to do with it.

“I really connected with the level of pain he must be going through given my work with so many young people in Rwanda. So I asked JT if he wanted to Skype with a Project LIGHT Ambassador and he eagerly agreed,” explained Leyden.

A Skype call was set up for JT with Chandra and Mattieu, two genocide survivors who serve as Project LIGHT Ambassadors. Leyden described it as one of the most grace filled experience she’s witnessed. “Chandra and Mattieu spoke with JT with the wisdom, connectedness and open heartedness that only those who had survived such a level of tragedy could offer,” she said.

At the end of sharing their stories and explaining to JT that it is possible to heal from this kind of experience, they invited him to tap—and he accepted the invitation with eagerness. “They led him through the tapping until he experienced a shift. I returned a few hours later and JT wasn’t around. I was told he was in his room getting ready for school. He was writing a speech to share with his class. The subject: Why it’s important to care for people in Rwanda who have experienced more tragedy than we’ve experienced in Newtown.”

Not only did JT experience relief via tapping, but he was invigorated with a passion to serve. As an honorary Project LIGHT Ambassador, he raised enough money in two months to send one of the Project LIGHT: Rwanda Ambassadors to University and pay for food for her remaining family members for a year.

May we all find inspiration in this story to continue using these incredibly transformative EP tools to heal our own wounds so that we can serve more effectively wherever it is needed with open hearts.


To learn more about the work going on in Newtown, CLICK HERE

To learn more about Project LIGHT, CLICK HERE


  1. rupert ward says:

    what a lovely story, and filled with so much hope, grace and healing! It brought tears to my eyes.

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