The Laceweb Network


An Excerpt from Volume II: Technical Conference Papers


Creating a Healing Environment


Trafficking in Children-South Asia (TICSA)



11-14 June 2002

Kathmandu, Nepal


Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and Occupational Integration of Child Survivors of Trafficking and Other Worst Forms of Child Labour

Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Practices into Psychosocial Help and Support for Child Survivors of Trafficking and Sexual Abuse


Presentation by:


Elizabeth Protacio-De Castro, Ph.D.

Psychosocial Trauma and Human Rights Program

Center for Integrative and Development Studies

University of the Philippines, Diliman

Quezon City, Philippines


From Internet Source


Copyright © International Labour Organization 2002.

First published 2002.


Excerpt from Page 96 (Article by Professor Elizabeth Protacio-De Castro)






7.1 Australia – The Laceweb Network


There is a little known Australian social movement that dates back to the 1940s known as The Laceweb. It is an informal network of indigenous psycho-social healers that is spreading throughout Southeast Asia, Oceania and the Australasian region. It is presented as an example of using self-help, mutual support groups in resolving problems of well-being. Well-being means the experience of wellness and not simply the absence of disease.


What constitutes wellness may vary considerably between different cultures, communities and peoples (Spencer et al., 2002) The purpose of The Laceweb is to: a) mutually explore, enable and support the development of neighborhood networks to promote indigenous issues and concerns; and b) provide direct and enabling well-being assistance to inter-indigenous and inter-cultural groups. Thus it is also known as a local well-being action network, an informal network of ‘enablers’ and ‘nurturers’.


These are humane caregivers, typically present in any community who are usually culture bearers, and are carriers or users of local wisdom. They engage in ‘peacehealing’ which is a collection of mutual help well-being processes. This means ‘making whole or integrated’ using the original meaning of ‘healing’ (Spencer et al., 2002).


Such local well-being ways are deeply imbedded in the social fabric. They draw upon the cultural history of the people and are resonant with local knowledge and ways of understanding and relating to the world. By their very nature, such local and indigenous well-being actions actively reconstitute the social fabric of shattered communities while acting at the inter-individual level.


7.2 Vietnam – Shrimps and Greens Project


This is an example of what is called ‘positive deviance’, a phrase coined by Save the Children Fund (SCF), an international NGO helping children. It means responses to a given problematic situation that deviate from the normal in a positively beneficial way. In early 1990s, SCF embarked on a project to help severely malnourished children in Vietnam. They realized that simply providing lots of food was not a sustainable solution. There were many inter-related issues contributing to malnutrition, such as poor local knowledge of hygiene and nutrition, lack of clean water, poor sanitation, etc. A simple solution was found in the poorest villages. They observed that a few children in the village were not malnourished. Their families were making nutritious meals from rice mixed with fresh water shrimps and the vitamin-rich leaves of sweet potato which were easily and freely available. These families were local nurturers and positive deviants. They started a process that radically altered child nutrition throughout Vietnam (Pascale, Millemann and Gioja, 2000, cited in Spencer et al., 2000).


These natural ‘nurturer’ mothers showed others what to do and how to get their children to accept new tastes. Their practical ways were passed on to other families in the same village. Once made visible, the local nurturers’ wisdom was obvious. Once energized, local action was self-organizing, essentially self-funding and sustainable. Here was local participation and ownership of these actions. The shrimp and leaf diet solution was not expanded to other villages; rather the process was replicated in a way that local wisdom, intelligence and capacities were respected. No single solution was turned into a big package solution and imposed on everyone but rather each local solution was spread locally.


Within five years, the Vietnamese government had adopted the practice of ‘positive deviance’ with great success.




Spencer, L., Wijewickrama, D., Cramb, A. (2002). Interfacing Alternative and Complementary Well-Being Ways for Local Wellness. UNICEF