David Alan Harris launched the Dinka Initiative to Empower and Restore (or DIER, which means dance in the Dinka language) in 2001, under the auspices of the resettlement program of Lutheran Children and Family Services of Pennsylvania. DIER was a highly successful psychosocial program that engaged a community of South Sudanese refugee youths, in resettlement in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, in gatherings for traditional dancing and drumming. The activities reconstituted a central ritual from the young people’s Dinka tribe. Emphasis on sustaining group cohesion helped to empower the young people to hold to the strengths of their home culture, and to face the challenges of acculturation without succumbing to undue emotional or psychological distress.

Writings about DIER

Harris, D.A. (2008). Sudanese youth: Dance as mobilization in the aftermath of war. In Jackson, N. & Shapiro-Phim, T. (eds). Dance, Human Rights and Social Justice: Dignity in Motion (pp. 253-255). Scarecrow Press. Read this article here.

Harris, D.A. (2007). Dance/movement therapy approaches to fostering resilience and recovery among African adolescent torture survivors. Journal on Rehabilitation of Torture Victims and Prevention of Torture, 17(2): 134-155.

Follow-up to presentation at the IX International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims Symposium in Berlin, December 2006, on both interventions with unaccompanied South Sudanese refugee minors in the U.S. and former boy combatants in Sierra Leone.
Recipient of 2007 Research Award from the American Dance Therapy Association.

Harris, D.A. (2002). Mobilizing to Empower and Restore: Dance/Movement Therapy with Children Affected by War and Organized Violence. Unpublished master’s thesis. MCP Hahnemann University [now a division of Drexel University], Philadelphia, PA.

This thesis is available for purchase from UMI Dissertation Publishing. 1(800) 521-0600, or from outside North America: +1 734 761 4700.

Click here to view a video of the Dinka Initiative to Empower and Restore.