Helping world’s traumatised kids is “child’s play” for SA ministry

A practical session with a child during Walking with Wounded Children Course training in Singapore.
A practical session with a child during Walking with Wounded Children Course training in Singapore.

South African ministry couple Dirk and Taleta Coetsee recently visited Singapore and Ukraine to present courses on how to help traumatised children through the medium of play.

It is not the first time that the couple, from Petra Institute near White River, Mpumalanga, have been invited abroad to share the institute’s play therapy training model that can be applied to any country or culture, says PR consultant Anine van der Westhuizen.

Petra serves the global Christian Community by building capacity for children’s ministry.  Dirk, who is the Managing Director, and Taleta, joined Petra in 1999, with a passion to equip Christians to restore broken children in their relationship with Christ.

To date the Institute has trained more than 13 000 people throughout Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Far East. 

Walking with Wounded Children Course
During their recent visit to Singapore where they partnered the Scripture Union Singapore, Dirk and Taleta taught Petra’s “Walking with Wounded Children Course (WWCC)” and demonstrated the institute’s training model, reports Van der Westhuizen.  

She adds that although the children of Singapore do not experience the same problems as those in Africa, such as poverty and AIDS, they are still highly traumatised as they are constantly placed in stress situations due to overloaded systems and high expectations set for them. So the WWWC training session was hugely beneficial and as Dirk said: “I do believe that we were very instrumental in due time”.

Praying together during a training session.
Praying together during a training session.

After Singapore the couple visited Ukraine where they assisted in developing a family programme and presented the WWCC tutor training course.  They were shocked to find the country in a state of war  –very different from the last time they visited.  People were constantly gripped by fear due to the ongoing war and the possibility of their country once again becoming part of Russia. During this time, a postgraduate institute in Dnepropetrovsk, which is responsible for 50 000 teachers, invited Petra to share the WWCC programme with them. Local Ukraine tutors have established a forum called “Help Ukraine” to assist parents and children in the area. Before the war, this intervention would have been impossible but God’s timing is always perfect  and now during this crucial time in Ukraine, He has opened doors, allowing Petra to go in and minister to a desperate and despondent nation, leading them to Christ, reports Van der Wethuizen.

Back in South Africa Petra recently presented their WWCC  course in Modimolle (Nylstroom) to 15 participants, 11 of whom were staff from an orphanage.  After training, the participants put their newly acquired skills to practice by playing with the children from the two houses at the orphanage and were amazed at the result, says Van der Westhuizen. Playing non-competitive games with groups of children binds them together and overcomes age, colour and gender differences. Children become relaxed and uninhibited, sharing their emotions which is hugely therapeutic.  The Institute believes that the more opportunity that is created for play, the more opportunity the children have to play / talk about their traumas or issues, thereby working through their hurt and pain, so that the healing can begin.

Petra’s various practical  courses on children’s ministry and ministering to traumatised children are mainly used in partnership with partner organizations and churches. However the WWCC and the Dynamic Children’s Ministry Course can also be followed by individuals. More information on getting involved with Petra and on its course  is available on their website ( ) or by emailing them at or calling them at 013 751 1166/7.


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