The Balikbayan Project

For many trauma-informed practitioners, caring for the children they serve is often through the lens of “patient” or “student”. Rarely does our work become too personal. For Starr Certified Trauma Practitioner Jon Jon Rivero, 2013’s Typhoon Yolanda challenged his life’s work in a region of the world he holds dear, and made him reflect on his own trauma in the process.

Rivero is based in Alberta, Canada, where he and his wife, Paula, are the founders of Qi Creative, a success coaching therapy practice with its own unique twist. From their website, Qi Creative “believes in combining specialized passions with professional skills to help people use their strengths and talents to overcome challenges.” Based on their book, My Name is Trauma, Rivero leads workshops on trauma across the globe.

Jon Jon Rivero

Staying true to their belief statement, Rivero’s family has been involved in the Balikbayan (meaning “one who returns”) Project since 2007 in his family’s native home of the Philippines. This initiative partners with a local orphanage in Tacloban, and involves local government, NGOs, and more to help those who have experienced trauma, particularly through play.

In 2013, the Balikbayan Project was faced with one of its biggest tests yet. In November, Typhoon Yolanda decimated the Philippines. And for Rivero, this meant a return to Tacloban, but with a slightly different lens.

“It was very humbling. We’re trauma specialists, and here we are faced with this tragedy, scrambling and unsure which of our kids are safe. It reminded us that we’re all human, and all wired to respond to events in different ways. That encouraged us to double down on our trauma-informed approach.”

Not only did this experience provide personal and professional growth for Rivero, but it was also a chance to tell the story of Streetlight Philippines. You can watch the trailer for their 2020 documentary below:

By Matt Ray

About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact or call 800-837-5591.