Dr. Curt Rhodes
May 13, 2024
Dr. Curt Rhodes explores what mental health means to him, and how Questscope is helping those who have survived trauma find hope for the future.

“Everything that lives in this desert is out to kill you,” said my good friend offhandedly as we drove 45-degrees up over rocks and then 45 degrees down those same rocks into steep gullies in his Bronco. What an amazing piece of moveable machinery, that Bronco. He was “the man” driving that machine, not me. He knew what he was doing. Not me. He had been here before. Not me. I was sweating. Not him.

The most assuring part of driving through that desert that wanted to kill me was that he had been there before, many times. He understood what he was up against. And in fact, had been in some pretty close scrapes with rocks and cliffs himself. He was careful to stay within the limits that he knew were most likely to make us safe. Most likely. Mostly reassuring, that.

As he drove, he shared with me how he learned to negotiate some of his own inner deserts safely. Those places where you feel like you might die, it is so hard. I got that. As the adult child of an alcoholic mother, I remembered feeling that everything and everyone was out to kill me. Totally unsafe. Angry. Fearful. A real mess inside. I had a few more advantages than young people we connect with in Questscope – I was not also being bombed, shot at, running from home to not-home, hungry to the point of starvation. Not all of life for me was a desert. Just some of it. And that was Hell enough.

When all of life is a desert – a struggle to stay alive – there is no post-traumatic time in which to recoup, take a breath and hunt for some healing. It is all, and always, a present-traumatic time.

But there are always some people around who have been around for a long time – who have been here before. They are wounded, but something else has happened. They, like my friend, have been able to dig deep into some emotional stream, some spiritual vein, some psychological maturity-space to offer grace that heals. They are our most valuable resource for hope – these wounded healers – who have reached through the harshness of life to grasp that elusive hope.   

Accompanying a person – whose life is fractured by trauma – in a journey to restore some kind of wholeness is such a humiliating privilege. It is humiliating because we too are wounded. Who are we to offer anything in the places where we still have pain? And it is a privilege to be there, with them because we can be, with them.

How many times I have sensed the grace and peace of someone truly hurt and harmed who has found a path to offer a bit of healing to someone else. And how many times I have seen that healer blessed into more healing because of reaching out.

Being able to help others survive through trauma to thrive in life requires extreme patience. And insight, knowledge and skills that a person can be trained to practice. It is vitally important to know the boundaries of what to do and what not to do to keep someone safe as we accompany them on their inside journey to their fear, their anger, their unsafety. It is our responsibility in Questscope to use well all the best mental health practices to hold ourselves accountable for others’ mental wellbeing.

But perhaps the greatest strength of wounded healers is their willingness to offer the human touch of personal relationship – always being there as the path unfolds – up those fearful rocks and down those fearful gullies. That is what we aspire to for those who have been forced to be Least in our world. And it is something all of us can do – even in our own woundedness. Actually because of our own woundedness.

Let’s be extreme in our patience as we join others in grasping that elusive thing called hope.

Curt pic1
Founder & Chief Vision Officer

Dr. Curt Rhodes

Curt Rhodes has spent close to 40 years working with, and on behalf of, marginalized communities and young people across the Middle East.

As the recipient of the 2014 Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, Dr. Rhodes was recognized by Tufts University for his demonstrated compassion and tenacity in creating a highly effective and determined organization dedicated to the survival and nurturing of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised.

In recognition of his work with marginalized youth in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and in the region, Dr. Rhodes was awarded 2011 Social Entrepreneur of the Year for the Middle East and North Africa by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

Dr. Rhodes began his career in the Middle East in the early 1980s, as Assistant Dean in the School of Public Health at the American University of Beirut. During the 1982 invasion of west Beirut, he volunteered in a community-based clinic alongside students and friends, doing around-the-clock triage for wounded and ill civilians. That was when the seed idea for Questscope began to take shape. Living and working with people in great suffering compelled him to find a way that he and others in the Middle East could assist the most vulnerable: participating with the voiceless ones in invisible communities.

In 1988, Questscope was founded with the goal of putting the last, first. From the beginning, Questscope worked closely with local communities, identifying their aspirations and together addressing their greatest needs.