29 May 2009
|JRS counselling coordinator, Petra Dankova, gives a weekly training session to community counsellors in Kakuma refugee camp. (Sophie Vodvarka/JRS)|
|The programme also aims at creating a sense of belonging and at promoting cross-cultural understanding. Moreover, it provides refugees with a useful qualification once they return to their countries.|
The counselling course aimed at widening the pool of trained personnel that can provide vulnerable refugees with adequate and quality counselling. Participants were trained in active listening skills, in providing therapeutic guidance and in problem exploration.
With thousands of Southern Sudanese refugees repatriating, the JRS counselling programme has lost 22 community counsellors with therapeutic experience mainly from the Sudanese community. The training was meant to address the new needs for trained counsellors, mostly from the Somali population which now represents the majority of refugees in the camp. Although the current population of the camp has gone down from 95,000 at the peak to 42,000 due to the ongoing repatriation to South Sudan, the need for counselling services remains high given the increase of the Somali population and the planned relocation of 50,000 Somali refugees from the overcrowded Dadaab camps to Kakuma within the next three years.
Counselling the community
When JRS first started working in Kakuma in 1994 the need for a counselling programme soon became clear given the stress, tension and trauma refugees had to deal with. Harsh climate with recurrent sand storms, lack of sufficient essential services and sickness are some of the challenges that trigger emotional problems which call for counselling services. The counselling project was initiated to help refugees deal with the challenges they face, to promote self-reliance and take responsibility for their mental and physical well-being. The programme also aims at creating a sense of belonging and at promoting cross-cultural understanding. Moreover, it provides refugees with a useful qualification once they return to their countries.
In 1994 JRS opened its first counselling centre providing individual counselling to various groups from the camp. The high demand for counselling services led to the start of training refugees in basic counselling skills to address the overwhelming demands of the community and to empower refugees to assist fellow community members with psychosocial challenges often linked to the harsh camp conditions. As the program continued growing JRS expanded its services to the entire camp population and satellite offices were set up in different parts of the camp to conduct counselling sessions and to offer massage and reflexology therapies. In June 2009, JRS provided counselling services to 140 clients. Since seven repatriated counsellors have now been replaced, this number is likely to increase.