17 September 2010
|“I always thought that it was only me who suffered but now that I heard from everyone in the group, I realise that we share the same problems whether we are Sudanese, Somali, or Congolese,” said one of the trainees.|
Kakuma, 13 September 2010 — For the first time in 16 years, JRS has introduced group counselling alongside individual counselling services to address rising psychosocial needs in Kakuma refugee camp, north-western Kenya.
"With the steady growth of the refugee population in the camp and with more new arrivals coming directly from active conflict zones, such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have noticed a higher need for counselling and mental health services," says Hezekiah Ronald Ombiro, JRS Project Director in Kakuma.
JRS trained community counsellors and mental health assistants increasingly come across refugees who have difficulties recovering from traumatic experiences, struggle with difficulties in their families or have become victims of gender based violence (GBV). Most of them need help in order to cope with the psychological and social consequences.
In March, forty-two counsellors from 13 different countries, recruited from among the refugees, and JRS staff members from various departments took part in a one-week training on how to facilitate group counselling. From April, trainees gathered experience and practiced their newly gained facilitation skills in five experimental groups.
"I always thought that it was only me who suffered but now that I heard from everyone in the group, I realise that we share the same problems whether we are Sudanese, Somali, or Congolese," said one of the trainees. "It makes it easier for us to trust each other and work together," he adds.
"It gives me strength to see that [participating in a group] works," said another trainee. "It is great to see that people might come next time and say that they are doing better and that what we do here helped them to cope."
The overwhelmingly positive response from the trainees encouraged JRS to start the first counselling groups between October and December 2010. "We hope that, while reaching out to a higher numbers of refugees, the new initiative will help refugees mobilise their personal resources and to build up their relationships and self-reliance in order to cope with the difficult experiences refugee life entails," says Mr Ombiro.
The counselling programme in Kakuma was started in 1994. It offers basic counselling skills training to 250 refugees per year and community-based counselling services provided by 40 trained refugee staff who reach out to 1,500 refugees per year. The programme also offers basic training in alternative healing methods to 100 refugees per year and provides massage and reflexology through 20 alternative healers.
Kakuma refugee camp was established in 1992 for Sudanese refugees who were fleeing the civil war in Sudan. It now hosts more than 75,000 refugees of whom at least 39,000 are Somalis.
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