Many refugees have experienced the horrors of war first-hand and some suffer intense feelings of loneliness, displacement and uncertainty in a new country. They are vulnerable to dangers such as migrant smuggling, alcoholism and suicide. OfERR’s counseling program which began as early as 1984, is intended to provide psycho-social support to refugees in camps, and to identify and treat mental illnesses as well as help prevent alcohol addiction, protect women from gender-based violence and prevent child abuse.
This past year, 37 counselors made 1,157 home visits covering 4,897 women and 927 men in 107 refugee camps. Support was successfully extended to 2,301 people for both gender-based violence issues as well as other issues such as debt, child abuse, suicidal tendencies, children dropping out from school etc. Group counseling sessions also created a system of support groups for refugees to combat feelings of isolation and safeguard against migrant smuggling. The counselors with the support of health workers, SHGs (Self Help Groups) and WIN (Women Inclusive Network) groups undertook 893 awareness sessions on gender based violence, child abuse, child protection and other social issues. These programs benefited 2,124 men and 9,243 women in the refugee camps. 32 child protection cases were identified, out of which 26 children were referred to professional counselors and six children have been admitted in child welfare centers citing protection issues. 34 women who experienced severe gender based violence were assisted with environmental modification and safe sheltering. 95 couples counseling sessions were organized covering 3,664 people with each session covering 15 or more members. These sessions focused on peaceful conflict resolution and the prevention of domestic violence. OfERR also identified 16 male advocates for the 19 camps covered under the gender-based violence and counseling program. These advocates were trained to provide support for domestic violence survivors and de-addiction. 16 people were subsequently admitted in the de-addiction program.
16 senior counselors underwent training at SCARF (Schizophrenia Research Foundation) and learnt how to identify mental health issues including schizophrenia and were equipped to provide support to people with mental illness either by connecting them with specialist treatment centers or providing therapy and counseling. 52 such refugees with mental health issues have been provided support to treat their illnesses.
OfERR’s funding for the counseling program ended last year but we are keen on continuing to help people with mental health issues. The counseling program hopes to instill a sense of community, belonging and safety amongst refugees until they are back in their home country and we need your support to make this a reality. OfERR also invites psychologists and counselors to volunteer with us – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
War through the eyes of Sri Lankan refugee children
A selection from the art exhibit "Sunshine in a Teardrop" at Madras Terrace House in 2009, featuring drawings by refugee children from camps across Tamil Nadu.