"Children come from countries that are at war, where they have experienced extreme levels of violence and trauma. Rather than receiving care and protection in Europe, they are instead subjected to ongoing fear, stress and episodes of further violence" (Dr. Declan Barry, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF’s) medical coordinator in Greece).
Situation on Lesvos:
On Lesvos, the mental health care for children and their families is mainly provided by MSF, who have been focusing on one-on-one-sessions with psychologists. As there is a huge need to mental health support (which further increased after the fire in September), the waiting list is very long (up to 100 children). Other NGOs are offering activities for children, which involve education and playing. What has not been provided yet are psychosocial support groups, enabling children with psychological problems to get together with other children in a safe environment and learn how to deal with their current living situations and improve their well-being.
Under the NGO Medical Volunteers International (MVI) on the grounds of the community centre of One Happy Family (OHF), we started such a project in September. So far we have assessed 32 children and their families, who have been referred to us by MSF or by doctors working in primary care. They have been divided into 6 groups according to age and gender, the sessions take place once a week for 90 minutes in the garden area of OHF, a well-known place for safety, dignity and education. With the help of Farsi and non-Farsi speaking volunteers we create an individual schedule with recreational activities for each group, providing the children with skills that enable them to participate positively in their daily lives. Furthermore the parents are involved in the process and are offered psychoeducational support, to be more beneficial and efficient, we are currently planning the set up of group sessions for parents.
The feedback so far has been very good and exceeds our expectations. The aim is to make the project as much community based and therefore sustainable as possible, which comes with ensuring a fair payment for the community workers. So far there are three Afghan volunteers working full-time with us: a student and a teacher who are mainly leading the groups and a doctor who is supporting and advising the parents. A Farsi-speaking health promoter and yoga teacher provides the training and the supervision of the groups, two doctors from MVI do the assessments and parent consultations.
The money from this fundraising is needed in order to keep this project running by ensuring a minimum salary for the community workers (they will earn about 500€/month) and cover costs for materials, lunch meals and transportation.
(If you are a student of psychology, psychiatry, child therapy or special education and would like to support the project on site, please contact us.)