Psychological support for parents and children living in a refugee camp
Ayesha Begum is 22 years old. In early September, she took refuge in Bangladesh where, with her three children, she joined her brothers in a temporary shelter on the edge of Kutupalong camp. Her husband is dead. She takes part in a parents’ club organised by HI, which provides psychosocial support to mothers living as refugees.
Ayesha and her family | © Muhammad Azharul Islam / HI
Once a week, Ayesha can talk with other women in the same situation as her. The parent's club allows her to share her stress, sadness and to feel less isolated. “I don’t have any dreams now,” she says. “I just want to survive and to take care of my children. I hope they’ll help us.”
Once a week, the parent's club brings together ten or so mothers and, for some sessions, their children. The sessions are held at the same time in several places - in Nayapara, in the Kutupalong “mega camp” and in the surrounding shanty towns.
“For 45 minutes, we talk through the anxiety these mothers are feeling, in mixed groups of established and new refugees. The people who arrived recently share their trauma caused by violence, the stress of having to flee, and what it’s like to be a refugee. HI’s psychosocial officer encourages them to talk with their friends, relatives, and to share their feelings. He also asks the refugees who arrived 20 years ago how they overcame their shock,” explains project manager Ahasan – Ud – Daula.
People from a culture where mental pain, depression and trauma are never talked about need to have these concepts explained to them. They also need to know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And that help is available. Without help, the impact of this trauma on the lives of these adults and their children will be even worse.
The organisation also uses the parents’ club to provide mothers with information on hygiene best practices, children’s health, life in the camp and the humanitarian assistance available to them.
Recreational activities for children
HI also organises children’s clubs where they can take part in recreational activities, including drawing. The children who go through the distressing experience of being a refugee, losing their home, school and sometimes their parents, need a space and time to be children again - by playing. And drawing can be highly therapeutic.
It’s also a place to solve day-to-day problems and, sometimes, to talk through bad experiences: “Recently, the children were shocked by the drowning of one of their friends in a local pond. A child who had been knocked into the water drowned and the others who tried to rescue him were only just saved by a group of adults. The children were shocked and asked what had happened, why he was dead and how they could play in safety,” explains Ahasan – Ud – Daula.
Talking about the accident makes it easier to overcome and to find practical solutions to prevent it from happening again.
Ayesha Begum’s husband was killed in violence in Myanmar. She now lives with her three children in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh.