Helping Gaza Families Deal with Trauma

March 21, 2009 ANERA
Emergency Response, Gaza, Mother and Child, Psychosocial
Gaza social workers lead group of children in exercises in a colorful tent. Gaza social workers lead group exercise in Tent of Hope to deal with traumas in aftermath of 2009 bombings.

As soon as the horrors of war began to fade, ANERA quickly responded to Gaza’s emotional needs and helped provide psychosocial support to people negatively affected by the war. In the vast area at Al-Moghraqa, in the center of Gaza, a very special tent was set up among the many temporary shelters. It is staffed by social workers who provide advice and support to traumatized families seeking temporary refuge.

Maher Ghazi, a trainer within the psychosocial program, says the aim of the program is to offer urgent psychological support to people who have encountered trauma during the recent shelling. “We want to help people who lost their houses and children during the war,” he explained.

“Through our daily presence, we reach them while they are living in tents and help them cope with the suffering after the destruction of their homes.” Maher holds a degree in psychology and works alongside a team of experts.

Facilities are set up to provide psychosocial support to families affected by the violence.

Maher was surprised by the huge response from mothers, fathers and their children to the invitations that were dispatched throughout the area. “This tent is a role model and its success encourages us to set up another one next week. Parents also need to learn how to help their sons readjust their behavior after developing some problems in speech, sleep and eating.”

Through consultations and group exercises, the team helps rebuild trust and confidence.

In a special tent near their temporary shelter, a Gaza mother and her traumatized child wait for psychological support after 2009 bombings.

Gaza mother and child wait for psychological support after 2009 bombings in a special tent set up near their temporary shelter.

Psychologist Fadel Abu Hein sees the presence of men in the tent as a good sign. He says men usually don’t attend such sessions. Some people in Gaza consider psychosocial advice as a disgrace and they don’t seek this kind of support in public. “I think we are restoring hope to many people. Men are here to ensure the support to their wives and children and to learn how to deal with their families in the aftermath of a horrible time of stress and fear,” he added. “We are trying to overcome the social stigma and stereotypes… This is the best time to do it so let’s take advantage of the opportunity,” emphasized Dr. Abu Hein.

Inside the tent, one of the mothers held onto her child, Marwa, who would not let go of her hand. The mother said Marwa still sleeps beside her, refusing to sleep alone. She never wants to leave her mom. “I came here for treatment. I am not ashamed. I will tell my neighbors about the tent,” she said. Like many mothers in the area, she is worried about her children but she had high expectations for the benefits of the ‘tent’ program

ANERA has launched the program in partnership with a local organization, Community Training Centre and Crisis Management (CTCCM). “ANERA has contacted us to be here and we found good cooperation among the residents of this area. They readily bring their kids here for our services,” said Dr. Abu Hein. “There are serious and huge problems we need to deal with and I am glad that there is a better awareness of the program among our residents. I consider that a great achievement. It is an important first step toward positive change in this community.

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