To commemorate 26 June, the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, members of the CVT team in Nairobi and Kakuma reflected on their work and on what healing means to survivors.
Justine Chepngetich, physiotherapist, CVT Kakuma As I join the world to commemorate the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture, I ask myself why I do what I do as a physiotherapist at CVT in Kakuma. The job satisfaction I get from doing what I do can’t be compared to anything, it is priceless! The positive feedback I receive from clients and beneficiaries keeps me going and doing my best. I feel energized each and every day as I go to work knowing that someone’s life is taking a different course as a result of our services. Here are comments clients shared with me:
“When I started the exercises, I thought because of my age I would not be able to do them. However, I have realized that anyone can do them because our teachers are very good. I had physical and a lot of emotional pain. My heart was always racing even at rest. I could not sleep well; I could not concentrate on something for long before starting to have flashbacks of the terrible things that happened to me and my family back at home. My legs hurt so much, especially in the morning at the knees and both ankles joints. I had difficulty walking. It took me a long time to move from one place to another. I was in pain and always felt tired.
“My life has now changed. Even though I am 45 years old, I feel very energetic and in control of my life. My heart is now okay, the pain has disappeared and I can walk for long and faster. The stress and the intrusive thoughts no longer control me. I have learned exercises and strategies that help me and I apply them. It has helped me and given me hope.”
The stress and the intrusive thoughts no longer control me.”
“In my first session I felt immediate relief of my back pain. The muscles which were tense on my neck, shoulders and back relaxed immediately, and I felt light and relieved for the first time after almost four years. I was given individual sessions and later joined this group at Session 3, and I have never missed a session. Now I am okay. No pain at all in my body. I now walk from home to CVT and I feel that I can walk to wherever I want to go without problem, even running. I have learned how to take care of my body even when am nursing my baby and doing house chores, and my husband is very happy.”
Amrita Chudasama, psychotherapist, CVT Nairobi People ask me often, “Why do you do what you do? Isn’t it difficult? How do you manage to sit there and listen to the sad stories of people?” Well, to this I have a beautiful answer from one of my clients:
“I wondered if this is how good normal people get to feel every day! I finished my counseling sessions last month. Last week, when I was home in my house I sat down and cried. I wondered if this is how good normal people get to feel every day!
“I would like to thank my counselor Amrita and CVT members for the work done in my life. I can confess that I am healed and free, I have hope in my life! Thanks to CVT and my counselor for giving me another chance to live!”
So, the above is the reason I do what I do as a counselor. I believe that it is a privilege to be given an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. I feel that it is the work of God to help people who are vulnerable.
Winnie Gacheru, psychotherapist trainer, CVT Kenya When it is said that, “There is life after torture,” it is true. I have seen it as an amazing, jaw-dropping outcome of the transformative and restorative programs offered by CVT to support victims of torture. We have seen individuals embrace life again; their eyes light up with hope again; a smile creeps back on their faces again; they get free from immobilizing despair and dare to dream again; they experience relief from psychological and physical pain; they learn new coping strategies; and with courage and resolve they begin to experience a dignified life again . . . after torture. With an individual stronger, families get stronger, the community gets stronger and generations are impacted too. This keeps me going for another day, working with our teams to share another session, to work with another person or group as the individuals receive support and work their way towards the flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. “There is life after torture.”
Many times, when victims of torture connect with us and we get to engage with them in the therapeutic processes, in the beginning most are distraught and have various symptoms of trauma. The experiences they share are horrifying, and the impact on individuals damaging. At the end, after bravely engaging in the psychological and physical rehabilitation, they experience healing, learn to cope better and begin restoration of dignity. No one should undergo torture. There has to be a better way! At CVT we root for a world without torture . . . and we support victims of torture.
At CVT we root for a world without torture . . . and we support victims of torture.”
Samal Geoffrey, psychosocial counselor, CVT Kakuma At CVT, I work towards restoring human dignity of survivors of torture. I feel privileged to be part of millions of helpers around the world, helping survivors of torture regain hope and their human dignity after surviving torture. Sometimes walking with clients through the restoration journey might not be easy for both the client and the helper. However, something that has kept me going and gives me hope as well is feedback from clients that I have been supporting either with individual or group counseling sessions. The following stories are from clients I have supported at CVT.
“Being a survivor of sexual or gender-based violence (SGBV) that I experienced back in my home country, I never thought I would ever reach a point at which I would accept myself again. I even told you this when I came here (to CVT) in the first instance. But I am a better person today than I was when I came here (CVT). CVT has helped me accept myself by empowering me with skills to overcome feelings of shame, guilt and self-blame that I have been struggling with for a long time.”
CVT has helped me accept myself by empowering me with skills to overcome feelings of shame, guilt and self-blame that I have been struggling with for a long time.”
“As a result of torture that I was subjected to, I have always experienced persistent back pain. As we speak, that pain has reduced with time because I have been doing grounding exercises and movement breathing every day. Every time I do these relaxing exercises, there is a decrease in pain. These are some of the skills that CVT has taught me to support myself with.”