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Notes from the Ground

CVT World, Feb. 2024

Published February 14, 2024

Welcome to the February 2024 issue of CVT World, CVT’s periodic compilation of the latest news, stories and public activities from our team.

Hearts4Refugees: Messages of Welcome and Support

Together Heart for Refugees

CVT ran a special project inviting supporters to share their hearts and a message of support for refugees. For many survivors, trusting the goodness of others is a hard step to take towards healing. So for Valentine’s Day, we invited people to join us in sending a note with a few kind words. People were directed to this webpage, where more than 100 people selected an image and sent in a message of love and support for survivors.

President Biden: Restore U.S. Funding to UNRWA for Palestinian Refugees Immediately

CVT joined more than 50 nongovernmental organizations in this letter calling on President Biden to restore funding to the UN Relief Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) as an urgent step to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Twelve employees of UNRWA were accused of participating in the deadly attack by Hamas against Israel on Oct. 7, and the U.S. responded by cutting off funding to the agency. However, 13,000 UNRWA employees work in Gaza, carrying out essential services to more than two million Palestinians in critical need of their humanitarian aid. The authors write, “Continuing to suspend assistance to UNRWA for the alleged actions of individuals that UNRWA itself condemns and has pledged to help investigate is not only unjust, but detrimental to your administration’s goal of ending the current humanitarian crisis.”

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Families of the Missing

Yusra Al-Kailani, resilience programming trainer and psychotherapist, spoke on a panel in The Hague about the importance of mental health and psychosocial support for families and individuals whose loved ones are missing or were forcibly disappeared. The panel convened as part of a film screening by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, showing an award-winning documentary called “Tomorrow We Continue.” Check out photos here.

Minnesota Looks Back at History of Human Rights Programs in the State

CVT has a long-standing partnership with the University of Minnesota, and this month the Human Rights Department held an event called “Global Reach of Local Activism: Minnesota’s Human Rights Stories.” The event included an exhibit and speakers, as well as a panel featuring Emily Hutchinson, CVT vice president of global programs, who spoke about CVT’s history in the state and the origin and growth of our New Tactics in Human Rights program. The exhibit featured CVT across our nearly 40-year history, along with information about the global work of New Tactics. Check out event details here. The exhibit and the organizations featured, including CVT, were noted in this article in the Star Tribune.

One Year After the Flight of 222 Nicaraguans to the U.S.

The EFE News Agency published this article as the one-year anniversary of the flight of 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners to the U.S. was reached. Many of the 222 people continue to face difficulties and hope to one day return home, according to Leora Hudak, CVT migration partnerships program manager, who supported the group with case management on arrival. She noted that the program was “’a tool for rapid evacuation’ and was ‘very effective for leaving the country,’ but not for resettlement.” The article was picked up widely by global news outlets.

A Call on President Biden for Ceasefire in Gaza

CVT joined 80 organizations in sending this letter to President Biden, urging him to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as violence ramps up in the region. The authors write, “We urge you to lead with diplomacy, by pressing for a ceasefire in Gaza, to address the source of the violence and prevent further escalation.” The letter was covered in Politico’s NatSec Daily.

CVT Opposes Proposed Asylum Restrictions in U.S. Senate Bill

In this release, CVT denounced proposals to restrict asylum made by U.S. Senators after months-long, closed-door negotiations responding to President Biden’s supplemental funding request. The proposed changes would have a devastating impact on refugees and asylum-seekers and violate the U.S.’ international human rights obligations. “Having the right to apply for asylum should not be determined by something as random as what time of day you happen to arrive at the border,” said Alison Beckman, senior clinician for external relations. Elana Schwartzman, digital and direct mail fundraising specialist, sent out this action alert encouraging supporters to contact elected officials to oppose the bill.

CVT Hires Director of Research and Evaluation

CVT announced the hiring of Dr. Courtney Welton-Mitchell as director of research and evaluation, a role in which she will lead the team of globally based experts in advancing evidence-based research practices across the spectrum of CVT’s healing and human rights work. “I’m excited that Courtney will join our team,” said Emily Hutchinson. “She brings deep knowledge of best research practices, not only related to effective mental health care, but also to interventions we provide in the aftermath of armed conflict, torture and catastrophic events our clients face around the world.” Courtney has led multi-national teams, with a specialization in global traumatic stress and mental health related to complex crises. “Courtney is a true innovator in the field, and I’m thrilled that she is bringing her expertise to CVT,” Emily said.

CVT Opens New Projects to Serve Afghan Communities in the U.S.

For Afghan refugees who are new to the United States, CVT now has projects in two locations where we work closely with the community. In both locations, teams provide psychotherapy, social work and group support in projects named especially for the communities they serve, in the languages they speak: in Clarkston, Georgia, the project is called Arman, which means “hope” in Dari and Pashto. In St. Paul, Minnesota, the project is Raahat, which means “comfort” or “ease” in Pashto, Dari and Farsi. After coming for care, one client said, “This program was the best program for both health and relaxation.” Read more about CVT’s Arman project here and about the Raahat project here.

This program was the best program for both health and relaxation.”

Client, Raahat project, St. Paul, Minnesota

In addition, in December the Arman team hosted a special event honoring Shab-e Yalda, or the Winter Solstice, a celebration in the Afghan community. Sharing the festivities can foster a sense of community and set a foundation for healing. Dr. Dawood Azeemy, Arman project lead, said, “We thought if we have this, then it might help them with their mental health improvement – that was our main objective.” Read about this event in this article: “Using the Darkest Night to Look Towards Light: Reflecting on Shab-e Yalda 2023.”

U.S. State of Alabama Uses Cruel Method of Execution

Dr. Simon Adams, president and CEO, was quoted in this article in Der Spiegel as the U.S. state of Alabama prepared to execute a prisoner using an untested and cruel method for this punishment. “Regardless of his crimes, he is still a human being trying to cope with the cruel and unusual punishment that the state of Alabama wants to inflict on him,” Simon said.

Building Support for Foreign-Born Workers in Georgia, U.S.

The Business & Immigration for Georgia (BIG) Partnership hosted a “Maximizing Global Talent” event, with a focus on ways to make opportunities available to foreign-born workers in the state of Georgia. Darlene Lynch, head of external relations for CVT Georgia, leads the BIG Partnership and participated in this event, which was attended by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffsenperger. He was quoted in this article by Sophia Quresh with 285 South, saying, “We need good talent, we need to find jobs for folks, because I know what they want to do. They want to work.” See photos from the event here.

Intersections of Psychology and Human Rights Training

“Human rights are fundamentally about recognizing and respecting the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. Psychology provides tools to understand and address the complexities of human behavior, emotions, and cognition,” writes Hamza Abu-Shabana, junior trainer, New Tactics in Human Rights MENA, in this new article. He comments on his own background as a psychologist, bringing his knowledge of trauma-informed care practices to his work as a trainer for activists. He says, “I have seen how a trauma-informed approach, rooted in psychological principles, supports and promotes healing for both survivors of human rights violations and activists.”

A New Report on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support and Peacebuilding

New guidance is now available now for rebuilding communities, supporting mental health and building peace after conflict. Click here to read the new report titled “Integrating MHPSS And Peacebuilding: A Mapping and Recommendations for Practitioners.” Liyam Eloul, CVT clinical advisor for mental health, supported the development of the report, which was authored by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Thematic Working Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) and Peacebuilding within the IASC MHPSS Reference Group.

News About CVT’s Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) Tools

CVT’s Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL) Health Measure is an effective tool for anyone who works in a helping profession who may experience secondary trauma as part of their work. The ProQOL Health Measure is now available in Tigrigna and Kiswahili. We’re proud to announce these new translations, which have been added to the site. Check out the tool, and all our translations, to help manage secondhand trauma and your quality of life.

ProQOL was listed in this article on BookRiot, titled “Trauma, Book Bans, and Libraries: A Resource Guide for Library Workers, Library Supporters, and Beyond.” The author, Kelly Jensen, calls attention to the rise in stress for library workers in recent years, writing, “The profession is at a pivotal moment, at once much more in the public eye than ever before and much more aware of the personal tolls this field of work takes on the people who work within these institutions.”

Working in Coalition with Partners

Working with partners brings strength to CVT’s policy advocacy. In recent weeks, we participated in numerous actions that support survivors of torture. Below are some of these coalition and partner actions.

  • CVT endorsed the Guaranteed Refugee Admission Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act, new legislation introduced by U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Senator Edward Markey, to provide protections for refugees coming to the United States. The act ensures that the presidential cap for refugee admissions must be set at a minimum of 125,000 annually. This cap has been set as low as 15,000 people as recently as 2020. This advocacy action was covered here in Foreign Affairs.
  • CVT joined numerous organizations in support of a resolution introduced by U.S. senators Markey and Cassidy, calling Congressional oversight of assistance the U.S. military provides to Azerbaijan. The resolution requests a report on human rights abuses against the Armenia population. The resolution was reported here in The Armenian Weekly and in many news outlets globally. Read the press release here.

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