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Staff Insights

Survivors of Torture Build New Lives

Published January 23, 2017

Daniel Welday is a psychosocial counselor at CVT Ethiopia.

In my work, I see a lot.

I had an experience with a client who was imprisoned by the government in his home country for many years without any investigation or even being accused or charged with any crime. They just put him in prison. He had a chance to cross the border and came to Mai Ayni camp here in the north of Ethiopia. At first, he preferred to keep apart – he isolated himself and did not like to leave his home. He was unwilling to interact with the community in the camp.

We found him because we did a sensitization event, where we go out into the refugee community and provide information about CVT’s work. We were able to identify that he might benefit from our care, so we referred him to CVT. He went through CVT’s 10-week counseling cycle. He told me after he finished the group counseling how much it changed his outlook: he began spending time with people again, socializing and participating in activities. He became an exemplary person in the community.

The most important thing about my work is seeing these improvements in clients.

Before I worked at CVT, I worked at other NGOs, including at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in a health program, where we had a specialty in reproductive health. We worked to bring reproductive wellness into the community and to make the community aware of family planning. It was then I learned about CVT. I was really interested in working here because I knew people in our community who had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other symptoms from their traumatic experiences. I wanted to help people from my community. I felt this way especially because I was in the military in my home country, Eritrea. I witnessed people being put into prison. And then I was imprisoned. Once a person is released or escapes from prison, they have symptoms. I have seen this again and again.

My role as a psychosocial counselor (PSC) is to work in the counseling sessions but also to work with the community. We conduct sensitization events to raise awareness about the impact of trauma, to help community members become familiar with CVT’s work and to help identify clients. When individuals who need care are identified, I work to bring them to CVT and help them enroll in the group counseling sessions. It’s part of my job to help ensure they have a good experience with CVT.

Before we conduct these sensitization events, the community often has little information about CVT, or they lack good information. Once we have a chance to share what we do, they’re able to understand how our work may benefit them or their loved ones. Then once they are aware of CVT’s rehabilitative care, members of the community actively participate – they send clients to us. They ask people who’ve been through CVT’s program what it was like, and those people give testimonials. Overall, the community is getting a lot of good awareness of our work.

My work is meaningful to me, first starting from the sensitization with the community. It’s important to be able to identify those who really need help. Once they get services from CVT, we begin to see changes in their lives. They become entirely different people from what they were. They get relief from their symptoms. They get a new life.

I see so much hope in the work I do. This is very meaningful to me because personally I am a member of the community. Everyone has been through difficult situations in their lives.

At CVT, we give the clients a lot of respect. We feel what they feel. When they are sad, we are sad. We put ourselves in their shoes, and we show great empathy. And then we help them extend empathy to others.

Participating in the group brings change in clients’ lives. When I see the changes, this is hope.

CVT’s work with Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia is funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

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