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Staff Insights

Working as Part of a Team to Help Survivors of Torture

Published February 22, 2017

Aregawi Kahsay is administration/HR officer, CVT Ethiopia.

At CVT, we restore dignity for people after they have experienced traumatic events. We extend rehabilitative care to Eritrean refugees who’ve come to the camps here in northern Ethiopia, and I have found that I don’t need to be a clinician to see the importance of the healing that clients experience. I am happy to be able to help people as part of the team.

Because I work in administration and HR rather than counseling, I have a unique view of CVT’s work. As an example, I attend many workshops and meetings with clients, who voluntarily talk to the audience about CVT’s counseling service. They say that before CVT they had problems: they felt hopeless and depressed. These individuals have experienced torture and many traumatic events, and they felt like they wanted to be isolated. But they tell the audience that after CVT group counseling, they saw many improvements. Many of them began engaging in income-generating activities. They became willing to begin interacting with strangers in their community and going out to meet with their friends.

Before CVT, I worked in administration, HR and finance with government organizations and NGOs. I worked with disadvantaged people, people who had been affected by man-made and natural disasters like snow, drought, etc. I feel good about helping people with my work. Today at CVT, I manage HR issues, post position vacancies, write the job descriptions and attend interviews. I also follow performance and training for staff and check time sheets. I prepare all the information for salaries and paychecks. On the administration side, I try to facilitate everything to have all our necessary services up and running – electricity, water, things like that.

I spend a lot of time representing CVT in both refugee camps where we have centers: Mai Ayni and Adi Harush. I attend camp meetings with facilitators and implementing partners and give presentations about the organization’s status: reporting on what CVT’s doing, what challenges we face and the recommendations we have for action. Even though I am support staff, my work in the program helps me gain a lot of knowledge about CVT’s strategy and the impression people have of CVT – our organization has a very good reputation.

We work with organizations that handle refugee affairs, things like responding if there are problems such as water-related diseases, public health issues or protection considerations. We work together to devise solutions, and when a problem is beyond our capacity, we send the issue to the interagency level.

I do a lot of work on hiring, and there are times when we are very busy with national staffing as well as hiring refugees for psychosocial counselor (PSC) positions. We have some challenges with hiring, as turnover among refugee staff can be high, and we need to find candidates who meet the criteria for the jobs. We are also working on the proportion of male to female workers; we want to get the numbers more equal as we receive far more men as candidates than women. In many cases, to have one candidate hired, even though we screen ten people, only one or two women apply. Because of this, we take extra steps to get women applicants. As an example, when we post an open position we mention that qualified women are strongly encouraged to apply. We also make the application and interview process as smooth as possible. It’s still a challenge, however. In Mai Ayni camp, we have eight PSCs, but only two are women. In Adi Harush, only one.

We also face challenges getting women to apply for national positions, and one reason is that the camp is located far away from city centers. We’re 1,300 km from Addis. This is a challenge for women who don’t want to work far away from their family, friends, husband. The area has some hardship, and it can be difficult for people to make the commitment to move here for the work.

As a support person, I appreciate having the chance to work with staff and PSCs and the community. When I hear the stories of people who have difficulty and find help at CVT, my work is very rewarding. I help people who have disadvantages. Mentally and spiritually, I get something very meaningful from this work.

At CVT, we have a good image. We are known for helping and supporting. We have a very good organization and policy to implement our day-to-day activities. And we’re a very strong and energetic team here in the work area.

To me it seems enough.

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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