Welcoming Newcomers to CVT’s Work in Dadaab | The Center for Victims of Torture

Welcoming Newcomers to CVT’s Work in Dadaab

Thursday, February 25, 2016

As refugees from nearby countries move into the vast camps in Dadaab, Kenya, they go through a process of settling in and learning about the new environment. Because most refugees here have fled countries like Somalia and South Sudan with known histories of conflict and violence, it’s important to CVT to reach out to help as many torture survivors as needed.

Sarah Farah, field coordinator for CVT Dadaab, commented on a recent sensitization event that was part of outreach to newly resettled refugees from South Sudan. “Sensitization is a form of education, letting people know who we are and what we do,” Sarah said. “We like to conduct outreach activities within the refugee camp to connect with people and let them know about the rehabilitative care CVT has to offer.” During the preparation time before the next counseling cycle begins, staff look at various ways to bring newcomers together for activities during which CVT can spread the word about the care available for torture survivors. Sarah said that these activities “come in many forms, everything from participating in football matches to speaking to individuals one-on-one.”

One approach CVT takes when communities are new to the camp is to go to the centralized watering location and reach out to groups of neighbors as they come to collect water at certain times of the day. CVT psychosocial counselors (PSCs) greet people and explain the types of interdisciplinary care available at CVT. They ask if people have heard of anyone who was subject to torture in the past, perhaps a family member who would benefit from care.

In addition, CVT uses creative presentation formats to increase participants’ understanding of symptoms and the effects of torture at individual, family and community levels, followed by discussion on likely outcomes if torture survivors are not appropriately supported to recover. CVT staff also give presentations on many elements that are important to rehabilitative care: assessments, treatment modalities, follow up and other things we can provide. PSCs share information about what the community as a whole will gain from this kind of support intervention, as well as providing CVT’s location, contacts and hours of operation.

“These are often large groups of people, usually more than 20," Sarah said. “In some cases, former CVT clients are there, and they attest to the quality of the services.” Sarah noted that the PSCs often find up to as many as five new clients at a session.

Once the community has been sensitized, staff begin collecting information from interested individuals and providing forms to begin the assessment process. CVT follows specific requirements for admitting those who have endured torture and who are experiencing symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. For those who qualify, CVT opens a file and begins to prepare them for the next group counseling cycle.

For the recent session with the South Sudanese community, CVT participated in a soccer event with other organizations in the camp as a way to reach out. Sarah said, “Football matches are a great way to bring the people, and especially youth, together – the community comes out to cheer.”

While the soccer games were going on, CVT provided information about rehabilitative care for torture survivors. A lot of good information was shared and the community was interested in learning about CVT.


CVT’s work in Dadaab is funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and the United Methodist Women International Ministries.


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