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Tesfaye's Story

Client seen at CVT Ethiopia-Tigray

Tesfaye* was a boy in Eritrea, where the threat of forced, indefinite conscription confronted him. His elder brother fled their home and went to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. When he was able, Tesfaye followed in his brother’s footsteps and made the journey to the camp. However, when Tesfaye arrived, his elder brother had already left on a secondary migration, seeking passage to a better life elsewhere.

Tesfaye was a teenager and alone. Not long after he arrived, a widespread grieving process began in the camps. ISIS had released videotapes of beheadings of migrants, and these horrifying images were felt deeply by those living in the camps. It was a time of great mourning within the community.

ISIS had released videotapes of beheadings of migrants, and these horrifying images were felt deeply by those living in the camps.”

Tesfaye, too, watched the videos. There, he saw that one of the people shown being beheaded was his elder brother. When Tesfaye saw this, he collapsed, unconscious.

In time, he began recovering from this shock. But then, Tesfaye’s behavior started to change. He withdrew and became isolated. At other times, he was aggressive. He found himself crying easily. He began having nightmares and flashbacks of images from the video.

Tesfaye was referred to CVT. He joined the group counseling cycle, but at first, Tesfaye found interacting with the group very difficult. He was not able to interact and engage with the others; often, he would simply shut down and cry. On many mornings, staff would arrive for work at the center and find him sitting outside, alone.

But he continued to show up for the eight weeks of counseling sessions and listened to the counselors. He began to make progress, sleeping regularly and making friends inside the group and outside. He was beginning to have hope for the future.

Today, Tesfaye is living with relatives, riding on the camp cycling team and finding value and meaning in life again.

Excert from a poem by Tesfaye:

I was created as a child from the beginning
I didn’t know anything or have any goal
To work and grow up like anyone
To say thank you, by thanking my God
I faced a lot of challenges and difficulties
They started to persecute me to die
This is the time I started to blame myself: “Why did I come to this world?”
And I said Oh! Lord who created earth and sky
It’s time for you to rescue people like me (survivors)
I prayed to God to give me someone or something to help me.
CVT was established to help me heal this . . .

*Name and some details have been changed for safety and to protect confidentiality.
Photo credit: Dreamstime.

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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