IsraAID’s field team located in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq provided a two-week intervention and capacity building program for women working with children. 15 participants, aged 20-50 years old joined together for a 11-day training on trauma, coping mechanisms, and self-care. All participants were of Kurdish background, 11 of whom were Muslim and 4 of whom were Christians. 6 of these women are registered psychologists or social workers; the rest of the women are psychology students or community volunteers interested in supporting the emotional wellbeing of children who have been exposed to trauma or are in distress.
Participants shared their thoughts on the experience:
“After this training, I started to feel myself, my body, I know my rights, my thoughts and my spirit. I care for ‘me’ now so that I can take care of my children. This course took me to another level. It helped me develop as a counsellor at work and also improved my family life. I developed myself, trust in others and confidence in working with cases of trauma. I was able to connect to others and find solutions together, I want to find solutions to our problems. I have built the courage through this training to face difficulties and developed new ways to cope. I am tired of this life and I want things to change.”
Another participant explained:
“I had forgotten there was a child inside me. I only knew how to be an adult. The course has taught me how to bring my inner child out. I thought all the color and painting was only for children. I now know it is for me as well. I’ve begun playing with children and journaling about my personal life. I even get up early and do yoga now. I used to get up late and dread going to work. I now get up early, and look forward to work and life. This is the first time I was able to share my thoughts and feelings about my grief. Not only with words, but with arts. This training allowed me to be vulnerable with others and connect to the other women in the group. After today, I do not want to see the children suffer, and it is my duty to help the children and also the parents to care for their children in need. Now I am better at controlling my anger and can play with my daughter nicely now. This is the first time I sat down on the floor, painted, became a child because my childhood ended when I was 11 years old. I had to take extra responsibilities. When I joined this course, I did not know what to expect. As a social worker, I have witnessed so much horror and heard unspeakable stories from the Yazidi survivors. We had cases at the camps of children who have been traumatized, tortured and enslaved. The team was not able to work with children and we face a lot of difficulties trying to figure out a way to help them. I thought all the color and painting was only for children. I now know it is for me as well.”
This training was part of our ongoing program in Northern Iraq over the past 4 years, seeking to strengthen the community’s resilience through an educational and psychosocial approach. The team not only supports the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living inside camps with STEM education and relief item distributions, they also support the host community by bolstering the emotional health of those offering assistance to IDPs. The team’s larger response to the ongoing conflict in Iraq, which has caused thousands of people to become internally displaced and are now living in temporary refugee camps. Among the most vulnerable populations are Yazidi women, thousands of whom were victim to sexual and gender-based violence.
At the closing session of the seminar, the women wrote a poem together about creating a new professional Kurdish identity:
“We complete each other
We accept each other
We respect each other’s stories
Multiplicity of minds
We all have a place
We can do everything together
We all passed through life and discovered that our stories are similar
We all have one purpose, we need to help others
Even though we are all different religions and traditions we all came on the same path
With empathy we understood each other.
We learnt so much about each other that we are so close”
Thank you for your generous support!