Since Liberia experienced the 15 years prolongs civil unrest, the chances of chaos, crimes, violence, and addictiveness to elicit substance remain a huge challenge for former child soldiers (FCS), women associated with fighting forces (WAFF) and other war-affected youths (WAY). Today, a vast number of these men and women are caught up with the use of illicit substances, violence, and crime for a living. The rapid development of Liberia will continue to remain elusive if we continue to ignore the importance of promoting social change and relief to our war-affected men and women.
Capturing dreams & challenges
The Initiative for the Development of Former Child Soldiers (IDEFOCS) conducted Ghetto Outreach Forums interactive sessions during 2013 and 2014. The Forums were run with support from Action10 and HR&S and brought together individuals from diverse backgrounds with complex situations.
The sessions aimed at informing about the danger of illicit substances, violence, and crime as well as collect information. We included surveys where ghetto boys and girls could explain in which way they would like support with facilitating a process where they regain their lives. The questions concerned personal background, recruitment by fighting forces, an assessment on how the DDRR programme (Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration programme which began in 2003 after the end of the civil war) affected the person, current circumstances, and current health status.
The survey aimed at capturing dreams as well as compiling challenges. Addressing all these challenges now constitute the strategy map for the IDEFOCS, HR&S, and Action10 collaboration programme.
Addressing dream & the challenges
The dreams were expressed as:
Everyone in Liberia lives in an environment that enables them to have a high-quality life. Drugs, violence, and crime are not part of their lives. All Liberians live in a home with their families. They have the training of the profession they wish, and they can all read and write. They have employment or run their own business and earn enough income to sustain their families. With the funds, they earn they can have quality health care and university education if they wish. They are safe in terms of social and physical security. They are all part of the society as equal Liberians.
The Ghetto dwellers also shared that such a support programme has to be offered outside the ghetto. As long as they live inside the ghetto, any sustainable changes of lifestyles are impossible. We have therefore procured a piece of land in a peaceful village by the sea, the Little Bassa, a one-hour drive from Monrovia. This site is now the location of our “Re-integration of former child soldiers" programme. IDEFOCS has cleared the land from trees, dug water well, planted cassava, and constructed a house where ghetto dwellers can stay and benefit from a rehabilitation programme. The house shall eventually have twenty rooms and thus attract twenty clients at a time. IDEFOCS has also included the community of Little Bassa, to ensure a loving and caring environment.
Our trauma counseling programme
We are now launching the trauma counseling programme. A team of trauma counseling professionals in Sweden and Liberians living in Sweden will educate and coach a group of local mental health care providers in Liberia at our Support Centre in Paintsville. The education will be on-line and be addressing basic mental care. The training will combine Swedish expertise and practice, African expertise and practice, and Liberian cultural traditions and values.
Mental health care will then be offered at our house in Little Bassa and also at our Support center in Buchanan that we run in collaboration with IDEFOCS. We will target former child soldiers, women associated with fighting forces, and others suffering from the cruelties of the past war.
Our local mental health care providers in Liberia are carefully selected and shall know how to interact with our clients, with the families and the communities while building awareness about mental health. We shall help our clients to understand mental health conditions and encourage adherence to treatment. Long-term, our ambition is to set up a trauma counseling training school.