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Kenya Red Cross volunteers in five-day long PSS training

“Mukuru” means dumping site in Swahili. And that is exactly what the Mukuru informal settlements (or slums) on the outskirts of Nairobi are built on. Here people live in close quarters under harsh and dangerous conditions. The Kenya Red Cross Society runs an Urban Risk Reduction programme in Mukuru. They educate about safety, take care of the most vulnerable and run kids clubs in several of the schools attended by Mukuru children who are vulnerable because of extreme poverty, alcohol and substance abuse, violence, HIV/AIDS and unemployment. This week some of the volunteers in the Urban Risk Reduction program are attending a five day psychosocial support training for trainers course conducted by PS Centre technical advisor, Louise Kryger.

Louise Kryger has been in Kenya for two weeks prior to the training in order to plan, hold workshops with the Kenya Red Cross staff and go on field visits in order to adapt the PS Centre’s standard psychosocial support training of trainer’s course to the work of the Kenya Red Cross.


British Red Cross team supports Britons in Algeria hostage crisis

A British Red Cross psychosocial support team has travelled to North Africa to help Britons involved in the Algerian hostage crisis.

18 January 2013: The team of six will provide emotional support and practical help to British nationals caught in the situation and their relatives.

The team forms part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) Rapid Deployment Team, which travelled to North Africa this (Jan 18) morning.

Simon Lewis, Head of Emergency Planning at the British Red Cross, said: “Our psychosocial support team will be providing emotional support and practical help to Britons as part of the FCO’s response to the Algerian hostage crisis.”

In accordance with its role as an auxiliary to the public authorities in the humanitarian field the Red Cross is responding at the request of the FCO, which is responsible for providing consular assistance to Britons overseas.

In previous deployments psychosocial support teams have assisted Britons following fighting in Libya and events in Egypt in 2011, Haiti’s earthquake, flooding in Madeira and the transport chaos as a result of the volcanic ash cloud in 2010, and the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008.

This article is from the British Red Cross. See the original on their website: http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/News/2013/January/British-Red-Cross-team-supports-Britons-caught-up-in-Algeria-hostage-crisis

East Asian Red Cross Societies take steps towards psychosocial network

By Francis Markus, IFRC Communications Delegate in Beijing

Pink cheeked and boisterous, several groups of primary-aged children charge around the brightly coloured art exhibits in this gallery, in the basement of an upmarket Beijing shopping mall.

Only their clothing, homely and practical, rather than smart brand-name togs, offers a clue that they belong not to the social classes that normally patronise this place, but to a very different layer of Chinese society.

Participants in the first meeting of East Asia region's first PSS network visit a project, supported by Red Cross Society of China Psychosocial volunteers and staff, in which children - some of them migrant workers' families - are helped to gain new insights through art. 

These kids, shepherded by teachers and Red Cross Society of China volunteers are among the children of China’s hundreds of millions of migrant workers, who make their living in big cities like Beijing, often far from their home regions.

The session they’re clearly enjoying, on exploring the meanings of shapes and objects, has been guided by support from RCSC’s psychosocial programme, Sunshine in Your Heart.

“The main purpose is for the kids to experience the world through their five senses and to get to know themselves and each other,” says SIYH’s Wendy Wang.

She is one of the participants in a five-day meeting of East Asian Red Cross Societies, of which the field visit to this project is part of the programme.

The 5 national societies in East Asia – China, Japan, Mongolia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea – have agreed to take the first steps towards forming a regional Psychosocial Support Network.

National Societies in the region are already offering psychosocial support in a variety of areas. These range from help for herders grappling with alcoholism on the Mongolian steppe, classes for immigrant brides and their children in the Republic of Korea, as well as comfort for orphans and for disaster survivors in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and in Japan.

Forging closer contacts among the region’s Red Cross psychosocial focal points and allowing the National Societies to share experience is expected to bring real benefits.

As participants – who also included those from regions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan – mapped out their action plans for the future, the need for integration of psychosocial support into other programme areas featured prominently in virtually all their presentations.

The need for more advocacy and sensitisation on psychosocial work, within national societies was also a prominent theme.

“This marks a major step forward for psychosocial support work in this region,” said Nana Wiedemann, Director of the Red Cross / Red Crescent Psychosocial Centre in Copenhagen, who co-facilitated the meeting. “It’s important to recognise that a lot of this type of work is already being done here, by people who may not even realise what an invaluable service they are providing to those in need of psychosocial support. Establishing a formalised Asian network will help foster knowledge sharing and encourage advocacy in the area, by integrating psychosocial outreach in a supportive framework.”


Spanish translation of Coping with Crisis now available

Read the latest issue of Coping with Crisis in Spanish, "Afrontando la Crisis" by clicking on the picture at left, or by downloading the PDF here.


Training Highlights:
Reaching New Frontiers

From Copenhagen to Colombo, from Yaoundé to Julkujärvi,
participants gathered to learn more about psychosocial support, how to become a trainer, how to set up a national programme – and when to do nothing in the field.

By Simone von Burgwald, Communications Staff, PS Centre

“True or false: ’Do No Harm’ sometimes means that you should do nothing.

If asked this question, how would you respond?

Emergency Response Unit (ERU) delegates in Julkujärvi, Finland were presented with this and other situational dilemmas, when the Finnish Red Cross held a five-day Training of Trainers workshop. Using examples from the field, participants discussed the possible conflict between the ‘Do No Harm’ principle and the humanitarian imperative to help those in need. Participants had to argue for their responses, discovering through communal debate the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. The debate confronted them with the fact that to avoid causing further harm, sometimes the ethical thing is to do nothing.

Read the entire article in PDF format by clicking the image at right.


Translation of Coping with Crisis now available

Lisez le magazine Face à la Crise en français (á gauche) ou téléchargez-le ici.

Read Coping with Crisis in French (at left) or download it here.

PSS in Sichuan:
Impressive progress, but the battle goes on

By Barbara Tai in Sichuan

12 November 2012: Tang Tingting used to be very active and optimistic, just like other girls her age, until the day she lost her father to the earthquake that struck Sichuan in 2008.

Tang Tingting (in middle) with her friends at school. Red Cross Society of China,Sichuan Branch.

Since most schools in her hometown were destroyed by the 8-magnitude quake, Tingting had to spend a year in the distant north-eastern province of Shandong to continue her primary school education. When she came back to her hometown, her teacher, Wang Mingqiang, immediately noticed the change in the 10-year-old girl. “She was very silent and unwilling to talk to us and her classmates. She always sat quietly in a corner of the classroom,” said Mr Wang.

“I tried to talk to her every day, provided individual counselling, and encouraged her to join some special interest clubs after school. I noticed that she had a talent for and interest in dramatic performance,” Mr Wang reported.

Gradually, Tingting started to open up, she made friends at her drama clubs, and she was even awarded several prizes for outstanding performance, which increased her confidence.

Efforts paid off

“I have to attribute Tingting’s successful recovery to the psychosocial programmes supported by the Red Cross. Without the trainings we were given, we might not have noticed the problems with the kids – or even if we had, we had no idea about how to cope with them,” said Wang Mingqiang.

Of course, Tingting is not the only one who benefited from this psychosocial programme, designed and supported by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to cope with the emotional aftermath of the disaster in Sichuan, which claimed more than 80,000 lives.

An Quanlong, another student of Mr Wang’s at Tanghu Primary School, lost both his parents in the earthquake. Afterwards he felt isolated in his grief. “His only friend was his drawing pen. He never listened to the teachers in class;he just kept drawing all day long,” Mr Wang observed.

“We assigned an art teacher to help with Quanlong. The teacher started to talk to Quanlong about his feelings and encouraged him to express himself through painting." According to Mr Wang, Quanlong joined the painting club and became friends with other club members. Gradually, he transformed,his painting even won first prize in an art contest in Chengdu.

The crucial part is not just getting involved in an activity, but also helping to restore a child’s social network. “In both Tingting’s and Quanlong’s cases, we brought them back to a group of kids with shared interests, so that they stopped feeling isolated and started to share their feelings,” the teacher added.

Success accompanied by frustrations

Not all children are as lucky as Tingting and Quanlong. Children like them encountered numerous challenges, and in several cases the students did not manage to return to their normal life.

One teenager girl lost both of her parents in the earthquake, and had to stay with her uncle. “Her uncle was very mean, and always favoured his own son. The girl began to hate her uncle, hate her cousin, and even hate herself,” said Ms Zhu.

“I tried to talk to her, and she told me that she wanted to kill her uncle and her cousin and commit suicide.” Teachers immediately began to design a therapeutic plan for her, but before they could implement it she ran away.

“I think the reason why we failed to help them is that we are still lacking the professional knowledge and skills to cope with the extreme cases. We hope we can continue to get trainings on this,” Ms Zhu explained.

Red Cross ready to help

The implementation of psychosocial support in Sichuan is still a work in progress. The psychosocial programmes supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies were concluded in June of 2012. But through continuing advocacy to the government and the public, psychological practice has been integrated into the curriculum of schools in some parts of Sichuan Province.

An East Asia Regional Psychosocial Meeting, to be held from November 19 to 22, will provide a further platform for sharing experience from within and beyond the region, with a sensitization workshop facilitated by experts from the Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support in Copenhagen. With the joint efforts of the participants, an action plan on the psychosocial development in this region will be drafted.

Although psychological issues have received increasing attention in China, social isolation continues to be an issue for children and the elderly, and survivors suffer from the emotional aftermath of the country’s frequent disasters. But for sure, through our efforts, more and more people like Tingting and Quanlong can recover their lives and hope for the future.

An Quanlong got first prize in a painting contest. Red Cross Society of China, Sichuan Branch


The Handbook on Psychosocial Interventions and Training Kit on Community-Based Psychosocial Support are availabe for download in English, French, Arabic and Spanish! It has been translated in many other languages by National Societies. To download the publications click here. To order hard copies send an e-mail to psychosocial.centre@ifrc.org.


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