World Relief Indonesia has been implementing a psychosocial support project to serve asylum seekers/refugees in a detention center in Bali. In 2013, there were at least 120 asylum seekers from various countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Turkey being detained there. The definition ofasylum seeker applies to all people fleeing persecution in their country, adults and children. Children are one of the most vulnerable groups of asylum seekers. They are subject to multiple, serious stressors. These include dealing with the behavioral and psychological distress in adults, dislocation from protective social groups and structures, witnessing violence and self-harm, and separation from important relational attachments. These stressors have incredible negative impacts such as: depression, stress-related medical conditions, and delayed growth and development. They can also manifest themselves in violence.
Three days of training by Jonathan and Rie Wilson on October 2013 has improved the capacity of World Relief Indonesia’s Refugee Team in providing psychosocial support for the asylum seeker children. We were equipped to run the five-day camp in the detention center where we have been serving these children by providing opportunities for education, self-expression, and play.
The parents of these twenty-three children commented that they had never seen their children so happy ever since they were detained.
Due to the regulations, facility and the various cultural backgrounds in the detention center, World Relief had to make a few adaptations to the original format. But the team of seven staff and volunteers managed to run the camp without any significant difficulty on the third week of December 2013. The impact, thankfully, was encouraging and heartwarming. The parents of these twenty-three children commented that they had never seen their children so happy ever since they were detained. The team also witnessed the children’s positive behavioral changes after the camp ended.
The following story was written by one of the staff who took part in the OpSAFE camp:
Omar* is such an adorable 5 year old boy from Iran. His chubby face is cutely framed with his light blue framed eyeglasses that he has been wearing for a couple of years. Although he is big for his age, he is the gentlest and the most polite boy in the detention center. Omar and his family–father, mother, a twin sister with cerebral palsy, uncle and aunty, have been in the detention center for over 3 months now, and they will still be detained until further notice. They are trying to get refugee status so that they could be resettled in Australia.
When I first met Omar, he was so shy that he did not even mention his name. He was hiding himself behind his father. I could tell that he was curious about me and other World Relief staff, as he kept on peeping at us and trying to hold his smile when I smiled at him. From then on, every time I approached him, if his parents were not around, he would retreat to his room. Omar and I never had a moment of talking or playing together like the other kids in the detention center until December 2013.
After getting trained to run 5 days activity of “Child Trauma Healing Intervention” on October 2013, the staff team and I were excited to implement what we had learnt. We were really encouraged in providing emotional care to children in the detention center who are traumatized by the violence in their home country, the rough journey and transition, as well as the limiting and, often time, harsh environment in the detention center. I was in charge of a group leader in which Omar was a part of.
During the first two days, Omar would not want to join the group if his father was not there with him. He would run out of the class or the activity to his room looking for his father when he lost sight of him. Although I encouraged him to stay with his friends in the classroom, he would politely say that he needed to look for his father. That was the sign that he did not yet have the trust in his friends and me as crew leader, and that was something that I was ready to handle because it was mentioned on the training. Getting the children’s trust is something we would like to achieve in order to be able to provide them emotional care.
On the third day of the activity, I was surprised to see that Omar would come out of his room without his father when I called him out. He also grabbed my hand when we walk together to the classroom, for the very first time. When his father had to attend an interview with UNHCR, he stayed calmly in the class throughout the day. I was so surprised as much as I was so grateful about it.
What we taught during the five days activity: You are not Alone! Everyone is Important! Follow and Believe! Be Strong and Courageous! and You are Loved! seemed to impress the children’s heart. We prayed together, played and ate together and the kids have grown their trust for us. We are thankful to be able to improve our capacity to love and help the children in the detention center.
*For security reasons, the name of the child has been changed.