Archive for category Europe
Editor’s Note: This is the final blog in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our introduction blog here). See other previous posts in this series here.
I was discussing our work recently with the CEO of a company who are redesigning our website, and he exclaimed: “I don’t know how you deal with all of that on daily basis. I just don’t know”.
As of this month I have been working with SPIRASI for ten years, and I can’t count how many times I have been asked this question, both professionally and personally. It’s a question that I know others who work with asylum seekers grapple with; but it’s also something that over my ten years of being at SPIRASI we have tried, sometimes with limited success, to deal with.
It’s an important distinction, in this work with victims of torture, for me to state that I’m not a clinician. I’m neither a psychologist nor doctor, although I have been asked a good few times if I’m a priest given that we’ve been founded by a religious order called the Spiritans (I’m not). Being a non-clinician does mean that I don’t meet with clients to conduct assessments or therapy sessions. Although I do interact with some of the clients of our centre, it’s often unscheduled and normally from a distance. This distinction in our work is important because it can determine not only the impact of the work, but how the response to that impact is often formulated and how readily you can identify the impact.
I think it’s only natural that on the scale of need in the centre for support that I and other administrative staff are often the lowest on that scale – especially when you are aware of the depth of suffering and despair of our clients and what confronts our clinical team. Before the Peer Support Project, we only really thought of the need to support staff in terms of that front line clinical team and along traditional lines, such as individual supervision for therapists. There is an undeniable and demonstrable need to ensure that therapists, social workers and physicians receive regular supervision and support, but the Peer Support Project has shifted this assumption in our organisation. We now accept the need to provide support to those on that lower and less visible end of the spectrum.
Non-clinical team members are impacted by the work. This impact is often through high levels of stress and some vicarious traumatisation and these needs cannot be ignored by rehabilitation centres. Through the use of the Stress Management Cycle (SMC) that was shared by the Antares Foundation, we now have the ability to approach the stress related to the work in a much more systematic and considered way.
As a result of working daily with victims of torture, it becomes a challenge to see beyond the individual needs of victims and focus on self, team and organisation. The SMC gives us the tools to look at what needs to be in place on a policy level and to ensure that through the time of an employee/intern/volunteer within our organisation, from selection and induction through to post employment support, that we have appropriate mechanisms to support staff, both clinical and non-clinical.
The work is stressful and difficult, and I now readily admit to people like the CEO of our web-design company that it is. But I also make the point to him that it is one of the most rewarding and inspiring jobs that I could have ever wished for and that it’s an honour to work for victims of torture.
By Greg Straton, Director of SPIRASI, Ireland
The fight to find safety away from persecution and torture is tough enough – every year war and conflict, together with ethnic, religious and cultural persecution, force millions of people to flee their home country to lands often unknown other than in name. Fleeing the homeland is not so much a choice but a necessity for survival.
So imagine, after all the struggles to ensure security, being deported back to the country where you were tortured. That’s the reality for 11 Congolese refugees who, until last month, were residing in Tees Valley, north-east England, to escape their torturers.
In the ‘Unsafe Return 2’ report, from UK human rights charity Justice First, evidence suggests 11 out of 15 Congolese refugees whom the charity tracked between November 2011 and September 2013 are again facing persecution in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after UK authorities took the decision to deport them.
It is feared that three out of the 11 deportees have been killed following detention and ill-treatment at the hands of the Congolese authorities.
The case is another which highlights the urgent need for greater safeguards for refugees and asylum seekers to prevent torture from reoccurring, assuring safety and security from their perhaps tormented past.
Many refugees want to return to their home yet many cannot. It is the responsibility of nations providing asylum to rehabilitate torture victims and to safeguard them from ever returning to places where they face, as the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees defines, “a well-founded fear of being persecuted”.
Over the past several years, the IRCT has undertaken interventions in support of victims of torture and trauma among refugee and internally displaced populations. For example, the PROTECT-ABLE project has trained doctors, member centres have offered rehabilitation services to torture survivors in refugee camps and assisted local health professionals to conduct psychosocial needs assessments of internally displaced persons across the world.
However, more needs to be done to highlight the special needs of asylum seekers and refugees, so they can have their full case heard and can receive proper protection and rehabilitation from torture.
Perhaps most worryingly is this, and many other heavy-handed approaches to asylum seekers in the UK, shows how flawed the UK asylum system may be.
Written by Ashley Scrace, Communications Officer at the IRCT in Copenhagen
If you define Britain by its oft lauded stereotypes, one may assume a peaceful, upstanding nation which obeys rules, regulations and notions of fair play. Yet for 30 years Ian Cobain has dedicated his life to exposing the secrets, the lies, the inconvenient truths often buried deep beneath a British façade.
An investigative journalist with the Guardian newspaper, his reports into the UK’s counter-terrorism practices since 9/11 have won a number of major awards including the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism, as well as a range of Amnesty International awards.
In 2012 Ian published his first book, Cruel Britannia, which analysed how the British government has repeatedly and systematically resorted to torture, through years of British colonial rule, to World War Two and to the War on Terror.
And while we may not like to think of it, torture is something which Ian believes is still practiced by the UK and other Western countries often perceived to be upholding human rights.
“I’m still shocked by some of the matters I discover. But I’m no longer surprised,” says Ian.
“After 9/11, I knew by January 2002 that the US was mistreating its prisoners. Photographs showing shackled men, in gloves, ear defenders and blacked-out goggles, being dragged across the ground at Guantanamo, were published by the US military. That was a pretty good clue [that torture of prisoners was happening].
“The same month, while I was in Kabul, Red Cross officials told me that prisoners were being tortured at Kandahar. I was terribly shocked. The British government and its intelligence agencies claim they didn’t discover this for years. What nonsense.”
A report on the condition of detainees in 2012, ten years after Ian learned of torture in Kandahar, still lists the southern city in Afghanistan as one of the areas where detained individuals are routinely mistreated by officials.
“At the time it was difficult to comprehend that the British government would draw up policies that resulted in the torture, but that’s what happened,” Ian explains.
“It took me a while longer to understand the level of UK support and participation in the rendition programme. More time made me realise that the UK was complicit in kidnappings and torture during operations in which the US barely played any part.”
For Ian, the ill-treatment by the UK of those in detention, particularly in situations of conflict, is nothing new.
“British military processed and mistreated their prisoners in Northern Ireland in 1971 in precisely the same way that another generation of the British military was doing it in Basra in 2003,” says Ian.
“Authorities use it to intimidate, to coerce, to humiliate, to extract information, or to obtain so-called confessions. But it also creates reservoirs of hatred that don’t run dry for generations. And nobody can quite predict what will flow from those reservoirs.”
Hostility though is something that Ian has felt from authoritative figures, many of whom try to deter his work and the work of human rights defenders across the globe.
“Some people are hostile, but I don’t really care. I’ve been threatened once or twice, by people in ‘authority’, but I’m not in any danger,” he says.
Documenting and exposing torture is a sensitive issue for everyone involved. While the journalist or human rights activist exposing a case of torture might be in danger of reprisals, the survivor risks that and risks re-traumatisation by retelling the experience. However, documentation enables victims to prove the veracity of their allegations and thus increases the pressure on perpetrators to fulfill their obligations under international law. Torture is hardly a positive representation of a group or a country, particularly one like the UK.
Rehabilitating victims of torture, helping them recover from the trauma and become advocates for justice and truth, is one pivotal way to change views on torture in everyone’s minds.
“A few prosecutions of people in powerful positions might concentrate the minds of the next generation,” Ian adds.
There have been approximately 800 cases of alleged torture brought before Israel’s Attorney General. Not one has resulted in an investigation.
“The government fears that people will say that they were authorised to commit torture,” Dr Ishai Menuchin, executive director of Public Committee against Torture (PCATI). “That is why they are not allowing the investigations”
Yet there clearly is torture committed in Israel, which is both antidemocratic and a violation of international law, explains Louis Frankenthaler, Development & International Outreach Director at PCATI.
I sat with Louis and Ishai recently and asked them to explain, well, simply what they do. I already knew that PCATI coordinates a project in which the IRCT provides training on how to conduct proper forensic examination in cases alleging torture. However, I was unfamiliar with other aspects of their work
PCATI is a legal and advocacy organisation that has put forth the majority of the 800 torture claims against the state. In addition to their direct legal claims against Israel, they have pursued social change through both traditional and vanguard means, explains Louis.
“The vast majority of victims of torture are Palestinians under occupation,” says Frankenthaler.
To bring about social change, they try to build the critical skills in Israeli youth by working with high school education programmes and teachers. Further, they produce research publications and reports to disseminate to the public and media, such as Doctoring the Evidence in 2011, which chronicled medical practitioners involvement in torture and ill-treatment.
Then there are the more “vanguard approaches,” as Louis describes, to force the public to confront the reality that individuals are being tortured in Israeli detention facilities.
For example, at a recent public film screening event in Jerusalem, PCATI asked around 10 youth volunteers to be handcuffed and “interrogated” in the street near the entrance.
“People just want to drink some wine and watch a Woody Allen film, and then they saw this scene on the street,” Ishai says. “We asked them, ‘How does it feel to know that just 100 meters away, people are being tortured?’ They don’t want to know what we are doing. They don’t like to think that this is their society.”
The tactics are useful to get a dialogue going, to confront the pervasive attitudes in Israel that torture is only used again “terrorists”.
“People other the victims,” says Louis. “They think of them as terrorists because that is how the authorities define them… as suspects, as ‘wanted’ as….”
Recent changes to the appeals system have the chance to push this dialogue further – to bring about a full, formal and transparent investigation into a case of alleged torture. While the chances of that have historically been rather grim, Ishai says, he remains cynical, yet optimistic. Just last year, the Attorney General changed the complaints investigations system. Rather than led by a member of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), also known as Shin Bet, a civilian investigator will lead the appeals process. Ishai adds, “Yet we are waiting for this to become fully operative”.
But how do you uncover a policy that authorizes torture of others? Louis and Ishai agree that the goal now is to create such a depth of evidence and material presented to the appeals process, such as forensic documentation of torture, that the courts will have to pursue an investigation. And PCATI continues to bring forth cases – 35 new cases thus far,; 22 appeals cases in just one month.
“If just one case goes through, we expect that officials will say they were authorised to torture,” says Ishai. “We just need one case in a formal and open investigation.”
By Tessa, IRCT Communications
Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here, here, here, here, here and here.
Shortly before the start of our participation in the PEER SUPPORT Project, Hemayat moved to new premises because our old office had become too small. Since the old centre did not have enough therapy rooms, many of our therapists had to work in their own offices. This solution enabled us to still treat more patients. On the other hand, this system led to few opportunities to share experiences and lend mutual support between the therapists. The PEER SUPPORT Project showed us that there is still a lot of work to do to enhance the wellbeing of our staff. In our new space we now do have possibilities to do so.
Since our last blog, some things have changed for the better, as our new organisational structure is now partially in place. The therapists and the translators elected members of their groups to represent their needs and wishes within the organisation. Regular meetings between the managing staff and the representatives of these groups are held to discuss topics concerning the running of the organisation as well as the wellbeing of the staff.
We also started to evaluate our written staff policies: what is in place? What is missing? What needs enhancing? The information we received during the PEER SUPPORT project training in Barcelona helped us to find some of our blind spots concerning the support of our staff and its wellbeing. The therapists decided it would be good for them to have the opportunity to meet outside the office in an informal way. So they now installed a jour-fix and meet in a restaurant. The new intervision system is also about to be installed. Since a lot of the staff will take holiday leaves during the summer, we decided to start in September with regular intervision groups. The response of the staff toward the intervision meetings was favourable – many therapists feel it could help them and their work by sharing their experiences with each other.
In our last blog post, we had mentioned that money is always a big issue. We have very long waiting lists, which puts a lot of pressure on our shoulders. We want to provide the much needed help as quickly as possible. The downside to our new premises is that they are more costly than the old ones. We did not want this to affect the extent of therapy sessions we offer.
We therefore hosted a charity event on 21st of June. A lot of artists and well-known persons offered their support and we received so many donations that we can even increase our therapy hours!
By Nora Ramirez Castillo, psychologist & assistant manager Hemayat.
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here, here, here, here and here.
“Our mission is to help, and when we feel that someone is trying to help us, this creates a good feeling and gives us wings for go on our mission”
In everyday life, working with victims of torture generates stressful moments. Why? Because we are always confronted with persons whose needs are many and varied, and our ability to cover their needs are often very limited. Our mission is to help, but we cannot always do so. This spirit of bitterness depletes us little by little. We remain marked by a sad story of life, a crippled body and a suffering soul.
How do we unload our soul? How do we free ourselves from what we have gained and what ails us?
All these questions arose in my mind many years ago. Ever since, I always tried to find new answers, new solutions. I started my work for victims of torture 13 years ago as director of MRCT Craiova Romania. Eight-hundred twenty-nine patients are registered at our centre. Every year we regularly assist 140 people with approximately 660 medical consultations and 2,400 physiotherapy sessions. The services are provided by the organization staff consisting of 11 persons. For information on who we are and what we do you can to our website: www.icarmed.ro.
One of the major problems I faced during all these years was to retain staff considering that the financial resources for salaries were always poor. In these circumstances, I think it is important for employees to have a job that comes with love, and to be part of a team in which everyone is united with the other for better and for the worse. This is a difficult goal to achieve, but great things are an accumulation of little things and I think that every step is important.
One step was to devise a questionnaire in order to try to know more about the mood of the team — hardships in facing problems that grind desires and aspirations. For me this questionnaire was and is useful. I chose this way of communication because often, when we stand all together, with all eyes glued to us when we speak, we find it difficult to express what we think, what we are upset about and what we want. The questionnaire is outlined on the bottom of this blogpost, and might be interesting for debate to improve it or maybe as a tool for partners in Peer Support Project.
Another important step is our participation to the Peer Support project, which is driven by a valuable team of project managers and trainers from whom we acquire knowledge. We learned best practices and applied them in our daily work to improve the well-being of the organisation.
We learned when to use the clinical intervision method, which helps us find better solutions to resolving the difficult cases. Since February, we have had monthly clinical intervision sessions.
After the Barcelona training, we realized that is very important to have a defined strategy for stress management in our organisation.
Another positive aspect of the Peer Support project is that we feel good to see how the three leading organisations (IRCT, Antares, bzfo) made their experience and expertise available in support of the six newly participating organisations to acquire similar skills. It simply feels so good when you see that someone wants to do something for you!
By Simona Smarandache, Director of MRCT Craiova Romania
- NAME ……………………………………………………
- DATE OF EMPLOYMENT………………………………………………………
- DATE OF COMPLETION…………………………………………………..
- WORK PROGRAMME ……………………………………………………….
- Do you know your responsibilities according to your job description? Institutional Code of Conduct? Organizational Code of Conduct?
- Describe the activity which you perform in the centre:
- What problems do you have regarding your activity, who/ what generates them, what solution do you think there are for resolving them?
- What dissatisfactions do you have?
- What are your expectations?
- Do you want to continue your activity within the centre? If YES, for how long? For a short/ medium long period of time? What are your aspirations?
- How do you see your activity in the future?
- What does MRCT Craiova represents for you?
- Do you have disagreements with your colleagues? But complaints about them?
- Do you have disagreements with your superiors? But complaints about them?
- Do you have disagreements with the director of the centre? But complaints about him/her?
- Are you satisfied with the working conditions, with the working environment in the centre? What are your suggestions and wishes in this respect?
- Do you have family problems? Are these problems related to your work place?
- Do you have any health problems? What are them? Are these problems caused by your work?
- Are you satisfied with your salary? Do you feel it is according to your efforts?
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here, here, here and here.
My colleague Tony is preparing for his second week of training in Intervision .Shortly after that, we will host a visit by the programme trainers and leaders in which we hope to move the lessons learned through our organisation by offering training to key staff. Much more on that in the next blog post!
As we have a small team in our North East of England Centre where Tony and I work, we are very easily able to pilot different approaches to work. For some time we have been organising regular Away Days for both staff and volunteers. We have sometimes gone to a retreat centre out in the countryside away from the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, where we are based, and we most often use this time for reviewing and planning our work programmes.
As a result of the Self Care training programme that Tony has been involved in designing, which I mentioned in the previous blog. As a result, we decided to arrange a smaller Away Day for the Clinical Team – those working therapeutically with survivors of torture. I now see this as an integral part of the broader Peer Support Project.
After some discussion, we decided we would go to each other’s homes to meet and that the host would prepare lunch. I was worried that we were invading each other’s personal space and even adding additional stress to each other, but soon saw that we all enjoyed taking care of our colleagues by the simple act of offering food. We are open to moving to a neutral venue, but so far the positives of going to each other’s homes have been substantial.
By now, we have met in this way three times. Each meeting has been valuable. The sense of distance from work by being in each other’s homes has helped us to get a deeper connection to each other that allows an intimacy that is very important in helping us support each other.
We structure the time based on a loose version of Intervision, where each worker can speak uninterruptedly about the impact that our work has on them, the challenges they face and the detail of the therapy they are trying to achieve. In the end, questions asked and comments are made in the spirit of Intervision.
We have been able to share thoughts and feelings that we find difficult to disclose even to our clinical supervisors —while they are often very experienced therapists and supervisors with an interest in trauma, they usually aren’t specialists in torture trauma therapy.
We have discovered that we were frightened of hurting them with the horrible details of the torture our clients have experienced. Yet we were holding such material inside ourselves, and we were unwilling to tell even our closest colleagues in case of adding to their burden.
Now we seem more able and willing to share such material and also our reactions to working as therapists with that.
In one meeting, I recall saying that there are times when I feel like I don’t want to hear any more about torture for a day. One of our teams shared that they will often go for a walk along the riverside near our offices when they need a break. I often make an espresso and look out of the window at the world passing by, and near our offices there is much to see. Nearby is a hotel where many people, who want to go to parties in our city, will stay and they often wear fancy dress – sometimes I see 10 men dressed as Superman, or in clothing for playing tennis with huge inflatable tennis rackets.
That helps me to see the funny side of this world that isn’t tainted by torture and is a valuable part of putting our work in proportion, as well as encouraging a sense of humour.
The away days have helped us to become a closer, more understanding and more supportive team.
Next week, we have a further such Away Day for the Clinical Team. I’ll ask if I can take some photos for this blog.
By Alan Brice, Centre Manager, North East Centre, Freedom from Torture
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here, here and here.
I work for Freedom from Torture (previously known as the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture) as Manager of our centre in the North East of England in Newcastle upon Tyne. We have a big centre in London and others that are smaller around the country in Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. More than 50,000 survivors of torture have been helped since we started our work over 25 years ago. We employ about 170 staff (the majority are part-time) and are delighted to have about the same number of volunteers working with us.
We have been developing a training programme for staff on Self Care recently. Tony Wright, who is in my team in the North East Centre, was involved in its design and delivery. Tony is a therapist who also leads training initiatives for us in the North East. The Self Care programme is designed to help staff know more about how working with survivors of torture — hearing their stories, feeling their distress, typing reports documenting torture — impacts on each member of staff. With greater understanding and greater awareness of the damage that can be done to staff, the programme then encourages staff to reflect on how they can be healthier in the work.
When we heard of the Peer Support Project, we were both very interested to be involved. As the Centre Manager, I am also a therapist and am part of the National Clinical Secretariat that oversees clinical issues in the organisation. Taking care of our clients means taking care of each other. If we are not healthy and working to our best we cannot support our clients through the terrible traumas they have experienced. It was a really valuable addition that Celine Conaghan, our Human Resources Manager, was also keen to join the Peer Support project team.
We learned a lot in the week in Barcelona – the trainers worked us pretty hard – and we began to think differently about how to organise ourselves to help each other better. Having the chance to talk with staff in other organisations across Europe was really valuable. It gave us ideas and perspectives that we did not expect. Hearing about the Intervision approach and discussing how others have applied it, made us interested in applying it to our own context.
We did manage to have a little time away from the subject of Peer Support project and many of us went to la Sagrada Família, the amazing church designed by the architect Gaudi. Attached are a couple of photos from our visit there – the light flooding into the building through the stained glass is astonishing.
We noticed a statue near the entrance that was very evocative of the suffering we encounter in our work.
Tony and I found the Foundation of the Catalan artist Antoni Tapies, who was born in Barcelona. One of his pieces of art, a rolled up mattress, reminded us of the experience of many people forced to flee their homes across the world to find safety, food and welcome and who can take just a few items like such a mattress with them.
Back home the three of us have carefully discussed how we can introduce the learning from Barcelona into the work of our organisation. In the North East we have established regular Away Days for the staff team when we can get away from the office and hear each other’s concerns and achievements also. Nationally across the organisation, Celine has sent lots of information around so that staff and volunteers are informed and involved. We want them to be as excited as we are. We are looking forward to the Project Support Visit, which we hope will be in June. During that visit we intend to introduce aspects of Peer Support to the Senior Managers of the organisation and to selected teams. By then Tony will have been on his second additional training on applying Intervision, and we plan to roll out that training across the organisation after that. Next time we blog we will be explaining how our Away Days are working.
By Alan Brice, Centre Manager, North East Centre, Freedom from Torture
Growing pains: Austrian centre examines its organisational structure to cope with its growing client base
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our earlier blog here). See other previous posts in this series here and here.
In Arabic, “Hemayat” means protection and support. Hemayat is a politically independent and non-profit organisation based in Vienna, Austria. We provide interpreter-mediated psychotherapy, psychological consulting and medical support for survivors of war and torture.
Working in this field means to be confronted not only with the trauma of our clients, but also with their current situation. The insecurity of their asylum process makes it difficult to create a safe space in the therapeutic setting. Sometimes it forces the therapists to fight for the rights of their patients to stay. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work, which forces them to live in poverty. Right wing parties and parts of society view asylum seekers as people who want to exploit the social welfare system. All this puts pressure not only on the patient but also on the therapist.
As an organisation, we are confronted with far more people who seek our help than we can accommodate. It has been like this for years although the organisation has constantly been growing. But growth also means that we need new structures. In 2012 our therapists, psychologists and our psychiatrists treated – oft with the assistance of trained translators – 692 people from 46 different countries.
When we received the invitation to participate in the Peer Support Project, we thought that this could be a space to learn about the experiences of other centres and how they deal with similar problems. We also hoped for practical advice in our restructuring. Once the Peer Support Project started, the project led our attention towards the topic of staff well-being. As mentioned above, our staff works in an extremely challenging field. To relieve some of the stress caused by this type of work, we held supervision on a regular basis. The Peer Support Project also introduced us to a new tool: the intervision model.
As we are taking the first steps in the change of our structure, we also want to implement the intervision model in our centre. In April, a meeting for all staff is scheduled to discuss the intervision model, and we hope that we can soon report that it is working. In addition, we hope that this model will help our staff to cope even more effectively with the stress presented by our work.
By Nora Ramirez Castillo (psychologist, responsible for the first interviews and coordination with therapists and translators Hemayat)
No state support, little funding: how Bulgaria centre manages to treat torture victims in trying times
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a regular series from centres involved in the Peer Support project (more fully described in our previous blog here).
In Bulgaria, the problems of asylum seekers and refugees are not being sufficiently discussed. Yet, the problems of torture victims are even more neglected. The attempts to initiate and sustain a dialogue on this vulnerable group of people with Bulgarian state institutions that deal with asylum seekers and refugees have until now been met with disregard. There is no Bulgarian municipality or state-run institution that provides funding for the support of torture victims.
This is the environment in which Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors (ACET) — the only Bulgarian organisation that offers services to torture victims — is trying to develop a rehabilitation programme. Over the last couple of years, the team of ACET has gone through serious funding-related challenges and difficulties.
The team of ACET consists of five psychologists, a psychiatrist, a social worker who is responsible for a great part of the administrative work, and three translators. All of them work part-time. Over the last years, since the professionals have started working part-time, the rehabilitation programme of ACET serves just more than 100 people per year and the consultations take place at the office of ACET, at the Reception Center of the State Agency for Refugees, and at the Special Home for Temporary Placement of Foreign Nationals in Busmantsi.
When we learnt about the option to take part in Peer Support project, our team saw an opportunity for support as ACET was not able to provide its team with stress prevention activities. Due to financial difficulties, we had stopped receiving clinical supervision and having the weekly meetings of the team, as most of the consultants could not invest more time than stipulated for meetings with the clients of the rehabilitation programme.
This is why we saw in Peer Support project as an opportunity for overcoming the fragmentation of the team and its gradual marginalisation, and a chance to create a new model to deal with stress. In addition, the exchange of experiences with colleagues from various European rehabilitation centres has always been inspiring for us, and this project has given us such an opportunity.
During the needs assessment visit in November 2012, we already experienced the advantages of our participation in the project. With the help of the Peer Support project team, we managed to identify some important steps towards improving the communication within the organisation and the planning of our activities. We have identified steps for improving the management of the organisation, the delegation and distribution of administrative tasks that — in the context of a restricted budged — should be managed by the clinical specialists. As a result of the Peer Support project team and the offered recommendations, we renewed the weekly meetings of the team.
The training in the method of intervision during our meeting in Barcelona has enabled the decrease of tension among the team members and triggered ideas about how to overcome the accumulated problems. With the help of the intervision technique, we managed to constructively overcome the misunderstandings in the team related to the communication strategy with the still quite unresponsive Bulgarian state institutions that deal with asylum seekers and refugees.
We are now looking forward to ANTARES’ visit in order to gain insights about creating a pre-accession training for everybody who will become part of our team in the years to come.
By Kristina Gologanova, social worker and assistant project coordinator, Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors (ACET)