From our members: Rehabilitation in action

Editor’s Note: This post is a submission from IRCT member Florida Center for Survivor’s of Torture, one of many programmes within Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services (GCJFS) in the United States. It has also been cross-posted from their website, which one may find here.


Christy* is a refugee from Burma and, along with her family, a client of the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture (FCST). She and her family lived in a refugee camp for 12 years. Prior to living in the refugee camp, they endured many challenges.

In their village, many of their neighbours were forced to serve as porters for the military or pay the military a fine. As porters they would have to march with the military for months and were frequently caught in the midst of battle with rebels. Some of Christy’s family died while serving as porter and others were badly wounded. Christy’s father was forced to serve as a watchman for the army. His role was to alert the military if rebels were approaching; he was later accused of supporting the rebel troops and was beaten and tortured. He eventually fled and hid in the Burmese jungle near the border of Thailand. Three years later, the family was then able to reunite in Thailand.

When they arrived in the United States of America, each member of Christy’s family had a hard time adjusting. Everything was very different than in the refugee camp. Christy struggled in school. She could not graduate because of the language barrier and was referred to a GED program.

Christy and her family were referred to FCST six months after they were resettled. Zakira Causevic was assigned to be their Program Specialist. Zakira assisted the family with education, employment, transportation, interpretation and the process of applying for permanent residency.

From the beginning of their interactions with the FCST, Zakira noticed that Christy struggled with self confidence. As a client-centered, intensive case management program, one of the first interactions Christy had with Zakira was centred on creating Christy’s Master Service Plan – a list of goals she would like to achieve. During their discussions, Christy would give up on herself saying that she “could not do it”. Zakira explained that she was too shy. Together they set several goals: obtain a driver’s license, enroll in the GED class and find a job. Although Christy wanted to achieve these goals she continued to state, “I cannot do that”.

A volunteer was recruited to the family to help them to learn English. The volunteer also noticed that Christy did not have confidence and tried to be very supportive in helping her build her self esteem. With the help of FCST, Christy made steps to work towards her goals. Each time Zakira saw Christy, she encouraged her and celebrated her successes. Finally, to use Zakira’s words, “Christy made it!”

Now Christy has her driver’s license, found a job and is going to school to get her GED. Her new goal is to go to college and become a nurse. Clearly, Christy has gained confidence and self–esteem, and given all of the progress she’s made thus far, Zakira and the FCST staff can envision her achieving her new goals.

*Not her real name


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