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)