Beyond Trauma – Political Violence, Refugees, Empowerment and Health

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Participant Voices from Everlyne Achieng (Kenya) and Jihad Suliman (Syria).

Everlyne Achieng: I am very grateful that I was enabled to attend this year’s Global Health Summer School. I must say it was an eye-opening experience for me, an opportunity to learn, interact and network. On behalf of the Summer School participants, I would like to sincerely thank IPPNW Germany and the Organizing Committee of the 2016 Summer School for a job well done. Congratulations!

The Summer School consisted of participants from all walks of life. It was interesting for me to interact with some participants who had never been to Africa but were willing to listen to my story on Kakuma Refugee Camp Project and other key aspects about Africa. It was a very cosmopolitan Summer School and at least each continent had a representative. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to interact extensively and learn about different cultures of the world. We are glad that the Summer School Organizers thought it important to have participants from different regions of the world.

The more we worked in groups and presented our discussions, the more we got to understand each other better, our strengths, our weaknesses, our talents and abilities. We shared palatable meals in the beautiful sun, followed by a short walk before the afternoon sessions giving us time for reflection of the previous sessions.

The sessions were very interesting, informative and mind-blowing. We always looked forward to more and more sessions during the training. I am hoping that I will have my electives in Germany come next year 2017 so that I coordinate and also mentor the new Summer School participants.

The Summer school begun on a high note as were taught about Self-Care. This was a very interesting point for thought and learning. It is important that we as medical professionals take care of our emotions and feelings especially when treating trauma patients. It is also imperative that we assess our emotions and thoughts every day in order to improve on our performance. I will always remember to take care of my mental health even as I take care of my patients’ health.

Trauma
We also had several sessions on Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma is a sudden, unexpected major event that is likely to cause a stressful disorder. It is divided into simple trauma, multiple and complex trauma. Simple Trauma involves the threat of death, threat of serious injury or sexual violation, a physical reaction, being robbed, self-abandonment, or a massive concentration of events. Multiple Trauma is having a traumatic experience over a long period of time. Children are the most affected; through rape, sexual abuse by a family member, etc. Such experiences definitely change the way a child develops since they always have a sensation of danger and a negative attitude to the environment around them. Common examples of causes of PTSD in the history of the world include the Holocaust, torture in Chile, South Africa, Nicaragua; war and emergencies in Guatemala, Mozambique, Sierra Leone; tsunami, Haiti and Syria; refugees and migration from the Middle East; West Africa, refugees in Germany.
Refugees

The worlds refugees are faced with very many challenges. As I look at the world today and try to analyze matters, the world actually belongs to no-one in particular, rather we belong to the world. It is important that humanity reaches out to humanity and it is our duty to take care of refugees who have been forced by circumstances to be in the state they are in. It was interesting to present on the Kakuma Refugee Project and the health awareness we provided at the camps on HIV/Aids and TB, the education and career empowerment to refugee students and Girl-Child Empowerment. I am glad the participants were interested to know more and also asked several questions.

Thereafter, we conducted research on the Social Determinants of Health among refugees. It was interesting to learn about different situations in the UK, Jordan, Germany, Thailand and Kenya. What clearly emerged when looking at the major challenges to access to health care is that there is poor government support and funding, great dependence on international aid, the fear of communicable diseases – e.g. TB, typhoid, cholera – spreading to the general public, and lack of access to identification documents to enable people to move freely to health centers of their choice.

Health through Empowerment

We had a wonderful panel session by three women who are working with refugees in various stages of integration. One was Fatuma Musa, a Somali woman, who was nominated in March 2016 to represent refugees in the German Parliament. She also runs her own organization called Newcomers Business Lunch. The newcomers are the refugees; the organization assists refugees in coping with their new environment. She is involved in assisting refugees to obtain legal documents, to be able to have a voice, obtain a job and settle legally in Germany. We had two women from Cameroon and Saudi Arabia who did Women Refugee Empowerment Programs to help women obtain jobs and find accommodation. We had a discussion on how refugees could be more easily integrated and we came up with some key aspects, including community participation, knowledge and creating awareness, influencing change, developing high self-esteem and a sense of control. There are also women empowerment groups where women are trained how to continuously empower themselves and also how to seek asylum though legal networking.

It was amazing to realize how much potential youth have, especially in the field of art. Young people have great potential and energy and – if put to good use – they can point to a sensitive issue for the government in a humorous way. It was interesting to hear about the utopias and dystopias by Yasser and Faith and how they were successfully organized in Germany. This was a great turning point in my life.  A lot of project ideas flooded my mind and I thought to myself, I must organize one interesting dystopia. Before I knew it, we were put into various groups in order to organize and practice the skills we had acquired. It was a wonderful opportunity to utilize our world of imagination, we also had to combine such quick flashes of ideas. Our group conducted a dystopia on the Private Health System in Germany and how it is like a luxurious way of living and a way of social stratification. We called our Dystopia ‘PerMed’. Patients could order quick surgery using PayPal on their iPad and had the freedom of choosing the most popular doctors to treat them and also operate on them. They could order very expensive dishes and add points to their cards every time they attend private clinics. That makes it look and sound cool to be going to a private hospital.

Each group had wonderful ideas, it was interesting to watch what each group came up with. We are all blessed with the ability to imagine, think and create. Since youth are the greatest change-makers in the world today, it is encouraging to see that other people are conducting successful utopia and dystopia projects and we too can do the same. We only have to believe, then everything is certainly possible.

We recommend that we come up with one project that participants from different countries can apply for and work on in different regions and with the organizations they belong to. We can then present the project at the next summer school. This will make the subsequent summer school training more sustainable and fruitful in the long run. Then we can look back and say, we really applied what we learnt at the summer school.

Everlyne Achieng is President of the Medical Students for Social Responsibility (MSSR),
Moi University, IPPNW-Kenya

Global Health Summer School: Enriching, informative and unique

Jihad Suleiman: Enriching, informative and unique, this is how the Global Health Summer Schools’s experience was to me.

The summer school gave me the opportunity to interact with open-minded and highly motivated young people who came from different cultures and backgrounds, young people who sat together and exchanged their experiences and discussed the topic from different aspects. Moreover, the lecturers were diverse in regard to their specializations and previous experiences, thus, more colorful brush strokes were added to the topic’s whole picture, as a result, my horizon was even more widened. Furthermore, I felt myself related to reality since I was receiving the information from the direct source and that made the information more credible to me.

I enjoyed the interactive discussions during the sessions which were both theoretical and practical, and that gave me the opportunity to make use of the information I received during the sessions to try to form some visions and ideas for the future with my fellow participants.

I faced some high pressure moments where some sessions were intense and heavy loaded with information and pressure, so I found in the relaxing room which was offered to us the perfect place to relieve the stress.

This experience made me thirsty for more information about the topic, motivates me to follow and to attend the school next year and furthermore to advice whoever is interested in the related topics to join next year.

Jihad Suliman is a Syrian­-palestinian journalist and refugee in Berlin.

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