C6. Community Interventions – Oral Paper Session

Friday, 31 March 2017

From Xenophobic Community to Learning Community: Creating Safety and Local Solutions for Torture Survivors in a Rural Minnesota Context

This paper will describe lessons learned from a 9-month government-funded project to build a “learning community” focused on improving coordination and integration of behavioral health services for war-traumatized refugee populations in St. Cloud, MN, USA. St Cloud is a small city in a rural area experiencing considerable xenophobia and racial tensions in response to an influx of 10,000 Somali refugees over the past decade. We measured achievement of the project’s goal through the following:

a) Recruitment, hire, and usage of a trusted local leader in the Somali-American community to ensure project credibility and ensure Somali community participation so that Somali community input could drive the process, which it did: the largest attendance in focus groups and trainings, and the most solutions generated, came from Somali community members themselves. We see this as a measure of success for a key sub-goal of the project: to engage the communities of survivors in their own healing.

b) Recruitment of diverse constituencies to attend focus groups and constituency-specific trainings that identified local needs and local solutions to improve coordination and integration of behavioral health services for St Cloud’s refugee populations. This included behavioral health providers; front-line community members who encounter behavioral health concerns working in the schools, public health nursing, child protection services, domestic violence, and basic needs/social service agencies; and refugee community members, including patients and their family members.

c) Integration and networking of normally segregated communities via a full-day conference in which the different constituencies received separate-track training they had previously identified that they need to begin addressing refugee behavioral health for the first half, followed by a half-day of working together in integrated small groups to build relationships, engage in bi-directional cross-cultural dialogue on the project’s topic, and identify next steps.

d) Establishment of an ongoing learning community in St Cloud that outlives the grant and is not led by the grantee but instead by the community, including significant refugee community representation. This community task force continues to meet monthly to implement local solutions generated as ideas during the grant period. Their immediate priority is to build a sustainable network of local providers, culturally relevant resources, and point-persons who have regular contact, trust, and opportunities to share knowledge with one another. They see this as a necessary first step and springboard for creating further improvement in community systems promoting behavioral health integration.

Andrea Northwood (The Center for Victims of Torture, USA)

How does Community, Friendship & Trust have a role to play in getting people the support they need?

Community, Friendship & Trust. These three things create a space where new arrivals open up, talk about their experiences and allows new friends to support them in seeking support and services for torture and trauma.
Through community and through friendship, with a guided, trusted and gentle hand, the stigma around mental health can be reduced and new arrivals are more willing to access services when people they trust recommend the support.

We will talk about how trust, friendship and community have a part to play in successful referral of people to services for Torture and Trauma, with real life cases and how communities and services can work together to get people what they need and the ongoing benefits to society when people are seeking support and treatment.
For many new arrivals, more specifically Refugees and Asylum Seekers, are living with side effects of long term torture and trauma and don’t even know it. For most, this has been their daily “norm”, some moments, days or weeks are worse than others, but it is still their “norm”. How do our new neighbours even know they have PTSD or other effects of torture and trauma, if they don’t have a language for it and how do they seek support and medical attention if mental health is a “western problem”. How does Community, Friendship & Trust have a role to play in getting people the support they need.

Megs Lamb (Multicultural Communities Council of SA)

Presentation currently unavailable

Refugee Communities Advocacy Network: Our lives, our voices, our decisions

The Refugee Communities Advocacy Network (RCAN) is a group of refugee community members coming together to fill a void: the often unrecognised voice of people from a refugee background advocating on issues that matter most to them. Refugee community members have long voiced their frustration over their absence from key discussions and decisions in relation to the issues that impact their lives the most. RCAN supports community members to have the opportunities to rectify this deficit.

Initiated by the Refugee Council and supported by the Victorian State Government and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS), RCAN builds on the strength of refugee communities and supports them to amplify their voice at all levels of government and also with businesses, organisations and services.

Using a strengths-based approach, RCAN aims to support the recovery of people from a refugee background (including people still in the process of seeking protection) as they live and settle in Australia. As one RCAN members said, “refugee communities as a collective should not only be talked about, but talked with.”

Over 20 different refugee communities participate in RCAN and ongoing work contributes to a national body that has a stronger and more effective influence on key government policy decisions that affect refugee communities.

Rebecca Eckard (Refugee Council of Australia), Shukufa Tahiri (Refugee Council of Australia)

Presentation currently unavailable

Operationalising Asset Based Community Development Approach: A Case Study of the 2016 Liberian Annual Cultural and Independence Anniversary Celebration

A well-known phenomenon amongst practitioners in the field of settlement and refugee community development is the idea of community fragmentation as result of the political violence. Most of the refugee communities are from place where they have experienced political violence of some sort. In some cases, a portion of the community turned against the other and vice versa.

Martin –Baro who popularised the concept of political violence in the context of State sponsored Terrorism highlighted some of the impacts of political violence on community as being phenomenon that leads to breakdown in relations, narrowing of frame of mind and restricting ability to organise and mistrust in authorities and other members of the community. As a result, even when in the settlement context, most refugee communities still remain fragmented to certain extent.

Community development is about bringing community members together to act on issues that will affect their lives and interests. If community is fragmented, individuals will find it difficult to corporate and achieving good outcomes from community projects will mean more frustration and more efforts on the part of community leaders. This makes refugee community leadership a difficult task; which not only affect the individual leader but also the general wellbeing of the community membership as a whole.

This paper presents a case study that showcases an effective refugee community leadership that adopted elements of the Asset Based Community Development (ABDC) approach to deliver successful outcomes. The paper will discuss lessons learned from the process, which include challenges and how they were handled. Specific aspects of trauma impacts within the refugee communities will be highlighted and practical examples will be provided on how these impacts were addressed.

Focus will be on four key elements of the ABCD approach and how these elements were operationalised from start to end that lead to one of the most success.

Mohamed Dukuly (STARTTS)

Presentation currently unavailable