Psychosocial support case study - Beslan

Now, they paint with brighter colours…

After school, a group of children gather in a recently refurbished room of the Russian Red Cross community centre. The walls are covered with colourful drawings and paintings, the shelves lined with vases and other decorations.

At a large table, 15 girls are learning to make jewellery. A group of teenage girls whisper and giggle together. A few women walk around the room, giving advice on colour choices and patterns. It might seem like any after-school activity, but it is something more.

Appropriately named Ray of Hope, the after-school workshops have been organized in Beslan by IFRC staff and volunteers to provide psychosocial support to children affected by the 2004 school siege.

During the siege, more than 1,200 children, teachers and parents were held hostage for 3 days and over 300 were killed. The children in the workshop have all been physically or psychologically affected by the tragedy. A girl at the large table works with her hands only a few centimetres from her face because she lost almost all her eyesight during the fighting. Others have lost family members and friends.

Irina Kusova, president of the North Ossetian branch of the Russian Red Cross, says psychosocial support programmes have already helped the children, and explains, “Now, when children start to paint, you will see only bright colours,” she says with a smile. “They do not use black anymore. The future of Beslan is certainly getting brighter”.