Taking care of invisible wounds

Publié: 15 juin 2015 12:31 CET

By Ly Nguyen, IFRC

Emotional wounds might be less apparent than the physical losses of lives and properties, but take much longer to heal. Following the earthquakes in Nepal, apart from the thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of homes lost, there are a countless number of people suffering from the trauma of losing their loved ones, and still fear returning to their crumbling homes.

After the earthquake on 12 May, Gita Aryal from Gorkha district of Nepal is one of the 60 volunteers who have received psychological first aid training by the Nepal Red Cross Society, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Gita lost her eight-month old daughter in the earthquake. Her house completely collapsed and her family is now living under a tarpaulin tent. “Being involved with the Red Cross helps me to forget what happened. I want to help other children who were affected as well as other parents who have lost their child,” Gita said in tears. “This training has given me the confidence and power to work towards a more positive future. It has also made me more hopeful.”

After the earthquakes, the Nepal Red Cross Society developed a plan to provide psychosocial support to earthquake survivors through capacity building for Red Cross staff and volunteers in a sustainable manner. This also entails strengthening child resilience and developing the ability to cope with stress for staff and volunteers.

Volunteers were selected from targeted districts to receive training on stress and coping mechanisms, psychological first aid, gender-based violence, the referral system, children and child-friendly spaces, and psychosocial support for volunteers and staff. Through activities such as the sharing of experience and feelings, group activities and role-play on active listening, the participating volunteers also get the chance to develop and practice stress coping skills for themselves as well as others.

Pabitra Basnet, a Nepal Red Cross Society volunteer of nine years from Lalitpur district and facilitator of one of the volunteer trainings, received similar psychosocial training by the Red Cross a year ago. “I was amazed that I was able to keep calm and help others when the earthquake happened,” said Pabitra. “That was when I realized that psychosocial training is really important. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to support others to stay calm.”

Immediately following the earthquake on 12 May, Pabitra and about ten other Red Cross first aid volunteers participated in rescue efforts and first aid. Within the first day, the team provided first aid to 300 people in her hometown.

After the training, Gita, Pabitra and other trained volunteers will provide psychosocial education and information on health and hygiene, and water and sanitation for others within their community. According to Krishna Ghimire, Programme Manager of the Nepal Red Cross Society First Aid Division, the volunteers play a vital role in their communities.  “When we go to communities where our volunteers have provided psychosocial support after the earthquake, we receive acknowledgement for the help they have received from our volunteers," she said. 

In addition to training volunteers, the Red Cross is also coordinating with the IFRC and partner National Societies to organize trainings on school-based child-related activities for 20 teachers from each targeted district.

The Nepal Red Cross Society has around 150 psychosocial first aid volunteers and 3 psychosocial support trainers. Its trained volunteers are participating in psychosocial support activities organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross for missing families in 26 districts and child-friendly space in 6 districts. Psychological first aid content is integrated in the emergency first aid training and community-based health and first aid modules.