Psychosocial training encourages Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers

Publié: 31 mai 2013 13:29 CET

By Viviane Tou’meh

In addition to the basic need for food, shelter and clothing, many Syrians are also having to deal with the loss of relatives and exposure to violence and displacement – a direct result of the conflict that has been raging in the country for the past two years. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent has been working with the Danish Red Cross to meet the psychosocial needs of those affected by the conflict, helping them to deal with the problems of daily life.

Between 12 and 15 May, the Danish Red Cross and 21 volunteers – from the Red Crescent’s branches and sub-branches in al-Nashabia, Jaramana, al-Tal, al-Kisweh, Douma, al-Quneitra – joined volunteers from the Red Crescent’s psychosocial centre in Duwaila and mobile teams in Jaramana for a training course on psychosocial support.

George Jbaili, a volunteer from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’s sub-branch in Yabroud who followed the course, said its benefits were clear. “Ways of practising structured games with children and the rules of dealing with them during these games are the main benefit of this training,” he said. “The psychosocial support service strengthens our relationships with the community, and this encourages us to do more.”

Jbaili said that many volunteers had forged strong bonds with the children that they work with.

“One day we asked the children to write: ‘I love Dad, I love Mum and I love the Syrian Arab Red Crescent’. I was astonished when one of those children wrote that sentence and then added at the end: ‘I love George from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.’ At that moment, I decided to develop my skills and psychosocial support became an aspiration.”

The training had a number of objectives. Hisham Hijaz, the technical supervisor on the project, explained: “We strive to qualify and train volunteers and enable them to understand the means of the psychosocial support concept and principles of conduct as a support volunteer. The skills needed, among others, are effective communication, psychological first aid and how to deal with people in ways that are appropriate to their age group. We also talk to volunteers about how to deal with loss and feelings of sadness.”

The project has undergone many changes since its inception. Iyad Safaya, a specialist volunteer in psychosocial support, said: "This project was initially aimed at Iraqi refugees who left their country and came to Syria. At that time, they had no problem with feeling safe, but during the current situation, volunteers are a part of the community and this could be significant for them, especially when they work in the mobile squads in different areas and districts.”

Hijaz concluded that the team had achieved great results during this course. “We have qualified new teams of volunteers to be able to respond to psychological needs, and such courses support those volunteers and enable them to cope with their own daily problems. As those volunteers are a part of the community, they are affected like others in the current circumstances.”