Art therapy classes for Iraqi refugee children in Jordan

Two shocking stories

Fariza is just 10 years old. When ISIS gunmen come to her village, she and her family flee to a refugee camp in Kurdistan. Like so many others, they walk through the night to find a safe haven, not knowing if they will make it. The camp that takes them in provides food, water and basic shelter but is not a safe place. Fariza is sexually assaulted by a man she does not know. The physical and mental trauma of this attack causes her to stop talking.

In the Middle East, victims of sexual assault are often stigmatised. Sadly, many people see them as tarnished in some way. Consequently, those who suffer abuse rarely speak out or seek help. This has a corrosive effect over time. In Fariza’s case the need to hide her shame was literal – she became mute. To tell anyone what she had gone through might incur scorn. Consequently, Fariza shut down. She would not even talk to her parents.

Sometimes the abused become the abuser. Some of the men we are helping in Jordan are frustrated by their plight. They feel emasculated by years of unemployment, of not being able to provide for their families. Often this frustration grows into anger. In some cases, this anger is directed at wives and children. One father we are helping is prone to fits of rage and is causing his son great upset. The son is depressed and suffers from insomnia as a result.

Trauma counselling workshop for Iraqi refugee women in Jordan

There is hope…

All of the 6,000 or so Iraqi refugees we support in Jordan are victims of ISIS. All were driven from their homes. Many lost family and friends in the slaughter. What do we do about this tragedy? Some say that the relative safety of Jordan is enough to rebuild a broken life. But what if your mind is still stuck in Iraq, reliving the terrible things that were done to you, or the terrible things you have seen? The solution is trauma counselling. At a church in Amman we are achieving something extraordinary. With help from a grant given to us by The Jerusalem Trust we are providing therapy, counselling and support to hundreds of Iraqi Christian refugees.

Trauma counselling offers a safe space in which victims can say, perhaps for the first time, that they are suffering. They have the opportunity to explore their emotions in a constructive way. Our trauma therapy initiative includes art therapy, music therapy, exercise classes, language classes, and cookery classes. There are day trips too, such as the recent excursion to the village of Salt where the refugees shared their love of God with fellow Christians. There are also workshops which address trauma more directly. These are run by a qualified trauma counsellor from a German charity called Christian Professionals International.

Iraqi refugees visit the village of Salt

Please support this vital work

If you Google ‘trauma counselling Iraq’, we are among the top results. This is heartening, but we want to do much more in Iraq as well as in Jordan. It is even more heartening to see Fariza talking again. The father and son mentioned above are being closely monitored and are both receiving the help they need. Things are slowly improving for the refugees. This past year has taught us about the hidden injuries of war. Please consider making a donation towards this vital work, so that we can help more of those who have suffered so much.

How to make a donation

To support our trauma counselling initiative and other work in Iraq and Jordan, please make a donation now via our donate page (there are numerous options for how to donate). Or you can send us a cheque made out to ‘FRRME’ to: FRRME, PO Box 229, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 9DL, United Kingdom.