Assignment 5 – Psychosocial Interventions (project designing)

Your psychosocial team argues that you should work with community members to identify and secure venues for children’s activities. What kinds of venue are you looking for? Why?

The venue should have the following attributes:

Physical Factors:
ü In order to ensure the physical security of the child, the venue should be away from emergency-prone area, e.g. if it is an emergency caused by a natural disaster, there might be a risk of a recurrence of the disaster, for instance landslides, floods, earthquakes, etc. Or if it is a conflict related emergency, avoid locating the venue near an army camp or where fighting is going on. In addition, environment should be cleared of physical risk factors such as electric wires hanging out from the walls/ceiling of buildings, objects that children can trip over, slippery floor, access to poisonous or harmful chemicals, etc.
ü Adequate space for children to freely move around, engage in play activities, etc. This would keep the children occupied, provide them with a sense of normalcy, space to interact with peers and an opportunity to develop skills.
ü Proper ventilation to enhance physical wellbeing.
ü Accessibility to children with special needs, e.g. visually impaired children, children using wheelchairs, etc should all be able to access this venue without difficulty.
ü Accessibility for easy transport of resources needed for the activities with children.
ü Venue should not be freely accessible to armed or rebel forces, to prevent abduction or abuse of children by these parties.
ü The distance between the venue and the camp (where the guardians are) should not be too long and the road between the venue and the camp should not be across an isolated area, as the child is susceptible to risk factors such as being abused on the way.
ü The venue should be easily located by children, i.e. they should be able to find their way back to the camp without losing their way.
ü Should always be located close to water sources and toilets so that children are able to meet their basic physical needs whenever they want to. It is better to have separate sanitation facilitates for girls and boys.

Ø The venue does not need to be a building, and can be even in open space with provision for a temporary shelter accessible in the event of rain, etc.
Ø In order for the venue to be easily identifiable to both children and other community members, it can be demarcated, e.g. fencing with available local resources such as string, net or cadjan leaves.

Psycho-emotional/social Factors:
ü The venue should be located near where the children’s guardians are, or near common community areas where other basic services are on offer and community members are comfortable to attend, in order to provide them easy access to each other when needed and provide both parties a sense of security. As these children may have experienced separation already, there will be a constant sense of fear and insecurity in them of losing their beloved ones and therefore it is important to be at close proximity to their guardians at all times.
ü The environment of the venue should promote the psycho-emotional wellbeing of the child, e.g. the surroundings should have some greenery and be peaceful, without constant and loud noises.

Ø Though the above are the ideal criteria, what is usually practical is to start the activities in the safest space available and thereafter to minimize the risk factors gradually, taking in to consideration the constraints in the local context.
Ø Each situation is unique; one should be creative and flexible when selecting a site, it can be a tent, a mosque or school building, it can be a quick construction made from straw and wood.

In designing psychosocial activities, you are asked to be mindful about “Doing No Harm” to your participants. Why is this important?

Through harmful practices, we:
1. Undermine local capacities, resulting in dependency and disempowerment.
E.g. 1. When introducing alien methods of coping with crisis, we undermine local capacities for coping and resilience. They might have very effective healing practices close to their lives and ways in which they make meaning of the events that they have experienced, which will be ignored or suppressed. The new methods will not be as effective as people are not familiar with them or because these methods have misinterpreted the causes and effects of people’s issues/behaviour (e.g. enforcing PTSD model).
E.g. 2. Communities often have their own child care arrangements and protecting their children. Rushing to separate orphaned children from their communities and placing them in either foster care or institutions will be damaging to the development and psycho-emotional wellbeing of the child while jeopardizing an effective community-based child protection mechanism and distancing the child from her/his community.
2. Causing conflicts.
E.g. 1. Resource distribution can cause conflicts between the IDPs and host communities when resources are given only to those affected while the host community too might live in adverse circumstances though not directly affected by the crisis.
E.g. 2. Culturally inappropriate activities such as requesting for sexually abused women to attend individual counselling sessions with a foreign male counsellor in a strongly gender stratified community through stigmatization.
E.g. 3. Who is approached for obtaining information during an assessment may cause conflicts if we override the existing power dynamics in the community.
3. Aggravate the situation as opposed to creating a sense of normalcy.
E.g. 1. A person with minimal or no training in counselling attempting to provide counselling services to a person with suicidal ideation might result in aggravating the counselee’s mental condition.
E.g. 2. By focussing excessively on the ‘deficits’ in the community, or the issues they are facing, and designing interventions accordingly, we are not allowing them to regain a sense of normalcy.
4. Waste resources
E.g. 1. Due to the lack of coordination among aid agencies, interventions are often duplicated and the same community receives resources, both human and material, from multiple organizations (specially those located in the roadsides) whereas some (specially those in rural interiors) do not receive any.
E.g. 2. Providing resources that are not needed by the community but was a requirement of the project.
5. Prevent sustainability and create dependency
E.g. 1. Implementing costly interventions which we cannot/ do not intend to continue, for instance establishing a counselling centre for trauma counselling with a number of paid counsellors brought from outside, instead of building the community’s capacity to help their neighbours by identifying and supporting helpers from within the community, and linking to government mechanisms.
E.g. 2. Raising expectations of the communities through needs assessments without clarifying the purpose of the assessment.
6. Cause protection risks
E.g. 1. By targeting people for our interventions, we place them at risk of being identified by the community and subjecting him/her to stigmatization or of being targeted by military/para military groups, fearing they would have divulged information.
E.g. 2. When involving community members in the child protection committees formed by us without an awareness of their attitudes and partialities, we might place some children at risk of being prejudiced against (e.g. if it is an ex-child combatant).
E.g. 3. Conducting awareness raising on gender issues only for women, who become subjected to domestic violence by their spouses when they return home for attending those programmes and for trying to talk about gender equality.

The ultimately purpose is to ensure/ promote psychosocial wellbeing of the community members through preventing harmful practices.

How is this principle related to being culturally sensitive? Please provide an example.

When designing interventions to support the community members (including children) to cope with the emergency situation and its psycho social impacts, it is crucial to take into consideration and promote the healing mechanisms that are inherent in their culture, e.g. chanting ‘pirith’ (in Sri Lanka), wading off evil spirits, calling the spirits to protect them, etc. And those who perform these rituals can be found from within the community itself. If new methods that are not familiar to the community are introduced by the intervening organization, either these might be met with a lot of resistance, or people might embrace them, feeling their practices to be ‘backward’, intimidated by the foreign practices introduced by ‘educated professionals’. This will result in the community members abandoning and undervaluing their practices including the effective ones.
E.G. introducing CBT and individual counselling to a community used to collective healing processes.

Activities should be culturally appropriate. If not, our intervention will be rejected by the community, will create conflicts among the community members, stigmatize the victims further and cause more psycho-emotional and social damage to the people in the community.
E.G. in the Muslim community, girls and boys are required to be segregated, specially in public. Getting them to interact and play with each other as a part of our interventions, will cause them immense distress and discomfort, will be stigmatized by other community members (specially the girls’ ‘character’ will be considered as ‘bad’), their future lives will also be affected, and thus will cause major resistance towards this activity.