Group 3 - Assignment 5: Psychosocial Case Study
Asuna, Kimberly and Tanya

Designing activities for Children

Mobilizing community members to take control of identifying and securing venues for children’s activities:

Security conditions permitting, we will promote community mobilization in the process of identifying and securing venues for children’s activities by organizing discussions regarding the social, political and economic context and the causes of the crisis. By encouraging the local community to identify appropriate venues for communal, cultural, spiritual and religious practices, we will facilitate the conditions for a collective process involving key actors and community groups. The venues identified by local members of the community are likely to represent key religious institutions or centers that are also likely to help community members cope with tragedy, violence and loss. The purpose of this process is to facilitate conditions for community mobilization, ownership and control over the activities created after the donors leave.

In identifying venues, we would hope to find places that already exist as places for children’s activities in terms of practicality and accessibility as well as a way in which we would be joining more with the cultural context. For example, schools and daycare centers may be appropriate venues, however, it is also to keep in mind the barriers that we might face in trying to enter into a school “system” in where certain structures, rules, and/or cultures exist.

Our psychosocial team would also look for venues that would be considered clean and sanitary from a health and hygiene perspective, as sometimes commonly used or preferable venues for meetings and activities can be comfortable and routine but may not be the best place for children to convene from a public health perspective. For example, playing in a field where stagnant water collects during the rainy season may cause added exposure to malaria for children playing in the area. If such places were pinpointed by the community as acceptable, education and sensitization regarding health and hygiene issues would need to take place with the community in order to negotiate a safer venue without imposing the psychosocial team’s views.

“Doing No Harm” when designing psychological activities for children

Cultural competence and sensitivity are very important in working with participants, not only because a lack of sensitivity may not only be unhelpful, but can actually put people/children at more risk. Imposing a western framework without considering the culture and being aware of the impact it may have could potentially cause more harm than good. As often stated in clinical practice, it is important to start where the client is, and enter into practice with the mind-set of allowing the client/community to teach us, rather than entering in as the “experts” that are their to help. It is important to understand the culture and equally important to be aware of and examine ones own biases in working in a different culture.

Using a framework that is not fitting with the culture may cause conflict and tension for a child if one is not careful. For example, a child who is taught to be open and direct about their feelings by an “expert” may wind up getting into trouble by being too direct with another adult/authority in their own culture where directness is not as culturally acceptable. In Japan, people do not say no directly, and may especially have a harder time saying no to people who are perceived as authority figures. It is important to be aware of this both in assessment and in designing activities, so that one is no inadvertently forcing people to do something that they do not actually want to do.

A key component of these activates will be center around developing “action plans” that coordinate activities and distribute duties and responsibilities based on local priorities and with long-term sustainability in mind. We hope to help people make connections between what the community had previously, where they are now, and where they want to go in the future. In order to collect this critical day while doing no harm, decisions will be made in small groups, in writing, or anonymously. If it is necessary that a person responds individually, they should be given appropriate time to do so and clearly understand that they are not expected to answer immediately. Additionally, the psychosocial activities planned for children will also represent the collective culture.

Oftentimes in development settings, research teams enter displaced situations and set up meetings with the local chiefs or elders explaining that they are collecting data on sensitive issues, such as GBV etc. The team may ask the community leader for permission to talk with girls or adolescents regarding these issues. The chiefs may agree and announce to parents (somewhat by decree) that it is fine for their girls to talk with the team if they want to and are selected for an interview. This may prove to be problematic as even though appropriate community entry and initial consent was observed, traditional power structures, cultural norms, and hidden forms of coercion may be at play as the parents may feel compelled to have their children interviewed because the chief proclaimed that it was ok. Cultural sensitivity regarding these types of issues requires preliminary research and careful consideration of local culture and practices.