INTERVIEW. "A CHILD CAN'T BE ON BREAK" - BICE - ONG de protection des droits de l'enfant
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formation Résilience Arménie
© Arevamanuk, Francesca Giordano

INTERVIEW. “A CHILD CAN’T BE ON BREAK”

As part of our Resilience project set up in Armenia to support children and their families affected by the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh*, some 20 educators were trained at the end of February to become resilience tutors and thus improve the accompaniment of children traumatized by war and displaced. Interview with the trainer, Francesca Giordano, psychologist at the research unit on resilience at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, a BICE partner.

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What do the children and adolescents accompanied by the educators you have trained suffer from?

Many of them have to mourn the loss of a father figure or another family member who died in combat. Having fled the war and not being able to return home, they also have to mourn the loss of all the places they have built themselves with: their home, their school, their neighborhood… It is very hard. Most of the children we accompany suffer from anxiety and mood disorders. Some are aggressive, others isolate themselves from the group. They often have difficulty falling asleep and being separated from their mothers and families. They are afraid. Many have symptoms of reminiscence. They constantly see images of war, hear the sounds of bombing, shooting… And then, when the trauma comes from the violence of human beings towards other human beings, trust in others is broken. It is a long work to restore it.

How can we help these children get better?

Through quality psychological support. With BICE, since 2014 we have been developing training courses for resilience tutors adapted to the context and culture in which we intervene. Their objective is to train professionals who work with children and adolescents in need of support in the resilience approach. In Armenia, we trained about 20 resilience tutors – social workers, educators, psychologists… – from different organizations.

Through several activities, they have learned to create spaces where children can express their emotions, their fears… They have also learned to help children become aware of their strengths and weaknesses, of their internal and external resources** to overcome their traumas. The children are no longer reduced to their state of victims and become the main actors of their personal reconstruction. This helps them to reinvest in their new environment, to reintegrate socially and to project themselves. This is essential.

How many children are accompanied by this project?

300 children and adolescents will be accompanied over the next two years. Our local partners also work with the parents to open up dialogue within the families. This is important because parents who are forced to flee the war often put their lives on hold. They themselves are in pain and lock themselves up in their own pain. And they are not very available for the child, who then has no opportunity to express what he or she is feeling. This can have devastating consequences on their development. Indeed, a child can’t be on break, he must continue to learn, to grow.

You said earlier that you adapt your trainings to the context, to the culture… What about in the case of Armenia?

First of all, our training in Armenia responds to the trauma of war and forced displacement. Secondly, we drew on the fact that resilience is strongly rooted in the cultural identity of the country. Certainly, because Armenians have experienced many painful moments (war, genocide, earthquake…). Thus, the idea that one always ends up moving forward after a difficulty is present even in their art. I think of a dance in particular. And they themselves explain it like that. So, we used this cultural particularity to make the concept of resilience clear.

* In the fall of 2020, the six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh left more than 5,700 people dead, mostly fighters from both sides but also nearly 200 civilians. About 90,000 people were forced to flee to Armenia. ** Internal resources: self-confidence, know-how, emotional intelligence, altruism, etc. External resources: family support, community support, safe recreational space, etc. More information on resilience factors here.

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