Ethiopia: Developing Mental Strength and Endurance

30 August 2012|Birkenesh Gobena, Addis Ababa

An English class at the JRS Refugee Community Centre in Addis Ababa. (Christian Fuchs/Jesuit Refugee Service)

The importance of building mental strength and learning coping mechanisms during forced displacement was emphasized at a recent Jesuit Refugee Service life skills workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The ability of refugees to face adverse situations with a positive attitude links closely to general well-being, employability and relationship building.

“Life skills are important because they give children and adults more control over their lives”, said JRS Project Director, Ms Hanna Petros, in her opening remarks.

Organised by the JRS Refugee Community Centre (RCC), this new workshop targeted young urban refugees and asylum seekers who face numerous challenges as they try to rebuild their lives in an unfamiliar city.

Psychological responses to the stress of the situation commonly include depression, irritability, an inability to concentrate, loss of self-confidence and absent mindedness. The workshop provided techniques and tools for how to effectively deal with such responses, and facilitated participatory group sharing sessions.

A key focus of the four-day event was the teaching of relationship-building skills, a vital coping mechanism for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Other topics covered included decision-making skills, creative and critical thinking, building self-esteem, personal leadership, and anger management.

The participants, from countries such as Burundi, Congo, Eritrea and Somalia, declared the workshop a success and left with the resolve to integrate the techniques into their own lives.

“In difficult circumstances, refugees demand help and hope, as well as a listening ear and a chance to voice concerns. It is hoped that by fostering internal strength refugees can gain a sense of normalcy and the confidence to keep on exploring and succeeding in life”, said Ms Petros.

JRS supports refugee adults and children through its Refugee Community Centre. This unique facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is a haven for refugees and asylum seekers looking for a place to gain new skills, to socialize, and where their children can play freely. JRS has a wide program of events, workshops and training courses to help build the capacity and the hopes and dreams of those who spend time at the RCC.