Teen refugees: After-school program deals with trauma
Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kung fu, rope climbing — not what you'd expect to hear in a description of a counselling program. But settlement workers in Burnaby say these activities are helping refugee teenagers deal with trauma.

The program is called "Body Worlds and the Brain," and has been running for five years in Burnaby.

Instead of traditional counselling — which is a new concept for many refugee families — settlement worker Haval Ahmad described the weekly afterschool program as 'backdoor counselling.' 

"We're approaching trauma with play, with outdoor activities, with group sessions, with a safe circle which includes other students that share the same background — who came from war torn zones, from conflict zones, [it] makes it more comfortable for students to share their experiences, and try or attempt something they've never tried before," said Ahmad.

The federally funded program — currently only available in Burnaby — was designed by registered psychologist Sarina Kot, who believes confidence building activities are more effective with refugee teenagers, than traditional therapy.

"I think a lot of the students have gained confidence and also they have gained more self awareness and more self acceptance," said Kot. 

Some of the issues refugee teens are reluctant to share include loss and identity.  "Sometimes it would be losing a parent to death, sometimes it would be losing part of their extended family through lack of contact, so [these] losses would affect their challenges [in adapting to a new life in Canada]," said Kot.


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Source: CBC News