CAFOD – Healing emotional scars of war

Healing emotional scars of war

CAFOD is helping people to overcome their traumatic experiences through counselling and play therapy following the election violence in Kenya

“It was late at night when gangs came and told us to get out” recalls fourteen-year-old Grace, sitting quietly outside the shelter she now calls home in a temporary camp in Nairobi.

“I was asleep and I heard the knock of strangers on the door. We were so scared.

“My mum told us to get out without taking anything and not to look back. On the street there was lots of screaming. People were running and some had been beaten”.

“We arrived here not knowing where we were going. I didn’t sleep that night.

“When the morning came, it was so full of people. Some were crying. Two days later they came with clothes and food.”

More than 1,500 people have died as a result of the disputed elections, and an estimated 600,000 have fled their homes.

Losing everything

CAFOD is supporting local organisation Mama na Dada Africa, who are providing counselling for women and play therapy for children traumatised by their experiences.

Founder, Joyce Oneko and her team of volunteers have also provided women in the camp with blankets and sanitary towels, and children with toys.

“The people here are very vulnerable,” says Joyce. “Most have had their possessions burnt, stolen or destroyed. Even if they went back home they have lost everything.”

Twenty-four-year-old Lilian Ramogo has been volunteering with Mama na Dada Africa for three years.

“I have been helping these women and children since the beginning” she says, adjusting her red baseball cap, part of the volunteer’s uniform. “I work with children – playing, drawing, telling stories, both good and bad, about their lives.

“I feel bad when I see the need here. But I feel good because these children are lucky to be alive. Sometimes the children draw guns and you can see how troubled they are.”

I felt cared for

For Grace, the help given by Mama na Dada Africa has been invaluable. Unable to return home, the counselling helps her to understand the situation and deal with her problems.

“The people here help me. We talk about the violence an they have explained how girls suffer in such a situation. I feel cared for” she says, picking up a hula hoop from a pile on the ground.

Grace takes the hula hoop and starts to twirl it around her waist – a ring of colour among the silver tarpaulin and white canvas sheets of the camp.

Behind her two women cook on a small stove, wisps of smoke rising into the air.

The peace deal signed between the two political leaders, Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga brings new hope for Kenya. But it will take years to recover from the consequences of this crisis.


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