A team of trauma therapists from Richmont Graduate University has traveled to Greece to assess and respond to the needs of Syrian refugees and relief workers. Their mission is the training of humanitarian workers in compassion fatigue and trauma and also counseling families at the detention camp in Lesbos. The following is an update from Richmont alum, Nia Baker (’14) LAPC.
Mornings in Greece from our hotel are slow and today we got to savor the steady pace, deciding to go into the camp later in the day so that we could experience the night life there. We had heard that was when the camp fully came alive because the sun had dipped below the horizon, leaving things cooler and everyone had more energy. When working cross culturally, often things I first experience as frustrating and confusing typically come back to something we learn as counselors – “people make sense.” The first few days we had in the camp, we wondered why everyone was asleep in the mornings. And, it’s because they know that waking up much later in the day, sleeping through the heat, and coming out later at night actually saves them energy and provides a chance to for everyone to enjoy each other’s company.
So, this morning, we practiced our own self-care by sitting at the pool and enjoying the cool water and calm air. Then, we grabbed lunch and headed to Moria. We’ve become more comfortable the last couple of days and spent the first few hours either catching up with refugees we had been getting to know or with volunteers. One couple we started to talking to will be here for three more weeks and then moving to Jordan to start language school, learning Arabic. I talked to Daniel about family back home, the stresses of life overseas, and how healthy communication helps a relationship. I found myself encouraged by hearing his efforts to support his wife and follow the call they have on their lives.
We also got to train the volunteers as a whole about self-care and healthy boundaries. When working with populations that have experienced complex trauma, we often find ourselves feeling pulled into their boundaries that have been compromised in a cycle that is hard to resist because of our own emotions and vulnerabilities. Self-care in the areas where we notice our own lack of love, safety, or control and having healthy boundaries will ultimately benefit people more than when we try to save them ourselves.
As the afternoon continued, we played with the children, sat in on English classes being taught by volunteers as well as a refugee father we had encouraged the day before, counseled and drank chai with families, and watched men in the camp gather to run up and down the steep hills. I was reminded of the resiliency and connectedness of these people. As we sat with a mother navigating parenting a one year old, a daunting task at any rate, on top of living in a tent and with a partner who had symptoms of PTSD from seeing his seven year old nephew murdered grotesquely, we sat with the encouragement of truth of a mother’s love to conquer even that. And I joined the laughter of ten children who with beaming faces chimed together “A – apple – tuffāḥ.”