Helping restore Wesam’s childhood through psycho-social support

July 6, 2020

With help from his trained teachers, Wesam actively participates in his class. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen

War’s negative impact on people are not usually limited to physical harm but extends to deeply traumatizing affected communities – mostly children and women.

Yemen’s prolonged war since 2015 is no different than any war, but the lack of the much-needed psychosocial care had exacerbated its impacts on vulnerable groups throughout the country. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are amongst those most impacted.

Abyan governorate has experienced tremendous amounts of armed conflicts, yet there is nearly no psychotherapy care in the governorate to help the communities. People tend to know nothing about the use of psycho-social support.

Despite his young age, Wesam, who is barely seven years old, experienced extremely difficult times that left him in constant grief and anger. The little boy lost his father when he was fatally shot in the chest after armed clashes broke out in their hometown. Shortly thereafter, they were displaced by intense armed clashes and had to flee for their lives. After a long and arduous journey, Wesam, his mother, and four-year-old brother sought refuge in Abyan governorate.

When school started, Wesam joined the Al Mithaq School, his neighborhood elementary school. Soon after he was referred to Ms. Maria Saleh, a trained teacher in psycho-social counseling in the same school. “I was told Wesam was always alone. He was very aggressive and frequently brought knives and sharp sticks to attack other children at school,” said Ms. Saleh. “He was misunderstood and punished for his aggression by teachers, but would only speak to Miss Einas. I quickly realized that something wasn’t right,” she added.

Ms. Saleh is one of over 5,440 educational staff and community members trained to identify and support war-traumatized individuals and alleviate their suffering under the European Union-funded Social Protection for Community Resilience Project (SPCRP).

SPCRP is implemented by the Social Fund for Development (SFD) in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and has positively impacted thousands of vulnerable households such as Wesam and his family.

“When I started talking to him, he immediately talked about the death of his father, the time they got the sad news and how his mother fainted. He kept reminiscing about how much he loved his father, how close they were, and the things he bought for him,” remembers Ms. Saleh. “I visited Wesam’s mother at home and I was surprised to see that they lack the most basic needs. They were displaced and had no income,” she continued. “It took a lot of time and effort to help rid Wesam of his aggression and to get him to stop bringing sharp items to school. He slowly started playing with other students.”

“Many teachers in our school including the principal and the social supervisors had the privilege of being trained by the Social Protection Project on identifying and supporting traumatized students to help them get back to school normally”, said Mr. Mohammed Omar, the school Principal.

“Through the Social Protection Project, teachers were trained to connect with traumatized students, help them feel secure, boost their confidence, help them connect with their friends and show affection. Teachers were also trained to use creative ways of teaching, stimulate students’ thinking, help them discover their talents, as well as, use storytelling, painting and school trips to engage the students more and more,” added Ms. Saleh.

With the proper care and attention from his teachers, Wesam’s behavior improved dramatically. He’s now happy again and plays with his schoolmates and teachers. He learned to express his feelings openly and share the things he loves with others. “I love my school and I love my teachers. I love playing football and musical chairs with my friends”, said Wesam.

Wesam and his colleagues playing musical chairs at the school yard. Photo Crdeit: UNDP Yemen


About SPCRP:

The Social Protection for Community Resilience Project (SPCRP) is funded and supported by the European Union (EU) and implemented in partnership with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and The Social Fund for Development (SFD). The USD$28 million SPCRP enhances the purchasing capacity of vulnerable communities while restoring community infrastructure and improving access to and delivery of key services through short-term employment, provision of solar energy equipment, rehabilitating healthcare facilities, and building the capacities of communities and local authorities.