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Helping Hand Research Project: Interview With Refugee Specialist Raika

Summer is almost over, and Seun Edagbami-Olota has finished her research assignment for the Helping Hand project.  This is an update from her exciting period as the HOPE worldwide Canada intern in Toronto when she interviewed Raika Abdulahad, a specialist in refugee issues. 

As I continued my internship, I learned how to make cold calls. It was a little challenging at first because it was something I was unfamiliar with but as I continued I started to get used to it. I called and emailed different community organizations to get in touch with people who had worked with refugees from war torn countries and I got in touch with different members of parliament offices. After that, I was required to make a survey script for community organizations and trauma therapists, psychologists and other related professionals.

I had my first meeting with Raika Abdulahad and I learned so much from her about her experience with refugees, especially about refugee children from war-torn countries. Raika gets to work with refugees from Iraq and Syria as a volunteer. She speaks Arabic and English. She doesn’t really give therapy herself but she helps them, sees what they need and refers them to counsellors and therapists.

Some children who have war or violence trauma have experienced bombings and attacks. In Syria for example, some kids have anxiety from experiencing some kind of violence. Different children have different levels of anxiety. The older children especially have high levels of anxiety because maybe they remember more. If the younger children can’t express exactly what their feeling, you can just tell they have that fear or are unsettled.

Examples of issues she has seen are that the children cannot sleep at night or without their parents. They have a fear of being left by themselves and even the parents are anxious about leaving them alone. They feel insecure even when moving to a new place. They’re anxious to go home from school just to make sure their parents are there. They have fear even when they move to Canada for example. They’re scared to take the bus alone.

After therapy, there are usually signs of improvement but a lot of them usually still carry that trauma, they feel anxious because they remember the family they have back in their countries.

She believes that everyone that comes from that war zone needs therapy. They would really benefit from the Children and war therapy program.

She would be prepared to receive training in Canada and Ukraine and give war trauma therapy to children.

I was very grateful to hear so much from her. I have talked with other professionals on Skype and in person and I will be meeting more and learning more about refugees from war-torn countries, issues they have seen and their work experiences. I have been doing all of this for a needs report to see the feasibility of bringing the Helping Hand project from Ukraine to Canada.

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