Vulnerable communities like refugees and impoverished Jordanians in Amman suffer from many shortages: food, shelter, medical supplies, access to education . . . the list goes on. A lack of material resources often also puts a psychological strain on families. Having witnessed horrific events in their lives, it is not uncommon to observe higher levels of depression and PTSD in vulnerable communities.
“The whole family is affected by fear and grief. My kids are traumatized. They are terrified of some sounds, especially airplanes,” Qais, a refugee from Syria, explains. Qais is currently participating in our Mind-Body Medicine Class, which teaches refugees exercises to work through past trauma and the hardship of displacement. Improving emotional awareness and a better access to one’s own feelings is an important part of the healing process.
This is what CRP’s Mind-Body Medicine program sets out to achieve. A maximum of 15 participants come together once a week to talk about their feelings. There are individual classes for women, men, and teens, and they take place over the course of two months.
Opening up to others often leads to very strong bonds of friendship between participants, like in the case of Qais and Sa’ad, who is also from Syria. After fleeing the war and settling down in Amman, they came to CRP for food assistance and later on signed up for Men’s Mind-Body Medicine where they met each other. Empathizing because of their similar stories, they became friends. “The community aspect is very important. We help each other always,” says Sa’ad.
Outside people are not allowed to join after the first session, so the classes remain private and participants can slowly begin to relax and talk about their very personal stories and emotions. “This is crucial as we want to create a safe space for people to open up,” explains Hesham, who is one of CRP’s volunteer staff members who run the MBM program. His colleague Ameer adds, “It’s normal for some participants to cry at one point or the other. They would not feel safe to do that among strangers.”
The men do different exercises over the course of the lesson: first, they meditate. Participants close their eyes and use breathing techniques to calm down and center themselves in the present. After that, each member talks about how they feel. Going around, the next step is to reflect on why they feel that way. Everything is allowed, so participants can be honest with themselves and the other men. Then comes the part of the session that differs week by week: for example, an exercise where participants draw a simplified family tree, also called genogram.
The genogram exercise helps participants to center themselves physically and mentally with the help of locating them on a piece of paper with their relatives and immediate family, which is a very important anchor in people’s lives. Many members of our community value their families above anything else. They suffer when they see that their loved ones are in pain, and they miss members of their family when they are separated from them, which many of them are. Mind-Body Medicine participants use the techniques they learned from the program to deal with their own sadness, fear and grief and that of their family members.
“We are very happy with the program because it helps us and the community as a whole,” Sa’ad says. “Even our friends and neighbors benefit from these techniques. When they come to us in despair, we tell them to breathe, to take a moment to calm down and accept these emotions.”
CRP’s Mind-Body Medicine has proven to be an invaluable resource in stabilizing and helping to heal some vulnerable families in the community, and there is great demand for more classes.
We rely on individual donations to keep this program running. Support Mind-Body Medicine to increase refugees’ emotional and mental well-being. Become a monthly donor now. And good news! When you sign up today, CRP will receive an extra $100 from a group of generous donors!