During the past several years there have been many humanitarian crises around the globe. One that hits close to home has been the impact of a half a million refugees landing on the island of Lesvos, Greece which began three years ago. Refugees continue to arrive to this day (so far this year, as of September 16th 22,317 people have arrived on the Greek Islands - mostly on Lesvos), and a multitude are stuck in refugee camps awaiting asylum. International volunteers and the islanders that are servicing refugees are overworked and tirelessly volunteering practically non-stop to make up for the lack of services available to refugees. We recognize that they need our assistance!
We know the field of mental health has advanced significantly in being able to help individuals with on-going acute chronic stress and post-traumatic stress and other mental issues and it is always easier to help when the early signs appear. Like any physical or mental symptom, the sooner the issue is addressed the more likely individuals can successfully move beyond it.
Although many refugees have left the island, many remain in refugee camps with deplorable conditions. The Greek community including first responders and islanders along with international volunteers who helped rescue refugees continue to be deeply impacted by the psychological trauma they sustained and continue to experience.
My colleague, Irene Hajisava, and I did a pilot program in Lesvos in 2016 bringing The Havening Techniques®️, Critical Incident Debriefing, provided education on Post Traumatic Stress and taught stress management tools from other disciplines such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization) and TTT (Trauma Tapping Technique) to first responders, islanders, international volunteers, doctors, nurses, psychologists, support staff and refugee children. We are thrilled to be returning this year along with five colleagues from around the globe! We will be on the island of Lesvos delivering psychological support from October 1st through October 12th to initiate Phase II of our continuing humanitarian trauma relief mission.
We are both NYS Licensed Clinical Social Workers with decades of experience in treating trauma. Irene was a mental health first responder at Ground Zero and continues servicing the 911 first responders and their families across the USA. Irene has performed many Critical Incident Stress Debriefing groups with law enforcement and their families, military personnel and their families and clergy. I have also worked with first responders; NYPD, FDNY, medical personnel, clergy, international volunteers, etc. Much of our current practices are involved with treating trauma survivors. As experienced trauma psychotherapists, we understand that the islanders are deeply impacted by the trauma and suffering that they continue to be exposed to in addition to their personal and community resources being depleted and psychological interventions are necessary for their well-being. This is an unserved group and Irene and I along with our team want to provide trauma services primarily to the first responders, islanders and to the refugees and international volunteers as possible.
We will train teachers and teach the children how to utilize The Havening Techniques®️ for emotional self-regulation. Our goal is that the teachers (adult refugees) and the students (over 200 children) will return to the camps and teach their families and communities. The Havening Techniques®️ are psycho-sensory techniques that are user friendly and quick acting tools with long lasting results. The Havening Techniques®️ have also been taught in refugee camps in Africa, to law enforcement, medical personnel and to adults and children worldwide. These techniques require minimal translation and no self-disclosure! Please go to Havening.org for more info.
Our mission for this trauma relief humanitarian trip while we are on the island is to provide as much education regarding trauma and chronic stress for both the islanders and the refugees. We expect to train and teach as many people as possible to help them reduce anxiety, fear and distress and to have them continue to utilize these user-friendly, quick acting and long-lasting tools after we depart. *After our initial pilot program in 2016, we were informed by international volunteers that our program was very effective. The children in housing for unaccompanied minors were observed to continue to use the emotion self-regulation tools long after our departure. Support staff who also participated in the trainings were more likely to encourage the children to continue using the techniques.
We have established connections that can get us into Moria camp to train psychological staff and teach refugees The Havening Techniques®️ as well. A good portion of the funds we collect will be going to classroom supply needs; notebooks, pens, markers, etc. We are also purchasing sundries and personal hygiene supplies to bring with us.
To maximize our time effectively, our team will be available to disperse and visit additional sites/camps and add trainings as needed to reach as many people as possible. Our team will also be available to do individual and/or group sessions with first responders, islanders, international volunteers, refugees, etc. who are exhibiting high levels of distress. We have contacts on the ground ready to assist us upon our arrival; native high-ranking Greek islanders and international volunteers.
This is a self-funded endeavor. The funds we raise will be partially used for our Team's travel and lodging expenses, pay for printed educational materials and the supplies that the below mentioned programs have requested us to bring to the island to support their on-going efforts to support the people they serve.
For those who feel inclined to donate to our team but may not want to do so online and would prefer to send a check, my office address is: Eugenia Karahalias, 180 Great East Neck Road West Babylon, NY 11704. Your donations of any size are greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for supporting this mission that means so much to us.
Eugenia and Irene
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