– 12 September 2018
Adan’s story: healing from the trauma of warfare
When Adan was eight years old, ISIS attacked her village in Tall Qasab in Iraq.
The community was gathered together to celebrate Eid, a festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when they heard gunfire and screaming nearby. They fled towards the Sinjar mountains, but soldiers captured or killed many of the families before they reached the safety of the trees.
“I saw them watching me when they killed people from our village,” Adan told us. “The armed men were carrying a black flag, they had beards, and they were wearing black clothes. I will not forget their faces till the last moment of my life.”
Adan and her family struggled to survive on the mountain for weeks without food, water or shelter.
“It was very hot during the daytime and very cold at night,” Adan remembers. “I was thinking about the bag I had forgotten at home, my ‘holiday bag’ and the money and sweets I kept in it. After nine days without food and water my father was able to find a little water for us.”
The trauma Adan experienced that day, and in the months of terror and hardship that followed, left her with deep emotional wounds. When our trauma counsellors met her at the Khanke refugee camp four years later she was still terrified of anyone with a beard. She refused to wear black clothing because it brought back the painful memories and had stopped attending school.
Our counsellors have been helping Adan and thousands of other traumatised children in Iraq to feel safer by giving them the tools and techniques to cope with their harrowing wartime experiences.
While other charities in the region are focusing on providing emergency supplies such as food and shelter, we are committed to offering mental health support to the most marginalised and vulnerable children in Duhok, particularly those who have lost their parents or survived ISIS attacks. We are also giving trauma counselling to parents so that they can give their children the support they need.
For Adan, the Teaching Recovery Techniques Programme has made all the difference. She has returned to school and her dreams of studying at university and becoming a teacher have been rekindled.
“When I get scared I remember my safe place in my village with my friends during Eid and my bag like they taught me,” Adan told us.
“It was difficult for me to recall the bad memories at first, but I kept trying until I succeeded and after two weeks I was very happy that I could replace the bad images with the happy ones.”
After completing the course Adan kept using the skills the course taught her and began teaching her family members, friends and neighbours how to use some of the techniques she learned. Her father recently bought her a new bag to celebrate how well she is doing at school.
"I owned the world when I found my bag," she told us. “I will become a teacher in the future and will not give up my dream.”
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