Supporter questions

No one chooses to become a refugee

Life for a refugee is brutal. A refugee is a person who had a very short time to make the worst decision anyone can face: to stay where they are and be killed, or to run to a place where they will be isolated, despised, maltreated and quite probably thrown out or continually moved from camp to detention centre and back again. The moment everything changed for the refugee was when they had to choose between the two greatest fears of a human being: death or loneliness.

What is it like being a newly arrived refugee?

We take established ‘supports’ for granted: supportive friends, an income, meaningful work, a home within our known community, our familiar language, our good health, our pets, our faith and belief systems, our familiar culture, routine and environment, our sense of self and identity. Imagine most of your supports wiped out, gone. How mentally resilient are any of us when we’ve lost that much?

Imagine you’ve been told you’ve got ten minutes to pack and can only take what you can carry. Imagine being dropped into Sudan and told to get over the trauma, learn the language, get a job, find a home, build a life, support yourself.

If you are among the up to 30% or 40% of refugees who have been tortured by governments or militia, being resettled is even more difficult. You can help such a person - one person at a time - recover. This is probably why you’re exploring these pages. Thank you.

Why might someone like me consider giving?

A former refugee is waiting; she needs you now to recover from torture, rape and trauma. With your gift, our Counsellors can help her. Imagine how she’ll feel, knowing someone as caring as you reached out when she needed you the most. Can you see her face as she realises someone does care?

You’re one person, but you have the power to do something amazing. You can utterly change someone’s life.

The UN Convention Against Torture requires signatory countries to provide psychological rehabilitation services as soon as possible after torture, with victims able to make their own choice between a non-governmental or state provider. Your values likely align with those of the UN. You don’t want to see a former refugee on a waiting list, you’d like to see them helped as soon as possible. Ten to twenty former refugees have been waiting up to several months recently. Your gift will speed up their support.

You like to see others get a fair go at rebuilding their life when something catastrophic has befallen them, as in this short video.

This short video illustrates a wondrous outcome of generosity. Will you help with a gift today?

How have former refugees described their help?

I feel a great burden has fallen off my shoulders and that feeling of depression is gone. You have helped me make that positive step toward the future and given me a sense of hope.”

“My nightmares have reduced to one a week. Now, I sleep in comfort without using sedatives.”

“Your organisation saved my life. Helped keep me safe in my hopeless times. Helped me with self care, positive thinking, confidence building. Helped me feel listened to and understood. Encouraged me, gave me hope in my life, and helped me believe in my dreams.”

“Your psychiatrist assured me I was not crazy. I practiced my English skills, was connected to the medical centre, learnt new skills, including communication and self awareness skills, improved my confidence.”

“You have a very hard job, because it is your job to put the soul back in the body.”

“I thank you from my heart for helping me with my sorrow. Because of you, I now lead a normal life”

What’s it like being a Counsellor?

It’s bittersweet: stories of resilience, but also lingering anguish. Main preoccupations are the welfare and whereabouts of their families, desperation to reunite with them. Many can reach overseas family by phone, but learn distressing news in doing so.

That phone call to donate, was it legitimate?

Ours is a small organisation and we use the services of a reputable call centre.  Lynlee Aitcheson from Telebell (phone 06 8707 555) will ask you if you are able to support by credit card.  If you prefer, you can donate by one of the ways described on the donation page.

Where have former refugees being helped originally lived?

In the year to June 2014, over half came from Colombia, 17% were refugees from Iraq, 8% from Afghanistan, 6% from Myanmar and the balance from Iran, Eritrea and Sri Lanka.

Many have fled wars. Here’s a short video from the UK showing the impact on children of fleeing a war. It’s safe to watch, not produced by our organisation but will give you context around the traumas of child refugees, or adult refugees carrying childhood traumas.

Video: Sensitive insights into the lives of children caught up in war. Your donation will help heal the after-effects.

How will you spend my donation?

We’ll deliver your kind help by supporting one former refugee, their family and their community.

Torture has profound long-term effects. Physical reminders include headaches, chronic pain and respiratory problems. The psychological damage is often worse. Living with constant fear, debilitating depression and regular panic attacks prevents survivors from caring for themselves, their families, and contributing to their communities. But healing is possible, with your help we can lead those we help towards it.

We help survivors rebuild their lives so torture is in their past and not re-lived every day.

What exactly do you do for clients in “the clinical work”?

Counsellor/Advocates work with a Consultant Psychiatrist and use treatment methods tailored to an individual’s needs. These can include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a structured, short-term, present-oriented psychotherapy for depression, directed toward solving current problems and modifying inaccurate and/or unhelpful thinking and behaviour.
  • Gestalt therapy, a form of psychotherapy that emphasises personal responsibility focusing upon an individual’s experience in the present.
  • Narrative therapy, a form of psychotherapy using narrative.
  • Problem solving approaches.
  • EMDR Trauma Therapy, useful with clients who have suffered for years from anxiety or distressing memories, nightmares, insomnia, abuse or other traumatic events.

The team is multi-disciplinary: One Psychiatrist, two Psychologists, two Psychotherapists and Counsellor/Advocates. Interpreters are needed in most cases.

In addition the organisation delivers community programmes. These support the individual treatments. It’s important the families of former refugees and their ethnic communities provide support to the individuals being helped and trust the organisation delivering it. Without the latter, the progress of the individual during counselling sessions can be set back if there is insufficient support and understanding at their community level.

What are these “community programmes” you offer?

There is core clinical counselling (read about this above), and there are community programmes.

An in-school programme, Tamariki Kahukura – Rainbow, is for children who are former refugees and their parents. This programme has been delivered for five years and successfully builds the confidence of refugee children and helps them adapt to NZ education. It involves the parents in the school, something that has been otherwise hard to achieve.

Families in cultural transition (FICT) is a community programme delivered to groups of refugees from particular communities.

Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art or game, combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music.

An art project has been held at Wellesley College for the 6 years, held close to World Refugee Day and the International Day in support of Torture Victims. The organisation helps with an annual Safety and Wellbeing Day for refugees and a home safety education project training refugee community leaders to become home safety champions.

Individual work plus Community  work. This twin level model of intervention is deliberate and builds on experience overseas showing that direct clinical work works best when supplemented by a refugee community development element. Community programmes can be delivered by community workers and former refugees. This is a systemic, integrative approach to the treatment and rehabilitation of torture and trauma survivors.

How much of each donated dollar goes to helping refugees?

At least 60 cents in the dollar goes directly to helping refugees. The rest is spent, absolutely appropriately, on essential overheads, administration and fundraising, which are genuine costs that are a necessary part of our work.

A few charities talk about expense ratios as a selling point of their organisations. However, not all charities measure their expense ratios the same way. Whilst every effort is made to ensure costs are controlled and the impact of what we do is maximised, we are uncomfortable with being drawn into competing on a playing field which is not level. That’s simply not fair to those we help. We will spend your donation with great care.

How much do you get from government?

We received $594,667 during the year ended June 2014 from Government contracts. This left just under $300,000 to be raised from kind and caring people around New Zealand. Our latest accounts are available from the Charities Commission website, registration number CC20880

How many former refugees do you help?

44 new clients were helped in the year ending 30 June 2014.
103 further clients had follow-up interviews.
981 interviews with clients took place
163 hours of advocacy were delivered on behalf of our clients
57 clients were discharged
67 consultations were made with other services
23 training sessions were delivered
Two years is the average time clients are helped, appointments are normally weekly

What are the training services you provide?

Our training services scale up our impact. Last year, we ran 17 workshops for those working in the health, education and social service sectors with people who are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)  – click here and navigate to module 3 for an insight.

Are you part of a government department?

No. Refugee Trauma Recovery, established in 1997, is a registered charitable trust CC20880.

Why don’t government mainstream mental health services suffice?

This work is specialised. It’s hard to provide insights without being too shocking. Don’t google ‘torture’, it’s horrifying. Rape as a weapon of war is discussed in this short video, it’s sensitively discussed and will give you context around how your donation will help.

Video: Sensitively reporting on rape as a weapon of war. Your donation will help heal the after-effects.

This is specialised work, best delivered outside of mainstream health services. This meets New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture to provide access to psychological rehabilitation services as soon as possible after torture, with victims able to make their own choice between a non-governmental or state provider. We work closely with interpreters and have strong links with refugee communities.

How many staff do you employ?

Two full time and eight part time. The counselling work is too gruelling, too draining for anyone to do it five days a week. A counsellor can themselves become traumatised from empathic engagement with traumatised clients and the client’s reports of traumatic experiences.

What is the organisation’s history and charitable status?

A non-government organisation based in Wellington. In 1997 Refugees as Survivors was established as a registered charitable trust. In 2013 the name was changed to Refugee Trauma Recovery. Charities Commission registration number CC20880. Click here to read  our Annual Report.