Women refugees in Ethiopia are healing through counselling support

A moment of peace…

On Monday morning, Andy, one of my colleagues, was sharing a story with our team.

Words by Emma, Act for Peace team

Over the weekend, he was leading worship at a local Sydney church, when a young boy hands him a $5 note.

This boy is turning 12 and wants to give a chunk of his birthday money to Act for Peace; to help people fleeing their homes because of conflict and disaster.

It’s a humbling story, and as we sit with the devastating news of the earthquake in Afghanistan last Wednesday, I feel grateful Andy could inject some hope into our week.

But at the same time, I couldn’t help thinking…how far does $5 really go?

With the price of everyday items like electricity, fuel and groceries going up, it feels like a dollar goes a lot less far than it used to.

Thankfully, Hermela, one of the passionate staff members from our local partner in Ethiopia, threw things into perspective for me.

Mariam* is one of over 800,000 refugees living in Ethiopia, mostly originating from the war-ravaged countries of Congo, Somalia, Eritrea and South Sudan. Some of the most vulnerable are survivors of sexual or gender-based violence, people living with disability, and those with serious/chronic illnesses. Martha Tadesse / Act for Peace

Hermela’s team at EOC-DICAC (which stands for Ethiopian Orthodox Church – Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission) is helping support refugees living in the city of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

They focus especially on survivors of gender-based violence and refugees at risk of gender-based violence, as well as people living with a disability.

Their project with Act for Peace is gratefully funded by our supporters with the help of the Australian Government, through the Australian NGO Cooperation Partnership.

In addition to providing medical and livelihood support, an important part of their support package is providing counselling services, to help refugees heal from their traumas and feel hopeful for the future.

“EOC-DICAC brought me back through counselling, through showing me that I’m a human, even though my country didn’t see me as a human.” Mariam* fled from the Congo after her village was attacked and has been receiving counselling services through our local partner in Ethiopia to help process her psychological trauma. Martha Tadesse / Act for Peace

“Through this counselling service you see a great change happening in people’s lives”, Hermela told me, “I remember one woman at risk coming to me for counselling, and the facial expression I saw in her from when she came into my office to when she left, was completely different.”

“She said she was starting to see hope.”

Hermela, Gender Advisor, EOC-DICAC

Building up the courage to seek help is a hurdle in itself, but for many refugees, even if they want to attend counselling, they can’t afford the transport to get there.

Through their community connections, Hermela’s team saw this cost – around 50 Ethiopian birr or $1.40 AUD – was a barrier for many of their more vulnerable clients, particularly those living with a disability, to get the help they need.

So, our partner decided to cover those costs, whenever a person can’t afford to get themselves to the sessions.

$1.40 doesn’t sound like much, but for some of the most vulnerable refugees living in Ethiopia, it means they can start their healing journey.

I’m sharing this with you, because sometimes we can lose perspective of the value of the small things. I’m grateful to that young boy and Hermela for reminding me that every action, no matter how small, is significant in its own way.

Take care,

Emma – Act for Peace team

*Name changed for safety reasons

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The international humanitarian agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

Act for Peace acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

© Copyright 2021, Act for Peace Ltd ABN 86 619 970 188

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The international humanitarian agency of the National Council of Churches in Australia.

Act for Peace acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

© Copyright 2021, Act for Peace Ltd ABN 86 619 970 188