See the introductory memorandum: ‘Collective Trauma among Displaced
People and Refugees in Ethiopia: Steps towards an intervention project.’
See also paragraph 5, ‘the development of core-concepts’ in this report.
a psychiatric nurse,
(part time, she is currenly mainly absorbed by the counselling program in Kality Shelter)
The Comic Story is in fact the first project that was initiated, and based on this project the current team has also come into existence. For an introduction by the artists: see 'An introduction to the work on the Comic Story'. Also see: the first three episodes (Appendix 3)
The intention of the Comic story is to feed back the information we get from the shelters in all of the work of the IPSER/AAU-project, in to the shelters in a symbolic form that makes it more easy to discuss sensitive matters as relief-dependency.
The first step has been to develop a specific
drawing style, based on the graphic aspects of Amharic and Tigray culture.
For this, the traditional drawing style was studied, as well as several
modern drawing techniques in western cultures. The second step was to develop
a group of characters with a wide set of functions that would be fit to
tackle all the subjects
connected to the themes of displacement and the shelter-life. Three groups of characters were developed: a group of humans, displaced that are setting of to leave an imaginary shelter, ‘High-symbol animals’ to represent Collective aspects, and ‘close-symbol animals’ that represent the (sometimes black) personal history of the main characters. The third step was the acquisition of typical skills for a comic story in episodes. The fourth step was to develop a language-system for the story. For this, the playwright was added to the team.
Two episodes have been prepared in many drafts during this process. These episodes have been tested by means of a questionnaire on several groups (See: Questionnaire, appendix 5). There has also been feed-back from Dr. Mesfin Araya.
After this, the two episodes were revised in many ways, the most important being the diversification of the group of Human protagonists.
After this we are now working on the Fifth step: the speeding up of the drawing process. The intention is to publish the Comic story in a rhythm of maximum three weeks, and an optimal minimum of two weeks. The Sixth step, the printing process, has been prepared, there is a sufficient number of proforma invoices with us. The seventh step, diffusion in the
shelters and marketing, is also being prepared.
In relation to the target age-group (18 and older) we have chosen to see if diffusion through the small shops in the shelters would be possible. The cost-price for the shops will probably be 1 birr, retail price 1,50. Step eight, evaluation of reactions and feed-back is obviously not yet actual.
Based on 5.000 copies sold, it should be possible to reach economic sustainability. Although this should be reasonable in terms of such a publication for the whole of Addis, (Which might be a future option), it is probably not realistic within the context if the current target audience that will not exceed 20.000 adults This means that within the context of this project, financial back up will structurally be necessary. The selling price in the shelters should, in our vision, not exceed what a publication like this would be worth on the open market in Addis, and this price was tentatively based on the reactions we have received from the questionnaire.
Currently, due to the cash-access problems of the general project, we are not in the position to place the order for printing on the open market. The printing press of the University, however, is probably not the most economic for this project. This means that the cost-price for the first issues will be relatively high.
The Story project is the name for a project in
which we try to obtain stories and symbolical elements from the collective
of the Displaced people, in order to find forms in which these stories
and elements can be fed-back into the community in such a way that the
hidden and suppressed emotions revealed through them can be reopened for
processing and discussion. (See: Collective trauma and Intervention: Stories Project’)
The first step for this project was to contact one of Addis’ major theatre companies, in order to secure the co-operation of a group of artists (Actors, Dancers, musicians, both in the traditional and modern skills).
Both the National theatre as well as the Hager Fikir Theatre were found eager to co-operate with the IPSER/AAU project. As a result of a chance process, the choice was made to work with the Hager Fikir Theatre, although the National Theatre is still positive to contribute expertise.
Also, one member of a theatre group of the orthodox church was found eager to participate in this work.
Seen from the viewpoint of the Collective Trauma-project
in the context of the IPSER-protocol, this group functions as the base
for our focus-group. They are the collective ‘healers’ in the Ethiopian
culture, specialised in modern as well as in traditional techniques and
philosophies of communication. As will be memorised under the heading ‘Central
Committee’, we seem to be on the verge of connecting this focus group to an existing (but hitherto hidden) group of artists within the community of the displaced.
During several sessions the actors have improvised
on the themes, developing their insight in the subject through action,
as well as developing some forms of performance that may be relevant for
the coming work (like puppet theatre). This work was systematically recorded
on video and discussed consequently with the actors. This video material
is now part of the project’s video library.
Currently the Hager Fikir is preparing for the first small performance in the Kolfe Shelter, based on the story of ‘the Turtle and the Big Bird’, the first story conveyed to us through the Kolfe Children (appendix 14).
Once the necessary techniques have been established, this work can in the future be integrated within the Hager Fikir’s theatre work without any problem. This company is used to perform on many locations in the city and in the country, therefore it will also be no problem to develop the work for communities of displaced in Ethiopia at large. Although the company is funded by the City of Addis for its general work, it may be
necessary and possible to generate specific funding to support this specific practice on behalf of the displaced.
Currently, in the developing stage, it is often difficult for the artists to find a place in their full schedules. Since the Hager Fikir artists are always connected to several projects at the time (performances, as well as work for radio and television) and all of them have different schedules, general meetings are hard to organise, and not all of the artists have attended all
A small but extendible mobile stage has been designed, for the performances we will develop with Hager Fikir Theatre, and maybe other occasions (Appendix 9) This Stage will probably also be used by W/o Tesita Gebru. The necessary proforma’s have been obtained, and the stage can be ordered as soon as the project’s cash problem is solved.
The stage can either be transported on the project’s car, for which the roof-rack must be extended, or on a small trailer that must still be found or designed. The latter would probably be more convenient.
Co-operation with LVIA
The next step was to secure co-operation with one of the NGO’s providing support to the displaced. Both GTZ as well as LVIA were interested in this project, and since GTZ is in the process of withdrawal from the field of support for the Displaced, LVIA was the obvious choice.
Co-operation is necessary because our project is in essence developing non-material forms of support to the community that eventually should be integrated in the material forms of support that will be available in the future in new situations.
Both from GTZ as from LVIA staff members have been attending the TPO/AAU’s Counselling training programme by Dr. Lewis Aptekar, so basic understanding of the TPO-approach was secured.
Through LVIA the first contact was established with one of the shelters, Kolfe.
The Kolfe shelter is located in the west of Addis, and its estimated population is about 900. The Kolfe shelter is considered to be in the middle of the range of shelters considered from the point of view of problematic circumstances. It is however considered one of the most problematic, seen from the point of view of the professionalism of their victimship. It was predicted to us that we would not be able to start the work in the shelter without in some way also giving some material support.
We have however decided that we will give absolutely nothing, and to the surprise of the LVIA contact person, this was initially accepted by the committee when we proposed the project, after they had indeed declared that we should provide material support in some way.
In the first weeks of the project however, this
is still one of the main obstacles that we are confronted with, completely
in confirmation of the ‘professional victim’ theory.
The committee, steered by some adult members of the shelter, is still confronting us with their opinion that ‘this work should be done for children in better positions’, and that their priorities in the field of support are with amelioration of their shelter (plastic), food, medicaments, and clothing, or, in general, direct financial support. Our team is as a group
and also on individual basis, constantly approached with requests like this, and time and time again it is necessary for us to analyse these requests and the emotions that the begging is evoking with us.
Yet, however reluctantly, the shelter community
has to admit that its children are ferociously interested in the possibilities
we offer them in the field of drawing and storytelling, in fact they are
lining up for these activities more eager than they line up if there is
food around. (In fact they do not line up for food at all, individual children
that are eating bread during the activities are not bothered by the other
kids). It is this interest
of the children that is highly amazing the parents, and that is currently guaranteeing us a warm welcome every time again notwithstanding the continuing trials for material support.
The artist members of the team have developed
a set of criteria to look at these drawings, considering elements as
‘freedom of line’, fear of line, use of eraser, use of space. We do not
know yet if this way of looking at the drawings is revealing.
We are also looking at the drawings form the angles of age, and from the angle of ‘use of symbols’.
Seen from the angle of age, the drawings of some children may indicate a form of retardation or regression. In order to facilitate this way of looking at children’s drawings, we have had a first training session on child development, the result of which was the ‘Growing into adulthood in Ethiopia’ schedule (Appendix 11).
Seen from the angle of symbols, it is obvious that the ‘house’ is a prominent element in the vast majority of the drawings. There is, even with the older children, practically no drawing of violence, which is consistent with my experience in Croatia and Bosnia.
At the moment the Children are drawing once a week. All drawings are numbered, the names, ages of the children and subjects of the drawings, according to the children, are written on the drawings.
On one of these occasions, as an experiment, we
asked if the children were interested to tell a story, and immediately
it was clear the children are as enthusiastic to tell us stories as they
are to draw. One element in this enthusiasm is undoubtedly the recording
(video or tape-recorder), or maybe even just the microphone.
Yet, not only the storytellers, also the listeners give clear sign that storytelling is very interesting to them. Since all, the storytellers use a very low voice, the audience crowds, sometimes violently, near the microphone.
In here there is a disturbing contradiction: on the one hand there is a clear eagerness to tell stories, and also there seems to be some habit. We are even told that storytelling happens regularly in the shelters, in the early evenings.
Yet, the crowding and the reactions would rather indicate that this is a new experience for the audience: there is no habit of forming a circle to listen and even the elderly seem astonished, and strain to catch what is told. The storytellers have no inclination to raise their voice and usually do not demonstrate any dramatic experience, although there are some exceptions of children that ‘perform’ a sort of jokes - but then again they do not project in the audience.
The stories themselves, however, turn out to be
very interesting. One of the main sources of the stories is a famous Amharic
storyteller who performs mostly on television. The children however mix
up stories and in general do not reproduce the ‘happy endings’, but most
of the times choose the stories with ‘bad endings’ (in some way educational),
or create bad endings themselves. This means that not only the stories
of the elderly, but also the stories of the children are probably significant
in reflecting their emotional status. For this reason we have gone
on recording stories by the children, we transcribe them and translate
them. For this purpose we have developed a form (appendix 12).
One of these stories, ‘The Turtle and the big Bird’ is chosen to be the base for the fist performance. (See appendix 14 for the story, the analysis and an onset on discussion thereof, and the set-up of the performance.)
The book of David.
At the moment, some clients from the counselling program are being connected to the collective trauma program, mainly when they show some artistic inclinations.The first of these, David Getachew, has been the base for the development of a small project that might however be very promising.
David is drawing a lot, maybe compulsory. In a talk about his drawings he was able to tell us a lot about his history, more that we originally heard in a more conventional counselling intake. After that we also asked him to tell us a story, and he told us the story of Bilicho, which we asked him to draw for us in 20 drawings. We entered with him in a commercial deal: these drawings we would buy from him, and afterwards, together with him, transform into a small book that he would be able to market together with the chewing gum that he is already selling at the minibus stops.
At the moment the first dummy of the book is made
with David, and he is currently finding out what a reasonable selling price
would be. We will produce the book in the same way as we are producing
the Comic stories, that is: the project should be sustainable.
If David is successfull, we consider the possibility to do the same with the children in Kolfe and other artists that are coming forward.
In the case of success, this project should soon become too big for us, and be presented to more specialised organisations like Save the Children or UNICEF. If small books like this would be marketable, and the Addis population would be inclined to buy them from vendors in stead of candy and soft tissues, the self-enhancing effect on the children would possibly be strong.
Yet, also the risk for commercial misuse would
be significant. Therefore, after possible promising results, there should
be a thoroughly worked out set-up.
4. The Pathological Social Framework.
In general, it is usually the individual displaced
that are seen with the eye of the doctor, or relief-worker, and be judged,
mainly on a medical basis, to be in need of help. The pathology of displacement
up till now was therefore highly individual and ‘victim-centred’. In this
project we promote the view that not only the individual, but also the
community can show pathology. Again, it would then be easy to stay ‘victim-centred’,
but as our analyses of the ‘professional victimship’ induces, this is not
enough, or probably even counter-effective, since professional victimship
is clearly induced by the system of relief-giving.
It is therefore logic, that the work with the displaced finds it complement in the work with official and Non Governmental Organisations.
The first step in this work was done last year when we presented our project to these organisations with a general introduction (appendix 15.).
All organisations that are working in the field
of relief and rehabilitation for the Displaced are meeting each other under
the umbrella of the CRDA (Christian relief and Development Association),
and we have concentrated as much as possible to co-operate with these organisations
as well as to offer them the opportunity to develop counselling skills
(See report Dr. Lewis Aptekar.) The result of this was that recently, counselling
has been accepted as one of the important approaches through which relief
may be given in an empowering, rather than in an dependency-creating way.
In the recent past, many organisations have withdrawn from the work for the displaced, disappointed as they were by the development of this dependency. Yet, it seems that CRDA is not only aware of a broad interest to enter this field (again), should there be any opening to effective techniques, but it is also clear that CRDA as an umbrella organisation is considering to allocate funding for this field in the near future. In this light a new guideline was developed, in which IPSER/AAU participated strongly, by opening awareness in the field for the issue of Mental Health
(See: Draft Proposal to assist the Displaced People, appendix 16.)
Also we have demonstrated an alternative for reporting
on projects for the displaced, in the sense that they can reports can be
written from the pot of view of the displaced, rather than from the point
of view of the relief-organisation. The techniques for this work, characterised
by a step by step approach, and a highly graphic nature in which portraits
of the displaced recognise their essential place in the process, were illustrated
on the Kore and Kality shelters and on the Central Committee (appendix 17). As yet this has not yet had any visible effect, which is probably also connected to the fact that relief organisations must profile themselves, rather than the displaced, in order to secure their funding.
Work with the Central Committee.
The Central Committee of the Displaced from Eritreia is the ‘committee of committees’ of the displaced people, living in the shelters around Addis. Their status is highly controversial, since the official bodies prefer not to reinforce this committee in an official status on the one hand, but encourage NGO’s to work through this committee (For instance for the selection of candidates for vocational training) on the other hand. Official or not, the committee certainly has a central symbolical function for the community of the displaced, and as such, in existence and in actions reflects in essence the life of the displaced. Forced by the structure of relief, they have in the past concentrated on amelioration of the living conditions in the shelters, as well as developed professionalism of victimship to a high degree.
Starting last year we have worked with the central
committee, on the change of self-image, on de development of self respect,
and on the development of a new respect for the committee with the outside
(See: On the efficacy of the Central Committee, appendix 17). Recently we have started to see if the Central Committee could use their own resources to ameliorate their position, and this resulted in the office project.
One of the resources that the Central Committee has is obviously a wide group of possible supporters from the shelters themselves. We have started to see if there would be volunteers from the shelter where the Central Committee is housed that would be willing and able to ameliorate the office-space of the committee.
It turned out that there is a large group of people that have received vocational training and that gave graduated from some course.
The first step we therefore made was to professionalise the project, and to propose that these certified workers would develop a proposal to design and produce the new office in a professional way, and present this proposal to those NGO’s that specialise in vocational training. (Appendix 18.) It soon turned out that these shelter-residents were helpless to a high degree, and, although certified, had no idea how to go about to define and produce even simple products for themselves. Here we were confronted with an obvious flaw in the vocational training that had been provided so far: this training prepares for jobs, that are however, in the experience of the Displaced, not available in Addis.
We have learned however, that jobs, if available,
in Addis or in the Ethiopian community at large are rather given through
(family) networks, in which the Displaced have no place.
We have therefore sought contact with some of the teachers that have been training in these programs, and we have found two teachers at the General Wingate School for Vocational training willing to supervise their former students in some necessary entrepreneurial skills:
We have sought contact with LVIA in order to solve
the problem of the availability of basic tools. Since we are not in favour
of simply ‘giving’ these tools, we are looking into ways that the participants
in this project can rent tools, for instance through some groups of displaced
in other shelters that have already been provided with tools by LVIA.
The Handbook Project.
The shocked reaction of the Central Committee has been the reason why we have invited the Central Committee to a series of meetings on our project as a whole.
In many lengthy previous discussions with the Committee we have always been working with the work of the Committee as a base. On the one hand this has created a degree of familiarity with the Committee, but on the other hand large area’s of our work were not directly explained to them. Of course they had already received many reports on our activities from the committees of the shelters where we work.
In a first meeting we have explained at rather
thouroughly all the projects that we are currently involved in and we have
shown the committee members the first results of our work. This has resolved
a lot of misunderstandings, as well as created the basic willingness of
the comittee to delegate the responsibility for the work on their office
to the group that
has formed itself.
Another result of this meeting was the idea to develop a long interview with the committee on video, in order to create the basics for a handbook on ‘what to know and how to go about, when one wants to be active within the community of the displaced.’ The first of these sessions has been recorded.
A third result of the first meeting has been that
the Committee has offered to connect our Story-project to artists and storytellers
that live within the displaced, artists that under normal conditions do
not seem to reveal themselves, probably because their existence does not
corroborate with professional victimship.
Work with official representatives.
Of course there is a complement to the work with the Central Committee, this committee being one of the hinges between the Government and the community of the displaced, it is logical to also work with the representatives of the government.
Some of these representatives are part of the Coregroup that has been training counselling skills with dr. Aptekar, also I have worked with one of them in the period of networking for the general project last year, and discussed with him the report on the efficacy of the Central Committee, among other subjects.
We have now proposed to provide him and some of his colleagues a specialised introduction in issues concerning the political aspects of displacement and isolation within urban communities. This introduction has just started.
Some essential concepts for this work are being developed within the framework of a larger project that connects my work in the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and in Ethiopia. (Appendix 20: a chapter from the project proposal for the Cambodian project). Some other concepts are at the moment being discussed with colleagues that work in Nepal (Idioms of Distress) and Cambodia (Collective Trauma), within different TPO-projects.
Specific concepts are being developed here, as for instance the concept of the ‘professional victimship’. This concept (See also appendix 1) is describing the reality that the displaced are now earning their income (partly) by being a victim. The definition of ‘the victim’ in this context is learned by trial and error, or maybe more precise by conditioning in the daily contacts with the relief industry.
Professional Victimship means to be one element
of a dyad, the dyad helper-victim.
To be professional means, a) To provide volunteer helpers with the victim they need for their specific goal or organisation. Medical helpers are thus provided with the sick, material helpers are provided with bad conditions and poverty, ideological helpers with hopelessness despair and injustice.
To be professional means, b) that one has to have the capability of forcing any possible non- voluntary helper into the helper-role.
One forces somebody in the helper-role by creating, in general, guilt, trough exposing the unjust difference between the helper and the victim.
To be a victim in general means:
One has to be or to represent, woman, children, the sick or the elderly.
This means , for instance, that for healthy men there are only two options:
to be a representative, or to stay out of sight.
One has to be hungry, needy, badly housed.
One has to be treated in an unjust way.
One is, by definition, innocent.
One has to be helped immediately; there is always overriding urgency.
One does not have to allow comparisons with other victims, the victim is always in ‘the worst’ situation.
The expected support is, in the opinion of the professional victim, always material, and should preferably be direct money.
These descriptions may sound cynical, but it is not surprising that these ideas are direct and concrete copies of the arguments that all relief organisations use in their publicity while fund-raising, and again, these arguments are being used because in practice these are the arguments that seem to work with the western audience.
Related to professional victimship is, of course,
relief-dependency. Recently the essence of relief dependency was worded
in a discussion between Dr. Tesita Gebru and a young, (14 years old?) displaced
in Kore shelter. After a lengthy discussion the boy answered to the question
‘why should the farenji be responsible for your job?’: “because we are
There are many related concepts that, in the light
of professional victimship, have to be re-asessed, as there is for instance
the issue of morality. In many instances, the Displaced are being
accused of having a 'low morality'. This results from behaviour that is
perceived as egoistic, and unjust to other Displaced, as there is for instance
the constant strive for
enhancing personal food-rations.
In stead of recognising that the overall situation is immoral, in the sense that there is obviously not enough food rationed to guarantee all residents a minimum of necessary calories (a fact that is not disputed by any of the relief-givers) immorality is connected to the individual Displaced that, as a professional, tries to use the system, based on the personal right of ‘the worst victim’. In stead of recognising that these patterns of behaviour are in fact rational ways of coping with an immoral situation, the Displaced are now being labeled as immoral by (usually religious) help-providers
Relief-dependency and immorality now are forming the new framework of analysis that permits the NGO’s to withdraw from the work - and therefore they are concepts that have to be critically assessed.
I have tried to see if ‘locus of control’ could be used as a means to measure effect. However, it turns out that this concept has been used for many years by scientists that are now convinced that the concept cannot be used in such a way.
Richard Seligman, to whom I have explained my needs, has advised to use his ASQ scale (Attributional Style Questionnaire), but upon arrival, this instrument turned out to be too strange to the reality in the shelters.
Ivan Komproe (TPO) has suggested that I use some scale related to styles of suppression of aggression, which, at the moment is what I find the most acceptable idea.