Innovative project for traumatised children in South Sudan

05 Dec 2019

TNO and the organisations Help a Child and War Trauma Foundation will be supporting children and their parents in South Sudanese refugee camps, helping them cope with psychosocial traumas by making buddy’s from local materials such as straw, twigs and pieces of fabric. Using a colourful picture book, kids will learn to share their thoughts and feelings with their buddy and with each other. This sharing of stories has proven to be very effective.

To get more information about the Build your Own Buddy (BOB) project

Get in touch with Remy Vink

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The prolonged conflict in South Sudan affects thousands of people, including many children. In refugee camps, the primary focus is on shelter, food and health. However, psychosocial support services are as just as much a necessity. People often believe that children are not affected by traumatic experiences, being too young to understand. Psychosocial support for children is therefore seldom prioritised, especially not for preschool children aged five to seven. Prior to now, an intervention for this group had never been developed.

Group intervention for young children

Together with project partners Help a Child and War Trauma Foundation, TNO will develop a group intervention for young children. This intervention – Build your Own Buddy (BOB) – will draw on Narrative Exposure Therapy for Kids, a proven short-term treatment for traumatised children that helps them to transform their bad memories and experiences into a coherent narrative structure.

Remy Vink, Researcher Child Maltreatment: “We will train community facilitators and support them during the group sessions so that they can apply the BOB intervention. Storytelling is a key element in African cultures, so we expect this narrative intervention to be suitable for kids in South Sudan. To enhance the impact, a culturally-inspired picture book will be developed to facilitate dialogue and provide psychoeducation to parents.”

Liesbeth Speelman, Child Protection Expert at Help a Child: “This book, together with a ‘buddy’, made from local materials, will secure continuity and stimulate children to share their experiences. The use of a personal buddy is a perfect fit for children aged five to seven as children in this age group share their stories more easily through toys, dolls and/or drawings. The process of building their buddy is empowering in itself and gives children a sense of control and ownership.”

Expertise on innovation and research

The cooperation between Help a Child, TNO and War Trauma Foundation is unique as it brings together innovation and research expertise and know-how regarding psychosocial support for traumatised children. This will be implemented in the challenging context of refugee camps in Wau, South Sudan, where Help a Child is also implementing other humanitarian projects. From the beginning, children, parents, other caregivers and community facilitators will help to diagnose problems, develop solutions and reflect on try-outs. TNO will set up learning cycles for the development and evaluation of BOB. After this project, BOB may also be applicable in other countries, and lessons learned will be published in due time.

Duration of two years

The BOB project has a duration of two years and is 100% funded by the Innovation Fund of the Dutch Relief Alliance. This fund was launched in 2018 to stimulate humanitarian organisations to join forces with the private sector in order to develop innovative projects that tackle urgent humanitarian challenges. Alongside other submissions, the BOB proposal was granted because of the relevant topic and age-group, as well as the practical and concrete nature of the project.

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Drs. Remy Vink

  • child abuse
  • child neglect
  • child maltreatment
  • domestic violence
  • family violence

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