Developing culturally relevant psychosocial training for Afghan teachers

Afghanistan has been in a constant state of war for over 30 years, with no end in sight. Few Afghans today remember life before the war. This has implications for programmes designed to reduce war trauma and rebuild community connections, in order to foster peace and reconciliation. This paper describes efforts, rooted in local culture, to impact community mental health through promoting positive coping strategies for the prevention of, and care for, psychosocial problems. In 2002, the author, in collaboration with teacher trainers in the International Rescue Committee's Female Education Programme, developed a project for psychosocial wellness training for teachers at schools in Pakistan, for Afghan refugee girls. The project targeted psychosocial distress and trauma recovery for the teachers, their families and their students, using a community approach adapted from a positive deviance model. This model allows that local solutions may exist, but be unrecognised. Four modules were found to be particularly helpful to participants: 1) exploring resiliency; 2) focusing; 3) what is normal; and 4) the balance of blessings. The project was well received and proved helpful when it was adapted for use in Afghanistan.

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Omidian, Patricia A.