The Florida Center for Survivors of Torture and The Florida Holocaust Museum
cordially invites you to the Tampa Bay premiere of the documentary
Beneath the Blindfold on Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 at 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
The Florida Center for Survivors of Torture and The Florida Holocaust Museum
When we think about trauma, it’s difficult to imagine the scope of what Pittsburgh’s refugee community has been through. These individuals and families have fled their homes from fear of persecution, imprisonment or death simply because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Many have faced unspeakable and unimaginable acts of torture and trauma. Some enter the United States with little or no education or English, and some have spent their entire lives in refugee camps. Our refugees’ stories can truly make us feel grateful for our freedoms.
by Janet McGuire
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 — ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA — The chaos and confusion that accompany war and disaster can separate families when they need each other most. When this happens, the Red Cross joins the search across international borders, offering a unique service to help families reconnect.
Florida Center for Survivors of Torture, Zakira Causevic
Christy is a refugee from Burma and, along with her family, a client of the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture (FCST). She and her family lived in a refugee camp for 12 years. Prior to living in the refugee camp, they had endured many challenges. In their village, many of their neighbors were forced to serve as porters for the military or pay the military a fine. As porters they would have to march with the military for months and were frequently caught in the midst of battle with rebels. Some of Christy’s family died while serving as porter and others were badly wounded. Christy’s father was forced to serve as a watchman for the army. His role was to alert the military if rebels were approaching, he was later accused of supporting the rebel troops and was beaten and tortured. He eventually fled and hid in the Burmese jungle near the border of Thailand. Three years later, the family was then able to reunite in Thailand.
When they arrived in the United States of America, each member of Christy’s family had a hard time adjusting. Everything was very different than in the refugee camp. Christy struggled in school. She could not graduate because of the language barrier and was referred to a GED program.
Christy and her family were referred to FCST six months after they were resettled. Zakira Causevic was assigned to be their Program Specialist. Zakira assisted the family with education, employment, transportation, interpretation, and the process of applying for permanent residency.
From the beginning of their interactions with the FCST, Zakira noticed that Christy struggled with self confidence. As a client centered, intensive case management program, one of the first interactions Christy had with Zakira was centered around creating Christy’s Master Service Plan, a list of goals she would like to achieve. During their discussions, Christy would give up on herself saying that ‘could not do it’. Zakira explained that she was too shy. Together they set several goals; obtain a driver’s license, enroll in the GED class, and find a job. Although Christy wanted to achieve these goals she continued to state: “I cannot do that.” A volunteer was recruited to the family to help them to learn English. The volunteer also noticed that Christy did not have confidence and tried to be very supportive in helping her build her self esteem. With the help of FCST, Christy made steps to work towards her goals. Each time Zakira saw Christy, she encouraged her and celebrated her successes. Finally, to use Zakira’s words, ‘Christy made it!’
Now Christy has her driver’s license, found a job and is going to school to get her GED! Her new goal is to go to college and become a nurse. Clearly, Christy has gained confidence and self –esteem, and given all of the progress she’s made thus far, Zakira and the FCST staff can envision her achieving her new goals!
One of the most successful tutoring initiatives for the Refugee Youth and Family Program (RYFP) in Pinellas County has been their group tutoring sessions. Each week our Youth and Family Specialists (YFS) pick up a group of clients after school and bring them to a local library. The Middle School group tends to be smaller, with a manageable number of students, while the Elementary School group consistently has 9 or more students in attendance. The students at the Elementary group range in age and English ability, making it a tough job for the four YFS to manage on their own. Fortunately, we have a number of dedicated volunteers who attend the group each week to help the students receive more one on one attention. Each volunteer has a different experience and different methods of working with the children.
Jan, a St. Petersburg resident who has volunteered with the program since 2010, attends the group each week and typically works with one student. She helps motivate all of the students by bringing rewards such as stickers, note pads, or hair accessories. Jan has been most successful in helping to improve the study habits of one of the elementary students about to make the transition to middle school. When Jan first started working with Alejandro, he rarely focused or stayed on task. She spoke to some colleagues and looked into different techniques which could help Alejandro. Over the next few weeks she tried out these techniques, such as improving focus by rewarding hard work with a break for a story or preventing fidgeting by standing at the table rather than sitting. Some of these techniques made an impact, but what seemed most helpful to Alejandro was that he had someone committed to helping him. Although Alejandro still struggles to focus, he is starting to become more responsible and gets started on his work more quickly than he used to.
Joy, a senior at Eckerd College, started volunteering at the group in fall of 2011 to fulfill service hours for class and enjoyed the experience so much that she chose to continue volunteering. Joy helps in whatever way is needed that week, whether it be helping a small group of two or three students complete their homework or practice their reading or working one-on-one with a younger student while the more advanced students do a group tutoring activity. She also assists by creating tutoring lessons and helping in the office. Joy managed to hide her Spanish speaking abilities from the students for quite a few weeks, pushing the students to use their English as much as possible. Joy is familiar with working with young children because she has a younger sibling. She is aware of the tricks they attempt to veer of topic and she has a special knack for knowing just how to motivate them. The students look up to Joy, seeing her as a positive Hispanic role model.
The group also benefits greatly from the help of Anna, who has volunteered in both groups, in home, and in the office, and Tania, who started volunteering with RYFP just as the group was forming and helps out with collecting prizes for the students. We are lucky to have some new volunteers starting out with the group this year as well. The staff of RYFP is indebted to these devoted volunteers who manage to improve the lives and study skills of the students as they persevere through the chaos that comes with bringing a large group of active kids into the library. The students form a special bond with these volunteers and look forward to their arrival at group each week. If you have an hour or two to spare on a weekday afternoon and are interested in being a part of these groups, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727-450-7275. We have several group tutoring locations throughout Pinellas and Hillsborough and can always use an extra hand!
*Client’s name has been changed for confidentiality.