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CARE Helps Teachers and Children in Kosovo Cope with Trauma

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Workshops focus on strategies for recovery
CONTACT: Amy Lynn O'Toole, (404) 681-2552, ext. 383

ATLANTA (December 9, 1999) - The international relief and development organization CARE is holding a series of four workshops in Kosovo designed to help teachers recognize the signs of trauma in children and find ways to heal psychological wounds from the recent conflict.

The workshops continue a psycho-social program that CARE implemented in the Cegrane refugee camp in Macedonia in June, which supported more than 2,400 children attending 40 different "tent schools."

"Teachers play a crucial role in the community and they are looked up to," explains Ksenija Kontak, one of the two international trainers facilitating the workshops. "People trust and respect them, and come to them with their problems."

During the last workshop held a few days ago in Prizren, more than 100 primary school teachers from the Ferizaj (Urosevac) area focused on their own experiences of trauma and strategies for coping with the after-effects.

The workshop examined the various symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Through lectures, group discussions and role-playing, teachers not only learned to recognize their own symptoms - be they emotional, behavioral, physical or cognitive - but were trained in how to help students and other community members recover from their ordeals as well.

Emphasis was given to the classroom environment as a forum for overcoming behaviors common in children following a traumatic experience, including chronic lack of attention and aggressive tendencies.

"School is crucial to the recovery of children, because children need a stable, structured environment," notes Dragan Jusupovic, co-trainer and secretary-general of the Society for Psychological Assistance, a Zagreb-based organization coordinating with CARE on the program.

The focus of the next workshop will be on helping teachers develop specific skills for relating to children suffering from post-traumatic stress. Overall, some 16,000 school children are expected to benefit from the program.

CARE in Kosovo

CARE has worked in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia since 1993, assisting displaced Serb refugees from Bosnia, and in Kosovo since 1998, implementing shelter repair, food distribution and other relief projects. CARE managed eight refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia during the displacement of more than 1 million people from Kosovo. CARE suspended operations during this period, but re-entered Kosovo three days after the first NATO troops. CARE is working in the Ferizaj (Urosevac), Lipljan and Mitrovica areas with a comprehensive emergency program including food distribution, shelter provision and repair, agricultural rehabilitation, community health, mine-awareness training and demining.