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“When did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger…?” (Matthew 25:31 ff.)

Written by Janet Wright, LCSW
May 14, 2010

Bumping along a rocky road leading to a small Muslim village near Hebron in the West Bank, I was thankful for what is happening in Palestine through the East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitation Program, a Global Ministries mission partner.  As part of field visits with Y staff, I was on my way to the home of a family served by Y mental health clinicians and was grateful to our driver, who navigated the winding path.  Now 13, at age 10, the son had witnessed the gruesome killing of his father through political violence and had experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children: nightmares, bedwetting, intrusive memories, inability to sleep, play or pay attention in school.  The mother was grieving her loss, distressed about her son, and having difficulty moving ahead with her life. Her father-in-law had sought help for his family from many agencies, without success.  Finally he heard about the Y and the ability of its staff to treat PTSD and encouraged his daughter-in-law to get help.  The Y therapist successfully treated the mother and son in their village home.  When the therapist, senior Y supervisor and I arrived for our visit, we were greeted by a grinning son and his grateful mother.  Other family members joined us for tea to tell the story, translated from Arabic, of the healing of their family following the father's death.  To see the bright eyes of the son, and hear how well he was now doing, was a great blessing and evidence of the impact our mission partners are having, in Palestine and around the world. 

The Rehabilitation Program, headquartered in Beit Sahour outside Bethlehem, provides psychosocial support to Palestinian Christians and Muslims through six offices in the West Bank.  In addition to vocational counseling, assistance in making homes handicapped-accessible and other services, the Y provides mental health treatment for clients suffering psychological trauma from political violence, accidents and grief and loss.  Through grants and support from Global Ministries and the Week of Compassion (the Disciples fund for relief, refugees and development in hurting areas of the world), the Y counselors have been trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a mental health therapy validated by research to be particularly effective in treating trauma and PTSD.  

In addition to training their own staff, and through the support of Global Ministries and Week of Compassion, the Y has been able to extend this training to mental health clinicians in other non-governmental agencies throughout the West Bank.  A waiting list of Palestinian clinicians grows as more and more seek this training to help others in their communities. 

Y staff is also leading the way in the Arab world, recently providing training to Lebanese and Iraqi mental health clinicians.  Two of the Y staff will be the first Arab EMDR trainers and will form the nucleus of an all-Arab training team for the Middle East.  An initial training is planned for clinicians in Gaza, with the Y staff providing part of the training.  Future plans include trainings in Jordan and Egypt, provided by Y staff and the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program (www.emdrhap.org), a mental health equivalent to Doctors Without Borders.  You can see why I am thanking God and all of you who support Global Ministries and Week of Compassion, for planting the seeds of sustainable development and help for clients with PTSD in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.



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