The meeting was organised by the Polish Migration Forum (PMF) and the Nobody’s Children Foundation in Warsaw on June 13th 2007. Sheila Melzak of the London-based Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture led an introductory workshop on working with child victims of torture and trauma and carry out a needs assessment for future training in Poland.
There were 15 participants in all, including psychologists employed by the government and by NGOs to work with refugees, social workers from asylum reception centres, RSD officers and the director of a children’s home which also houses separated asylum-seeking children. The session included a presentation by Ms. Melzak on her psychotherapeutic work with children and adolescents, and a discussion on the difficulties of ensuring suitable care and treatment for refugee child-victims of trauma in Poland.
About the Medical Foundation (www.torturecare.org.uk)
The Medical Foundation was founded in 1985 and is based in London. It offers a holistic approach to its clients’ difficulties, including practical, medical and psychological assistance. In 2006, the Medical Foundation received 2,145 referrals – men, women and children from nearly 100 countries, including Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Iraq. The Medical Foundation has 242 paid staff and 184 volunteers, including doctors, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, complementary therapists and legal advisers.
According to its website, the Medical Foundation aims to: Provide survivors of torture in the United Kingdom with
- medical assessment and care, practical assistance and psychotherapeutic treatment and support.
- Document evidence of torture.
- Provide training for health professionals working with torture survivors.
- Educate the public and decision-makers about torture and its consequences.
- Ensure that Britain honours its international obligations towards survivors of torture, asylum seekers and refugees.
Sheila Melzak is the Foundation's principal community, child and adolescent psychotherapist and heads the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Team. (see www.torturecare.org.uk/about_us/children_and_adolescents). The Team works with young people through music, drawing, painting, dance, mime, drama, poetry and writing stories, and tries to help them build up resources to better understand and deal with their past.
The team has also created a Befriending Project (www.torturecare.org.uk/about_us/befriending_project) to link up unaccompanied young refugees with adults who can create a special bond of trust and support with them.