Project Spotlight: Trauma Therapy Workshops for Olim
The Fellowship | July 7, 2021
“We’ve never been under rocket fire before. It was a complete shock for us.”
That’s Maria. She made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) with her children Ivan, 16, and Lyuba, 11, from Ukraine with The Fellowship a year ago. She’s referring to experiencing the thousands of rockets Hamas fired at Israel in May 2021 during Operation Guardian of the Walls. “I tried to calm down my children so that they wouldn’t panic, but it was really scary. When you suddenly hear a rocket-warning siren, you become very upset and confused,” she says.
During rocket fire, children are vulnerable to experiencing stress and anxiety from the explosions. And children from other countries that recently made aliyah with their families are the most vulnerable, since they are experiencing this for the first time.
The Fellowship partnered with child psychologist Meira Sazonov to host trauma therapy workshops for olim children. The workshops help them recover after this latest round of rocket fire which lasted nearly two weeks. She specializes in treating trauma related to military conflicts. Meira was happy to partner with The Fellowship after making aliyah on a Fellowship Freedom Flight in 2020 from Ukraine.
“I realized that my professional experience could be extremely useful,” says Meira, who was born in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. She had to flee her homeland after the war broke out in 2014. “Many people were affected by war in Ukraine, especially children,” says Meira. “We started a rehab camp in Kiev. We helped the children get over their post-traumatic experience and we trained volunteer psychologists.”
Trauma Therapy Workshops
Meira led Fellowship trauma therapy workshops for children ages 7-12, and a second for teenagers ages 13-18. Each group had approximately 15 participants and had activities including art therapy, game therapy, music therapy, and self-regulation techniques.
As Meira explains: “Even before the child realizes that he’s going through stress or any difficult experience, his body reacts. Strong emotions and unexpressed feelings get stuck inside the body in the form of blockages or psychological pain.”
The therapy workshop aims to prevent any long lasting negative consequences. Through physical activities, music and rhythm, the children learn to express their emotions so these emotions will not stay “stuck” in their bodies.
And 16-year-old Ivan agrees that the exercises helped him recover: “The instructor provided us with different techniques for dealing with the stress, how not to panic under stressful conditions, how to calm down people around you, and how to deal with your fears. I wish there would be more activities like this.”