Here’s a little of what I’ve been up to the past couple of weeks.
The kids are back in school and I’ve just returned from a trip to Germany where I was in Heidelberg for the kick-off of the Solheim Cup. The event included a 24-hour fundraiser that benefitted children’s charities, including Children for Tomorrow. It’s exciting that this distinguished women’s golf tournament will be held in Germany next year for the first time in its history – and in the region where I grew up!
Next stop was Hamburg – for a presentation with my partner Teekanne and to spend some time at my foundation.
I always look forward to catching up with the Children for Tomorrow team of doctors to hear about our patients and the progress they are making through therapy. Also the team and I discuss new ways for possible solutions to the huge demand for children who seek help at our foundation. One third of all under-aged refugees who’ve made it to Hamburg came all alone – without a parent or a relative. We try to help as many of those children as possible, but it’s a difficult task. We’ve treated over 200 refugee children in Hamburg so far this year but the waiting list and demand is even longer and grows every day.
We hope stories like this video from Germany’s ZDF “Mona Lisa” program about two young Children for Tomorrow patients – Shafiq and Samir – bring more awareness to and understanding for these children who need specialized therapy to help heal the deep emotional scars caused by a daily life marked with violence.
Samir and Shafiq met at the photo group within the art therapy of Children for Tomorrow. Here they learn that their symptoms are normal given their traumatic experiences. Our therapists not only tell them there is a name for what they are going through but – more importantly – that there is treatment. “We get a new chance here.” says Shafiq.
On behalf of Children for Tomorrow, I want to thank Shafiq and Samir for their courage to talk about their lives and bring awareness to those suffering from these invisible emotional scars. We wish them both very bright futures!
Here is the video available only in German: http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/beitrag/video/2237246/Traumatisierte-Kinder-auf-der-Flucht#/beitrag/video/2237246/Traumatisierte-Kinder-auf-der-Flucht
And here is a narration of the video:
In the video Shafiq tells us of growing up in Afghanistan and the fear of not knowing if he would return home at the end of the day. He was only 11 years old when his father was killed. Along with his mother and 3 sisters they fled to Pakistan. When he was 15, Shafiq left for Europe on his own, questioning the decision after seeing the trail of death that preceded him.
Shafiq’s recounts his most precious moment since arriving in Germany – for the first time in a year he could safely sleep.
Samir is from Somalia and describes being 12 years old when his father was killed by the Islamic Al-Shabab militants. The terrorist group then took him hostage. What Samir endured during his captivity was so gruesome – he was forced to clean up the bodies of those who were tortured and killed – that he struggles to open up about this time even with his therapist.
At 14, Samir risked his life to escape; spending many years traveling without family or friends through Africa on his way to Europe. During the crossing of the Sahara Desert human traffickers put gasoline in the water to keep them from drinking so much. It was here that Samir also witnessed many executions – those who could not pay were killed.
Samir is now 18 years and all alone. He doesn’t know if his mother or siblings are still alive. Samir’s only chance to integrate into society – go to school, make friends and find a job – is with psychotherapeutic treatment. The therapy helps him from falling into the same aggressive and violent behavior but sometimes he also needs medication to help him get through the memories so they can be processed and he can heal.
These two young refugees are fortunate. They were able to get treatment and were granted humanitarian asylum. Shafiq got his high school diploma and Samir wants to become a bus driver or cook. Both Shafiq and Samir say if they hadn’t escaped they don’t believe they would be alive today.