Spring brings with it the promise of new life and growth. It reminds us of the resilience of life in the face of the harshest conditions.
Last year, the Hamilton community received more than 1400 refugees from war-torn Syria. They came here seeking relief from the horrors of a civil war that is threatening their very existence. They came seeking peace, safety and security, and the hope of a better life for themselves and their children.
You may not be aware that about two thirds of these refugees are children under the age of 18.
They have witnessed their homes bombed, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, grandparents killed or maimed-sometimes right in front of them. They have made the frightening and dangerous journey to escape often living in refugee camps with limited services and supports, until Canadian government officials selected them for asylum in Canada.
Finding their way to physical safety and security in Canada is only the first step towards a life of peace and hope. Physical wounds may heal quickly; but emotional and psychological wounds take longer to surface and to heal. Often this healing requires specialized intervention.
Children can have an especially difficult time because they may have less ability to cope with their feelings. They may avoid going to school and have difficulty learning or making friends. They may experience anxiety, headaches, sleep interruption and nightmares, bedwetting, aggressive outbursts, depression or other symptoms.
As the only agency in Hamilton providing highly specialized refugee trauma treatment for children and youth who have suffered severe trauma and/or are experiencing acculturation difficulties, Thrive Child and Youth Trauma Services offers the Outreach, Assessment and Specialized Intervention Services program- OASIS. Since last fall, OASIS has been overwhelmed by the demand for treatment services.
Schools are often the first to identify a problem, and teachers and principals are doing their best to support these children and their families. But the specialized treatment many of these children need is beyond the expertise of the school’s mental health resources. They need, and deserve the best treatment option available to ensure each child has the opportunity for a bright and healthy future in their new homeland. Thrive’s specially-trained, culturally-competent and experienced OASIS clinicians have the expertise to help give them this precious opportunity.
"Classroom teachers and principals tell me what a difference Thrive's OASIS program makes for refugee children who are struggling with the effects of trauma. HWDSB educators highly value the specialized expertise of OASIS clinicians to provide support to these students to succeed fully in school."
- Christine Shaw ESL/ELD K-12 Program Consultant Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board
If you can begin to imagine what it might be like to be a child whose family has been torn away from everything they know, and may have witnessed a member of your immediate family or neighbours killed by bombs or collapsing buildings, and who may have left an older sibling or a father behind with no idea if you will ever see them again. If you can imagine walking into a classroom full of children who do not look like you or sound like you and being spoken to by an adult who does not speak your language, and asked to perform tasks that require concentration and peacefulness when all you have known is chaos and confusion- if you can imagine all this, then you have some idea of what our OASIS kids are experiencing.
The good news is this does not have to be the end of the story. Rather, it can be one difficult chapter in a longer story of survival, resilience and ultimately thriving for the world’s war-damaged children who have found their way to a new life -“SPRING”, here in Canada.
Won’t you help Thrive’s OASIS program to write the next hopeful, happy chapter in a child’s life? A few minutes of your time to send your donation, can mean years of health and healing for refugee children.
Thank you for helping Hamilton’s newest and youngest community members by supporting Thrive.
Kristine Beaupre, Chair
PS Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and celebrate thriving children with us during Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week - May 1- 7, 2017!
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You can safely and securely donate to Thrive by using the form below. Your secure donation is managed by the reputable organization CanadaHelps.org