In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, there are currently around 300,000 Syrian refugees living inside and out of camps. While international NGOs provide basic support there is still a critical gap in other services.
The Lotus Flower normally supports female conflict survivors, providing educational, livelihood and wellbeing projects that enable them to earn a living and heal from trauma. But in September 2021, it launched a groundbreaking pilot initiative in Kurdistan called the Men and Boys’ Trauma project, supporting male Syrian refugees through activities such as psychological counselling, art therapy, music, poetry and English classes.
A four-month project focused on boosting psychological health, and the expression of feelings through art, poetry and music, was planned to primarily reach a group of 25 males. The main group was kept small so that each man and boy could receive due attention, care and personalised support. However, to reach more beneficiaries, 21 community awareness and 22 group psychological therapy sessions were held too, enabling the Lotus Flower to reach a total of 475 direct beneficiaries.
When asked to rate the content of the project activities, 95% of participants said they were good or very good. The majority indicated that a programme like this is hugely needed since most men and boys have never had the chance to express their emotions or talk about their mental health in the wake of atrocity. They stated that the project had helped them re-establish connections to their families. Participants also agreed that the effects would be long-lasting as they are now better equipped to tap into their feelings, express themselves creatively and understand the complexity of their emotions.
Awards judge Ruth Davison said that men and boys were a hugely overlooked group among survivors of conflict because women and girls are generally at even higher risk. She said the programme was “getting good outcomes, is relatively cost-effective, and the scalability is enormous because the need is enormous”.
Chris Sherwood noted that the application included powerful quotes from some of the men involved in the project, where they talked about rethinking their roles as a father or as a husband.
CC Reg no. 1099682