11 May 2021
How livelihoods in rehabilitation programmes can transform survivors and families

Socioeconomic rehabilitation is an essential part of holistic rehabilitation. The ability to provide for your family, as well as contribute to the community and sustain economically viable livelihoods is a crucial component of the survivors’ rehabilitation processes.

Avola Peace from African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV) in Uganda elaborates on how their programs, which integrate livelihoods with torture rehabilitation, help individuals continue their lives with improved social relations and with a sense of resilience and independence. We hope Avola Peace's reflections and advice will be an inspiration for other torture rehabilitation centres to incorporate a holistic approach to rehabilitation programs.

How livelihoods in rehabilitation programmes can transform survivors and families
  • What is your experience with implementing livelihoods in torture rehabilitation?

"When ACTV began treatment and rehabilitation program for survivors of torture, much emphasis was on the physical ailments and with time appreciation for the mental health services. However, the survivors of torture reported little or no improvements. Various surveys were done and results pointed out the socio-economic challenges faced by the clients served and how it is linked to their torture events and effects. And these effects stretch from individual to family and community at large.

Many survivors began to reveal the unemployment concerns, either they lost their jobs due to the pains they are experiencing, sometimes because the torture has led to the clients becoming disabled and can no longer continue with the work they used to do, although majority completely lacked food to eat and could not adhere to the medical treatment services. This made treatment plans very difficult to proceed with.

When ACTV found the gap and integrated Livelihoods in her project, a great change in the lives of the survivors was registered. Some clients were offered livelihoods as a group and some at an individual level. The clients engaged in the livelihoods program registered great healing progress to those who were not supported. Those who lost their jobs where taken through counseling sessions to adaptation and acceptance to change before they could engage in any livelihoods activity. This was meant to enable them have the will to start again and start small, adjusting to new surrounding environmental conditions.

Engaging clients in livelihoods support is a process and has no straight up starting and end point. We begin with the client from where they are. Help them understand their situation, in terms of their life before the torture events, live during the torture events, their life after the torture events of what has changed, and what they can do about the change and managing the changes created due to torture and what they hope for in the future. When they understand the torture effects they are suffering from and have hope for the future, then we can now begin to engage them in different skills and knowledge in various enterprises, and we help them chose the enterprises they would wish to engage in."

  • What lessons have you learnt from these experiences?

"One thing I highly note is that rehabilitation without livelihoods support in it is not complete. Because torture does not only affect the physical and mental being of an individual, but also their ability to socialize with resources around them, that would enable them re-adjust back to being themselves. Thus when the focus is only on physical, mental and legal redress, then the clients ability is restricted to only think of pains and legal justice. The social justice is left out, their social relations are left out and this affects how the client will then think and behave, which makes the cycle of pain unending.

From my experience, clients are helped to see beyond just the pains, but have future hopes and work towards acquiring that hope. Many became well knowing they can still work with disability, when they have lost everything, when their livelihoods have been shuttered, this helps them move on and recover even faster.

One key lesson too is that clients when fully rehabilitated gain strong resilience and are able to manage their day to day life with new beginnings. Majority will afford to feed their family, take care of themselves, seek medical treatment without fear of drug adherence since they will have food to eat, and take medicine."

  • How would you suggest other practitioners use this technique at their centres?

"Personally, I would suggest the practitioners begin with the clients from where they are, review their situation, and assess their readiness and willingness to start again and afresh. Then engage them in the different enterprises they can manage, in regards to their knowledge, skills, ability and resources available. Involving the clients helps in the long run sustainability of any livelihoods program."

For more information

For more information on ACTV Uganda, please visit their website here.

"One thing I highly note is that rehabilitation without livelihoods support in it is not complete. Because torture does not only affect the physical and mental being of an individual, but also their ability to socialize with resources around them, that would enable them re-adjust back to being themselves."

- Avola Peace, ACTV Uganda


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