Rahatt means rest or relief in many languages, including Arabic, Assyrian and Chaldean. To a group of mature aged (55years – 84 years) Arabic speaking refugee women in South West Sydney, RAHATT also refers to Reconnection And Healing after Trauma and Transition. The women who have chosen to be involved in RAHATT are in need of Rest and Rehabilitation. They are directly or indirectly victims of violence and human rights violation following the conflicts in Iraq and more recently the offensive launched by militants of Islamic State (ISIS) and other Sunni insurgents in Iraq and Syria.
In addition to coping with refugee trauma, grief following the death of family members, isolation, pain and loss of one’s homeland and witnessing its destruction, the women are also grappling with the challenge of transitioning to a new country, a new culture and adjusting to a new stage of life; growing old gracefully.
Acknowledging the importance of collectivism in some cultures and understanding that groups could be preferred to individual treatment, clients were invited to the group program RAHATT.
RAHATT relies on multiple strategies, in a group setting to engage with and leverage the wisdom and spirituality of participants to enable them to reflect on their past, feel more settled in the present and find a new perspective on their future.
We began by attempting to install a “Comfortable Place” or a “Place of Strength” for each participant. Metaphors such as “The Umbrella of Anger” and “The Suitcase of Emotional Baggage” helped participants express their emotions and ushered them to take a different perspective as they explored their feelings. Activities like compiling the “Tree of Life” encouraged participants to talk about their own lives and reduce the impact of the dominant grief and trauma narrative.
Preliminary results suggest that participants in RAHATT are beginning to feel more connected to each other as they share nostalgic memories and find meaning in common values and way of life. They have gradually begun to share cherished activities they engaged in in their homeland. Sharing food, music and visiting places of worship is likely to further develop into a regular routine for RAHATT.
The theme that underpins RAHATT’s success may be summarized as follows:
"Come as you are, that's how we welcome you.
Come as you are, feel quite at home.
Close from our hearts, lets us find love and forgiveness;
So come as you are, why stand alone?
No need to fear, love sets no limits.
No need to fear, love never ends.
Don't run away, shamed and disheartened.
We can Rest in love, and learn to trust again.
(Adapted from original song by Sr. Deidre Brown)
Funding & No Conflicts Declaration
RAHATT has been funded through STARTTS funding. The authors Pearl Fernandes and Yvette Aiello report no conflict of interest.