Associate Professor Returns From Volunteering at Refugee Camp

Associate Professor of Psychology Kevin Rowell returned on Nov. 9 from his trip to a Muslim refugee camp where he provided mental health interventions to victims of trauma caused by the war in the Middle East.

The camp, located in Oinofyta, Greece, is home to 800 refugees. Rowell said the majority of them were from Afghanistan.

“Over there trauma is the norm, not the exception,” Rowell said. “We don’t understand the displacement and the feelings of a person who gives up everything.”

Rowell worked in the camp from Nov. 3-7 with a group of 12 people.

A member of the Headwaters Relief Organization in Minnesota, who said they needed a male psychologist to work directly with the male refugees, chose Rowell.

Rowell said it is important to work specifically with the males because it allows access to the rest of the family.

The group also worked with children and encouraged them to engage and have fun. Rowell said this influenced the mothers to become more open and involved.

A doctor and a nurse were also brought into the camp to provide medical care for the refugees.

Rowell said a few of the refugee’s stories stood out to him. For example, one man and his wife left their country and lost everything. Their son and his wife left also and had a child born in the camp.

Before the family came to the camp, one of the wives was a biology teacher at a school. Rowell said she was confronted by the Taliban and was forced to leave because of her gender. When she refused, the Taliban threatened to kill her.

Rowell said the family continues to wait and hope that they are not sent back home to find nothing or are attacked/killed by the Taliban.

“These stories of trauma and lack of hope is why we go,” Rowell said. “We want to provide some measures of dealing.”

Rowell has his PhD in Counseling Psychology and is involved currently working with the Red Cross to provide disaster interventions and to train disaster-interventionists.

Image courtesy of Rowell.

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