Stressors, Supports, and the Social Ecology of Displacement: Psychosocial Dimensions of an Emergency Education Program for Chechen Adolescents Displaced in Ingushetia, Russia
Author(s)Betancourt, Theresa Stichick
This study explores the psychosocial benefits of an emergency education intervention serving adolescents displaced by the war in Chechnya. Interviews with 55 Chechen adolescents living in spontaneous settlements in Ingushetia, Russia were collected in the fall of 2000. The study set out to describe key stressors and sources of social support available to youth being served by the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) emergency education program. Of particular interest was the degree to which the education program addressed psychosocial goals such as increasing social support and alleviating strains including idleness, the lack of safe and structured places for youth to spend time, and concerns about lost years of schooling expressed by children and families. Findings indicated that young people and their families were facing a number of physical and emotional stressors. Regarding physical stressors, adolescents described the “living conditions” in the spontaneous settlements as the most difficult thing they faced. The physical and material deprivations experienced in the settlements were described in terms of living in an “abnormal” or “inhuman” way, including poor or crowded living conditions; infrequent supplies of food, medicines and educational materials; and concerns about parents and older adolescents being able to find work. Regarding emotional stressors, participants identified a variety of sources including loss of home, loss of time/idleness, separation from loved ones, tensions with the Ingush host community, and concerns about their ability to be productive in the future. Furthermore, a sense of humiliation linked to deprivation pervaded the experience of Chechen youth in these IDP settlements. The data indicated a number of ways in which the emergency education program provided benefits by enriching sources of support, providing meaningful activity and opportunities to learn, and a place and space for young people to spend time and connect to others. In particular, youth leaders described how the program had improved their confidence in working with others and had influenced their career goals. However, the contrast between the desire of adolescents “to live like other kids” and the options available to them presented a dilemma for the emergency education program: adolescents were craving normality, but for any intervention to be delivered, it had first to begin with creative and adaptive strategies that were by no means a complete replacement for formal, mainstream education. The programmatic and policy implications of these findings are presented in the discussion.
Inter-University Committee on International Migration
Rosemarie Rogers Working Paper Series;21