Healing and Growth

Character Affects Relationships
April 9, 2024
Empowering Mothers
May 13, 2024

During a wedding in a small local village a large fire broke out! Over 130 people were killed in the fire, half of whom were children. Many more were injured and left with severe burns on their bodies.

This tragedy was traumatic for the entire village because most of the village was present at the wedding, and everyone lost someone they loved in the fire. In response to the crisis, Operation Mercy has gone weekly to provide trauma aftercare for the community. We have worked with the families of the fire victims and the survivors that came away with burns and PTSD.

One of our participants is Mario, a 5-year-old little boy. Tragically Mario lost all his siblings and both of his parents in the fire. He is now living with his aunt, uncle, cousins, and grandmother. When we first began working with Mario, he was noticeably quiet and shy. He would sit with his face buried in the couch, not wanting to interact with anyone or engage in any activity. His anxiety was severe to the point of not being able to leave his home to go to school or even leave his caretakers' side. Though his behaviors were troubling to his aunt and uncle, because of the mental health stigma in this society, his grandmother would not allow Mario to receive trauma aftercare. Initially the grandmother’s worldview wanted all the family to remain in continual sadness and grief, because she believed moving forward in healing would dishonor those who died. This created suspicion and distrust of our staff who were trying to empower Mario.

Amid these challenges, every week our Operation Mercy staff member goes to visit Mario and his family. Each week, Mario has become more comfortable, and they have been able to build trust in their relationship. He has now been engaging well in the therapy activities and has made surprising progress in the therapy times! Mario has shown emotional awareness and he has communicated about his anxiety and other emotions through Arabic emotion dolls and animal pictures.

Now when our Operation Mercy staff member goes to visit, rather than hiding his face in the couch, Mario runs to the gate to greet her with a smile and a hug, and he immediately lets her know that he is ready for their activity time.

Mario is now ready to restart school. Partially due to Mario’s progress, the grandmother has now interacted positively with our staff and even showed some trust and support in the work we are doing. It has taken time and perseverance through challenges, but the growth and healing in Mario has been demonstrated in his broad smile and fresh five-year-old curiosity of life!

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