University of Haifa International School Student Blog
By Sara Franklin-Gillette, a student at the Study Abroad program at the International School.
This week one of my classes, Mental Health of Refugees, had an academic tour to South Tel Aviv, a part of the country where many asylum speakers live. The class focuses generally on the social and mental health issues of refugees, but focuses primarily on Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers in Israel.
Our first stop in Tel Aviv was to the Eritrean Women’s Center. It is largely run by volunteers, and serves as a source of community support for Eritrean women in Tel Aviv, many of whom are single mothers. We met with the director and discussed the ways that social support and sense of community can positively effect the mental health of Eritrean asylum seekers.
Next we went to Mesila, a municipal organization focused on children and families of foreigners, primarily asylum seekers. We heard from a social worker about the ways that they work to improve the lives of children in this community, and the challenges they face in doing so. After, we heard from a representative of Assaf, an organization that advocates for policy changes related to refugees.
Last, we went to Kuchinate, an organization and business that empowers female asylum seekers by teaching them to make and sell woven baskets. We ate lunch there and talked with the staff and some of the women about how the organization was founded by a psychologist to address the mental health needs of this community in a culturally appropriate and practically helpful way. After, many of us purchased the baskets they had on sale.
I have learned so much in this class so far, and visiting these organizations helped me put everything in context. This class, and this trip especially, have helped me understand mental health and trauma in a broader, community framework. I’m glad that the International School organizes academic trips for the classes because it helps us see how what we are learning applies to the real world.