Five experts from the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) will fly to Berlin on September 11 to give five days of training to clinicians, caregivers and volunteers working with Mideast refugees in two temporary shelters.

ITC Director Tali Levanon went to Berlin six weeks ago to assess the situation and will lead the delegation from Israel.

“There are many thousands of Syrian and other refugees in Berlin. We’ve been invited by two shelters, each housing about 350 men, women and children for about six months until they get permits to relocate elsewhere in Germany,” Levanon tells ISRAEL21c.

“The teams are very dedicated but are not trained in trauma or helping displaced people,” she continues. “The refugees carry the stories of war back home, of the journey to Germany, which is often very traumatic, and of trying to manage in a new country where they don’t know the culture or language.”

The Israelis will focus on two aspects: giving the staff basic tools of emotional first aid to better serve the refugees, and building their own cohesion and ability to avoid compassion fatigue and burnout.

Levanon observed that while the adult refugees get German lessons twice a day and the children are in an educational structure, there is a lot of free time and kids are often unsupervised as their parents try to cope with their situation and look for work. Because food is brought in, the women cannot even continue their familiar routine of cooking for their families.

In addition, social problems arise in both shelters, one in a hospital and the other in a town hall.

“There are many pregnant women; there are 20 deliveries each month. And there are some issues of anger and violence,” Levanon explains.

Sponsored by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and a local German welfare organization, the Israeli training mission consists of experts from four ITC member organizations: Natal Training Center for Victims of Terror and War; Amcha, a provider of mental-health and social-support services for Holocaust survivors in Israel; Community Stress Prevention Center; and Mahut, which teaches resilience and emergency preparedness.

“We will strengthen every part of the team there,” Levanon says. “They are under a lot of stress from the stories of the refugees around them. A social worker told me she doesn’t sleep at night imagining what they have been through. We want to give them tools to work better and to strengthen themselves.”