Abstract: Lingering Trauma and Transformation for Peace: Lived Experience of Refugee Youth in Peace Education Program in Dadaab Refugee Camp (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

496P Lingering Trauma and Transformation for Peace: Lived Experience of Refugee Youth in Peace Education Program in Dadaab Refugee Camp

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hyojin Im, PhD, Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Nicole George, MSW, Doctoral Student, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Background & Purpose: Refugee youth often face numerous traumatic events and prolonged adversities during displacement, which include interpersonal and community violence, conflicts with the local community and peer refugees, and disputes over limited resources or space in the settlement. Protracted refugee situations often exacerbate the existing challenges and hardships and yet limited interventions have been available to address such issues. This study aims to identify the patterns in perceived causes and coping of social conflicts in refugee camps and to assess the effect of the Peace Education Program (PEP) developed by the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) among refugee youth living in refugee camps.

Methods: Using a snowball sampling strategy, this study recruited 400 Somali refugee youth aged between 13 and 25 (M=17.32, SD=2.50), who live in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The research team employed a concurrent mixed methods design and conducted a cross-sectional semi-structured survey along with five open-ended questions that explore the patterns of the perceived conflicts and coping typologies among refugee youth. The survey tool was administered by teachers and facilitators of the PEP, most of whom are also refugees themselves. The research team analyzed this evaluation data, both qualitative and quantitative, adopting a hybrid thematic analysis and a series of bi- and multivariate analyses including multiple regression analyses.

Results: Multiple regression analysis was used to test if demographic factors as well as participation in PEP significantly predicted positive behavioral outcomes in refugee youth. The results of the regression analysis indicated that six factors explained 41.1% of variance (R2=.411, F (6, 222) =25.85, p<.001). Specifically, age significantly predicted positive behavioral outcomes (β=.20, p<.001) as did ethnicity (β=.12, p<.05), sense of safety (β=.36, p<.001), and participation in peace education program (β=-.36, p<.001). Thematic analysis revealed meaningful patterns regarding the perceived causes of social conflicts, individual and collective coping, and collective resilience within the ecological systems. Most respondents perceived the root causes of social conflicts as refugee trauma at a societal level (n=515, 60.1%), including discrimination, political conflicts, heightened criminal activity and lack of resources in the camp. Coping with conflict and trauma were pursued mostly through individual-level coping (n= 350, 55.9%) rather than coping mechanisms at community or societal levels, which implies pervasive distrust and chronic unmet needs in the camp setting.

Conclusion: This study elaborates post-conflict narratives on collective trauma and resilience through the meaning of conflicts and collective coping by individual participants in the Peace Education Program (PEP). It provides insight in individual and collective coping mechanisms, and collective resilience at all systems levels, emphasizing the positive impacts of PEP and efforts for community building in the context of prolonged refugee situations. Our findings suggest how increased knowledge about refugee trauma, coping, and resilience may help strengthen and restore community relationships and interpersonal norms and emphasize both individual and communal efforts for recovery from trauma and group efforts toward developing the resilience of the refugee community.