Counselling Extension Response Project (CERP II)

A helpline counsellor supporting CERP II
A helpline counsellor supporting CERP II

Continuing our series of articles from our Annual Report 2022/23, we outline here our work on our Counselling Extension Response Project (CERP II).

Survivors Fund (SURF) has developed and delivered an array of mental health projects to support survivors over the past 20 years. Some of our mental health work is delivered through conducting counselling groups across the country through our local partner organisations.

With funding from Clifford Chance through the Cornerstone programme, the Counselling Extension Response Project (CERP II) is enabling SURF, in collaboration with its partners, to provide access to phone-based counselling and supplementary support to vulnerable survivors of the genocide, and related vulnerable persons, from the April 2021 through to October 2022.

The main focus of the work has been to sustain access to phone-based and peer support counselling to survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi, and related vulnerable persons (principally their children born after genocide, or other members of their household) across the country. Specifically, we were focused on ensuring access to such support during the commemoration period of the genocide (April to July) and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beneficiaries principally are members of the partner organisations of Survivors Fund (SURF) which include AVEGA (National Association of Widows of the Genocide), GAERG (National Survivor’s Association of Graduate Students), AERG (National Student’s Association of Genocide Survivors) and IBUKA (National Membership Body of Survivor’s Organisations). The project aimed to support all categories of survivors and related vulnerable persons who are suffering from mental health problems, through raising awareness and providing access to mental health support. The majority of those accessing the support are elderly (and often housebound) genocide widows and younger survivors (without familial support).

At the outset of the project, we have set targets for key output and outcome indicators. In almost all cases we met or exceeded those targets – with the exception of a small underachievement in new callers to the helpline and participants receiving support from a PSC due to a greater emphasis on providing more in-depth and extended repeat support to those most in need through the course of the project (as opposed to lighter touch one-off support, which would have increased these numbers, but not necessarily to the benefit of those the project is intended to most support, which are the most vulnerable).

Over the duration of the project 25,288 calls were responded to by counsellors and Peer Support Counsellors (PSCs) through the helplines. There were 4,651 new callers to the helplines, who were accessing support through the phone-based counselling for the first time. In addition, training and resources have been extended to the 48 Peer Support Counsellors who are volunteers who have been equipped with the knowledge and funding to provide assistance to 5,582 people in need through the project, in turn enabling them to improve their well-being through mental health support.

From the endline survey we conducted:

  • 98% of respondents reported that they have felt supported by having access to the phone-based counselling through the helpline, and will use it again if available.
  • 89% of respondents reported that the helpline made a positive contribution to improving their psychosocial condition as a result of the services made available through it.
  • 91% of respondents reported that the helpline was effective in helping to address the issues about which they called.
  • 80% of respondents used the helpline again after using it for the first time, evidencing the ongoing need and value that is placed in the service.
  • 55% of respondents prefer phone-based counselling as the way to access such support.
  • An estimated 225,000 people have been reached through radio adverts, spot jingles and social media (based on channel audience figures) who have better understanding of and confidence in the mental health support that is available to them, and greater knowledge as to how to recognise and cope with mental health challenges. 

The need and demand for the counselling services made accessible through CERP II are greater than ever, in part due to the reduction in government funding for dedicated counselling services for survivors. The take-up and effectiveness of the helplines and peer counselling made possible by CERP II has proven to be more impactful than ever (significantly increasing since CERP) due to greater awareness of the support that is available and how to access it.

As a result Clifford Chance agreed a new grant for the Counselling Enhanced Reach Project (CERP III) which will run from December 2022 through to October 2024, which intends to realise the ambition and potential of the project to ensure that survivors can continue to access the counselling support that they require, through to the 30th Anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi, and then embed the model so that such support continues to be available beyond the end of Clifford Chance funding. 

Marie *

“Personally, I thank God very much about the support I have received for my mental health through telephone. During the genocide of 1994 against Tutsi in Rwanda I lost all my children and husband, as well as properties. Since then, I have serious trauma which might not come to an end soon. I used to meet a counsellor often for advice and support before COVID-19. During the pandemic I was hopeless, and I am sure there are so many survivors who are like me. I started thinking how I will survive without meeting other people for moral support. I was not able to call the counsellor using airtime, as I could not afford the cost, and I attempted killing myself through suicide. My neighbour saved me. Once I was listening to radio, I heard a radio spot mentioning the number to be called when you needed mental health support. I called the number and I spoke with a counsellor who has helped me over a number of different sessions. I have called many times to speak to the counsellor and she calls me to follow up. I am now feeling happy, and I have joined other women in a saving and loans group to participate in income generating activities to help myself by starting small business of a boutique. I thank you very much for the project which has supported us during the hard times of pandemic. Many could have been died if the helpline was not established”.

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