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The hardest school: Helping children in camps build resilience

March 11 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


View Dr Foka’s presentation (pdf).

Around 46 million kids are growing up on the move, unable to return to where they were born and uncertain if they will be welcome where they are headed. Many of these refugees and internally displaced children live – at least for a period – in camps, where access to schooling and mental health services is often limited. Many of these children and young adolescents experience suicidal thoughts, self-harming behaviours, panic attacks, anxiety and aggression.


Our speaker at this event, Dr Sevasti Foka, has worked as a volunteer counsellor in refugee camps. Through this work, she met children and young adolescents in difficult life situations. Many of them had suffered trauma, and the need for mental health interventions was urgent. To address this, she initiated a group-based resilience-building intervention called Strengths for the Journey (SFJ) (Foka and Sergianni, 2019). SFJ is designed specifically for war-affected children and delivered by trained facilitators. The SFJ manual is free and available to download online.


Evaluation of the SFJ intervention shows significant improvements in wellbeing, self-esteem, optimism, and depressive symptoms among 7-14-year-olds who have participated in the programme.



Dr Sevasti Foka

Dr Sevasti Foka is a Senior Lecturer in Counselling Psychology in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London. She completed her PhD in Psychology at University of Portsmouth and has worked as an Associate Senior Lecturer.


She is particularly interested in positive psychology interventions which target positive psychological resources such as positive emotions, hopeful thinking and meaning in life among war-affected children, adolescents and youth. For example, previous work has involved an explanatory controlled trial of a positive psychology intervention delivered in Greek refugee camps (January 2020). Her current ‘Strengths for the Journey’ (SFJ) intervention, is a structured, seven-day intervention for use with displaced young people, in late childhood and early adolescence living in refugee camps to promote their psychological well-being and resilience.




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