The journalists, technicians and administrative staff of Radio Ndeke Luka, the media created and supported by Fondation Hirondelle in the Central African Republic, recently received two weeks of counselling and training in dealing with post-traumatic stress. This is the first training of its kind organized by Fondation Hirondelle for one of its media. Our interview with the trainer, psychologist Gabriel Cochet.
What were the aims of the training that you have just delivered for the Radio Ndeke Luka team in Bangui ?
There were two main aims: first, to provide psychological support to Radio Ndeke Luka staff exposed to violence because of the war, and second, to provide them with practical tools adapted to the context to help them manage their stress themselves.
Training was also offered to team leaders on techniques for handling staff who have had potentially traumatizing experiences at work.
How did you structure your mission ?
I organized discussion groups based on an educational approach to different types of stress and psychological trauma, to allow sharing of experiences, testimonies and advice suited to the socio-cultural context and difficulties of being a journalist in the country. During these workshops there were also practical exercises in stress reduction which are easy to reproduce.
I also offered individual consultations to those who wanted to go deeper into particular problems and benefit from individual advice.
What were the reactions of the radio’s staff ?
The staff seemed very satisfied with this initiative. First because it shows the Fondation really recognizes how difficult their work is in an unstable and dangerous context. And also because it provides them with tools to better understand the difficulties that affect their professional and private lives, bringing them some answers to help their well-being.
Was this the first experience for you in a context like this (a country in conflict / media staff) ?
I had already worked in staff care in the CAR and other countries facing humanitarian crisis. It seems to me vital to provide psychological support to professionals who are regularly exposed to war violence.
Having said that, I had not worked before with media staff, and it was a pleasure to work in this professional environment.
In addition, I would like to pay tribute to the formidable work that is done by the personnel of Radio Ndeke Luka.
What lessons do you draw from this experience, as a psychologist? What is your assessment of the situation in the Central African Republic and the traumas to which the population are exposed ?
It is an experience that is hard to quantify, both on the human and professional level. Provided you remain humble and respectful, you can learn a lot about yourself. The Central African Republic is a country of immense richness, whose people are extremely kind but are deeply scarred by the horrors of war. I was touched by their terrible stories and their dignity, and I would repeat the experience gladly if I have the opportunity to do so.