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Bethany Christian Services Enters Working agreement with United Nations High Commission on Refugees to Serve Sudanese Refugees in Ethiopia

Bethany Christian Services Enters Working agreement with United Nations High Commission on Refugees to Serve Sudanese Refugees in Ethiopia Organization to provide mental health and social services to refugee camp of over 400,000 individuals

PR Newswire

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Aug. 22, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Aug. 22, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- In the midst of the greatest refugee crisis in world history, with 70 million people forcibly displaced from their homes due to violence and persecution, Bethany Global, a subsidiary of Bethany Christian Services, has formed a working agreement with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees to provide mental health and social services to Sudanese refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia.

Under this agreement, Bethany, a global nonprofit committed to bringing and keeping families together, will focus its efforts on two parallel programs: providing foster care type services to protect unaccompanied minors living in the camps; and psycho-social support to women and children affected by trauma. Both programs will run in tandem with the UNHCR's humanitarian efforts, which are focused on providing precious resources that meet basic human needs such as food, water and shelter.

"Currently, there are approximately 40,000 unaccompanied minors in the camps in Gambella," said Kristi Gleason, vice president of global programs for Bethany Global. "Bethany has a long history of stepping in to areas of need to provide quality services for families and children. When the UNHCR reached out to us because of our expertise, including 10 years of family-based care in Ethiopia and 40 years of global and refugee experience, we knew we had to step in and offer mental health services to those who have experienced so much trauma."

To develop the program, Bethany experts visited refugee camps in Ethiopia with the UNHCR in June of 2017 and, upon return, proposed working with two of the seven camps in Gambella to address gaps in service identified during the visit:

  • Support for foster care workers and intensive case management – Many of the unaccompanied minors in the camps were taken in as informal foster children by South Sudanese families but are often not treated the same as biological children, potentially creating a situation of abuse or neglect. Bethany will use its proven model of foster case management, already implemented in Ethiopia, to train and support case workers to assist them in better assessing and supporting both the children and their foster parents.
  • Psycho-social support – When fleeing persecution in search of safety, refugees experience extreme trauma and while they may be physically secure within the confines of refugee camps, oftentimes mental struggles persist long after arrival. Bethany social workers will support foster parents and families who have been through traumatic events to help guide children through symptoms and behaviors associated with experiencing trauma. The curriculum utilized is the same as that which is based on decades long experience working with refugee families resettled in the U.S., with modifications made for use in the camp setting. Services will target the complex trauma of displacement, family separation, grief and loss, and victims of violence.

"Due to tight budgets within the refugee camps, mental health services are rare and all resources are dedicated to ensuring the survival of families and children," said Gleason. "Our history of working with refugee resettlement in the U.S. has given us the knowledge and resources to be able to aid these individuals in crisis and we are eager to get to work."

While the initiative only started recently, its impact has been immediate. As a result, Bethany is working with UNHCR in Bogota on a similar working agreement in Colombia to serve Venezuelan children coming into Colombia.

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About Bethany Christian Services
Bethany Christian Services was founded in 1944 and is providing services in 36 states and 15 countries. In 2017, Bethany served nearly 46,000 expectant parents, children and families worldwide.  Bethany's mission is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting children, empowering youth, and strengthening families through quality social services. For more information, call 1-800-BETHANY or visit

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Last Updated: 22-Aug-2018