BACKGROUND AND AIMS:
Young traumatized refugees are at risk of developing psychological and behavioural complications. It is vital to provide appropriate support at this vulnerable stage to reduce future social difficulties. STARTTS Capoeira Angola Project Bantu promotes cognitive, affective and social development, facilitates empowerment and resilience, and builds the capacity of young people to settle in their school environment. It represents a shift from traditional behavioural therapies to interactive/social methods of group therapy. The program includes weekly classes at nine NSW schools, a holiday camp, and an annual Youth Encounter event.
This paper will present the results of the 2018 evaluation of our program. The aims were to: 1) examine the impact on student anxiety, depression, aggressive behaviour and hyperarousal; 2) monitor student engagement and satisfaction; and 3) explore the experiences and outcomes of the Youth Encounter.
The evaluation used a mixed methods, multi-informant design, including weekly non-verbal ratings of satisfaction, self-report (DASS) and teacher-report (Conners-3) questionnaires; heart-rate variability assessment; and qualitative interviews. Baseline assessments are complete, with follow-up data collection planned for Term 4, 2018.
RESULTS AND CHALLENGES:
Based on previous evaluations, we anticipate improvements in anxiety, depression, aggressive behaviour, and interpersonal functioning over the course of the year. The Youth Encounter provides an opportunity to connect with students from other schools and be inspired to engage further with the program. The large number of students assembled at this event presents certain social and practical challenges which we will discuss.
IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS:
The highly structured environment and clearly defined boundaries of this program promote a sense of safety, self-discipline and group membership. This goes beyond the short-term reduction of mental health symptoms to promote resilience and character development and reduce the risk of future anti-social behaviour.