A Limitless impact story from Ecuador
Hola! My name is Darwin Carvallo, and I am an Ecuadorian Red Cross youth volunteer and one of the final winners of the Limitless Youth Innovation Academy. I’d like to share my innovation journey with you through our project, RUAH, and tell you how our innovation impacted and transformed our community!
RUAH is a psychological support project for mourning children based on the Positive deviance approach. We are using the experience of Venezuelan refugee children and teenagers who have overcome grief positively to help others in their grieving process. It happens through personal stories, drawing, dancing, and singing.
Understanding the problem
This project was born in times of COVID-19 lockdown when Red Cross volunteer psychologists wanted to restore the mental health of children who lost a family member to COVID-19.
The RUAH story begins with a call to the Red Cross psychosocial support helpline from a mother in crisis due to the death of her month-old child as a result of choking on a sweet. The mother was in crisis, and powerless to respond adequately to the suicidal thoughts of her other child, who also held guilt for the death of his brother. The family had limited resources to access a specialised intervention service.
There were many similar cases during the pandemic, however, there were no specific responses from traditional Red Cross mental health models. For this reason, and thanks to the Limitless initiative, the idea of helping these children began to take shape, including techniques and tools from different approaches.
How RUAH works
The idea of RUAH is based on a scientific working approach called Positive deviance, with field-proven results, as it has been used by major international child protection organisations such as Save the Children, UNICEF, and the Romanian Red Cross. It works mainly through experiential clubs or small groups where children and adolescents meet to tell their stories of overcoming, but also to have fun through therapeutic games and free spaces proposed by themselves such as dances, songs, puppets, and costumes.
Positive Deviance works by identifying peers who have overcome the stages of grief positively, and are now trained in communication and empathy skills to co-facilitate psycho-educational or experiential group sessions. Sessions range from simple drawings to express repressed emotions, to stories of how they overcame their grief. All this is put into practice in the “experiential clubs”, distinguished by age and type of death. The project aims to accelerate the child’s recovery through group activities as main therapeutic tool, to be result-oriented, and to focus on psychoeducational aspects over clinical ones.
In 8 months,
- RUAH has managed to reduce by 80% the levels of anxiety and depression among 445 Ecuadorian and Venezuelan children and teenagers.
- The project caught the attention of the general public. RUAH’s are the most visible of all our Red Cross branch publications on social media, showing the public’s interest in helping vulnerable children and teenagers.
- 100 volunteers were trained with the RUAH methodology, reaching 5 communities with the implementation of the project (Guayas Red Cross, SOLCA, Francisco Bustamante Hospital, Oasis Guayaquil Foundation, and Yaguachi).
What’s next for RUAH?
We are using the resources earned to set up a Psychosocial Clinic for the intervention of these bereaved children and their families. We have also decided to invest in our staff with professional training courses to strengthen our services. All this will allow us to offer a service not only for grief support but also for issues related to depression and emotional difficulties. Another idea we have is to strengthen our Red Cross Mental Health and Psychosocial Support teams with crisis intervention with children and teenagers training, as this need is currently not being met.