CSA - Survivors of Torture

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Background Information

Survivors of Torture, International (SURVIVORS) was incorporated in February 1997 in response to a need in our community to bring assistance to a segment of the population that struggles with the wounds of politically-motivated torture. It is estimated that at least 35,000 survivors of torture live in San Diego County and 1.3 million live in the United States. Torture survivors often are left with lifelong physical and mental health problems if not treated by trained professionals. Since 1997, SURVIVORS has engaged a caring network of professionals - board members, interpreters, therapists, physicians, dentists - and in the community who give support and encouragement in many ways. To date we have served more than 2,000 clients from more than 80 different countries. Your support enables us to help torture survivors rebuild their lives. SURVIVORS refers clients to community partners for English classes, housing and temporary shelters, and food and clothing donations. SURVIVORS assists in preparing reliable, accurate medical and psychological documentation for clients seeking asylum to use to strengthen their cases. The agency’s critically needed, individually tailored, culturally and linguistically appropriate services improve clients' physical and mental health, as well as their overall emotional well-being, so they can become active, productive and self-sufficient members of the community. Treatment helps survivors heal, reconnect with their families, go back to school, and find employment.

CSA has supported SURVIVORS's efforts in the following ways

2017: Having a properly working refrigerator is crucial to helping our clients live healthy lifestyles. Approximately 73% of our clients are political asylum seekers. Political asylum seekers enter the U.S. legally, seeking safe refuge; however, they are not eligible for many of the benefits and resources available to refugees. Asylum seekers often cannot work which results in extreme financial hardships. Thus they live at or below 250% federal poverty level and usually cannot even access basic necessities such as food, clothing, or shelter while they are awaiting their asylum hearings - a process that takes months and often years. In order to assist clients with some basic needs, SURVIVORS partners with The Meeting Place Clubhouse and receives dried, canned, and perishable goods every Tuesday. A refrigerator allows a space to store these perishable foods that would otherwise end up becoming spoiled and wasted. Since we are a nonprofit organization, 90 cents of each dollar we receive goes directly towards client services. Our dedication to provide free and quality services to this vulnerable population results in limited resources left over for other purposes. By this reason, we do not have the means within our budget to afford a refrigerator that we desperately need. We have had our current refrigerator for over 12 years and it is no longer properly functioning. The door does not seal completely causing the temperature to rise, bacteria to grow faster, and produce spoiling more rapidly. By having a functioning refrigerator, many of our asylum seeking clients can have fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, and dairy products available for themselves and their families.

2016: When an asylum seekers arrives to our border they present themselves and legally ask to remain the United States. This launches them into a legal process, where ultimately it is up to a judge to decide if they can stay in our country. Asylum seekers must prove that they were tortured and have a credible fear of returning home. SURVIVORS assists them with their cases. When an asylum seeker is referred to us by their lawyer, we offer medical evaluations and psychological evaluations that serve as forensic evidence in their cases. In 2016, CSA supported these medical exams by helping us purchase medical supplies for forensic medical exams for our asylum seeking clients. These evaluations are imperative to our client’s cases so that they may be granted political asylum and be able to rebuild their lives as our neighbors.

2015: Many of SURVIVORS’ clients suffer from severe physical and psychological distress as a result of being tortured. In 2015, with the support of CSA, SURVIVORS’ began a photography-based therapeutic program for clients. Imagine not knowing if your family is alive, where your next meal will be, or not having guaranteed sleeping arrangements for the night. This program is a promise practice utilized in several non-profit with wonderful results, giving clients the self-empowerment to be able to share their experiences with a group of their peers. This form of therapy helps survivors focus on exercising their assertiveness, developing and maintaining decision-making power, developing skills for rational thought, learning skills for improving personal power, and sharing why they felt compelled to take any specific picture.  Photo-therapy will give our clients a sense of control in their lives that they have not had. SURVIVORS’ uses the cameras and printers provided by CSA funding with our monthly healing club (a group therapy/community event), allowing our clients to share their own perspective of the adventure.

2014: Many of SURVIVORS’ clients suffer from severe physical and psychological distress as a result of being tortured.  Torture survivors are susceptible to re-traumatization and severe distress when they feel confined; they may experience flashbacks or invasive memories from when they were tortured.  SURVIVORS has patio area is an enclosed, safe space where clients can relax, drink a cup of coffee, have something to eat, and enjoy the soothing sights and sounds of nature.  In 2014, prior to CSA’s support, SURVIVORS’ patio table and chairs were faulty and unreliable.  One chair broke beneath a staff member while she was sitting down to lunch. Luckily, the staff member was not hurt, but the thought of another chair (or table itself) breaking under a client is a chance SURVIVORS was not willing to take. Thanks to CSA, clients have a safe, welcoming patio environment, with sturdy tables and chairs to maintain that environment.

Contact Information

For more information please visit our website. www.notorture.org or contact survivors@notorture.org

Niki Kalmus

Community Relations Manager

Survivors of Torture, International

Building a community of healing for survivors of torture.

(619) 278-2421 (direct)

(619) 278-2400 (main)

(619) 294-9405 (fax)

P.O. Box 151240

San Diego, CA 92175-1240