Welcome to 'The Refugee Experience' psychosocial module. Work on this module commenced in 1998 when a grant from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation enabled Alastair Ager and me to commence making the material that we had prepared for the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, International Summer School available to a wider audience. We recognised that it was not always possible to journey to Oxford and that our material could also be of use closer to 'the field'. In the preparation of this module we took the opportunity to invite significant authors in the field of forced migration to reflect on a psychosocial understanding of the refugee experience. The material is designed for humanitarian workers and refugee policy makers who do not necessarily have a professional background in the social sciences. The content reflects areas of concern that we feel it is helpful to be sensitive to in refugee work. There is at least 30 hours of training material in the module. This material can be read by individual learners or used by facilitators to train groups of learners. Each component of the module can also be used independently. Sensitive to resources in the field and issues of accessibility we have prepared the module in three formats: print, CD ROM and an Internet version. Over the next years we will be updating and modifying the module in the light of your comments and the changing experiences of refugees. We hope that you find the material relevant and a helpful resource for our work with refugees.
Maryanne Loughry

The Editors

Sister Maryanne Loughry currently holds the appointment of Pedro Arrupe Tutor at the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), University of Oxford. She is a psychologist with research interests in the field of health psychology, child psychology, communication and development, particularly in reference to refugee work. In the late 1980s she was actively involved in the Philippines and Hong Kong, as a counsellor and trainer in the Vietnamese camps. From 1993-1995 she worked in Vietnam with a Scandinavian agency assisting the Vietnamese government to address the needs of the returnee population. In recent years she has trained refugee workers in South East Asia, Africa, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. Maryanne is a member of the Academic Board of the Diploma in Community Mental Health for the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and the Islamic University, Gaza and a consultant to the Jesuit Refugee Service for staff development. Currently, she is researching the psychosocial adjustment of former child soldiers in Sierra leone and Northern Uganda. Maryanne is also researching the concerns of refugee children from a child focus. This project aims to develop an appropriate methodology for assessing children's concerns and worries in conflict settings. She has practised as a child psychologist in Australia and is currently an adjunct lecturer in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Education, Humanities, Law and Theology, Flinders University of South Australia. At the RSC Maryanne teaches about the psychosocial impact of the refugee experience.

Professor Alastair Ager is Director of the Institute for International Health and Development and Professor of Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh and Research Associate, of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. He is a graduate of the universities of Keele, Wales and Birmingham. He has over 50 publications spanning the fields of disability, community integration and refugee studies. His work in the latter area has included research studies of the experience of Mozambican refugees in Malawi and, more recently, analysis of the social integration of refugees in Scotland. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Refugee Studies and a regular contributor to the education programme of the Refugee Studies Centre. He has worked with a number of agencies involved in refugee assistance, including UNHCR, MSF-Holland and the Finnish Refugee Council, with field experience across Southern Africa, South Asia, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. He is editor of the recent volume 'Refugees: Perspectives on the Experience of Forced Migration' (London: Continuum, 1999). Along with Maryanne Loughry, he serves as convenor of the Psychosocial Working Group, a collaboration between representatives of QMUC, Oxford, Harvard and Columbia universities and the humanitarian agencies IRC, SCF, CCF and MSF-Holland;



Mary Diaz is the executive director of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, a non-profit advocacy organisation that promotes better protection and assistance for victims of war and persecution. Ms. Diaz has worked in the refugee field for more than 15 years. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Brown University and a Master's in education from Harvard. Ms. Diaz has written and lectured extensively on the concerns of women and children in emergencies. She has written reports and articles on the conditions of women and children in Rwanda, Angola, Colombia, Kosovo, and other areas. Ms. Diaz has lectured at Tufts University, York University and numerous other universities, conferences and seminars.

Dr Alcinda Honwana is currently a programme officer in the office of Olara Otunnu, Special representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict. Previously she was a senior lecturer at the department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Born in Mozambique, Dr Honwana holds a BA in History and Geography from the University Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique; a MA in Sociology from the University of Paris VIII in France; and another MA and a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of London (SOAS) in the UK. Her research interests cover topics such as: spirit possession and traditional healing in Mozambique; cultural politics; and local mechanisms of healing and reconciliation in the aftermath of war in Mozambique. Having done extensive research on child soldiers in Mozambique and Angola, Dr Honwana is currently working on the impact of the war on young women in Mozambique. Dr Honwana has published several articles about the war, politics of culture and processes of social reintegration and trauma healing in post-war Mozambique and Angola.

Dr Colin MacMullin is Associate Professor of Education at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and a Research Associate at the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University. Trained as a teacher and psychologist, Colin has professional experience in both child and counselling psychology. He presently teaches post-graduate courses in counselling, and supervises research concerned with the social and emotional needs of children. Colin has worked throughout South-East Asia, particularly in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Since 1995, he has taught courses on communication and counselling skills in Gaza and the West Bank. He has also undertaken research into the concerns of Palestinian children and adolescents.

Margaret McCallin has spent the past 21 years involved with assessing the psychosocial impact of war and violent displacement on children and families, and in programme development to address these issues. She has worked with governments, local and international NGOs, and international organisations. Since 1993 much of her work has focused on the situation of child soldiers, in particular programmes of demobilisation and social reintegration. She was one of the researchers for the child soldier research for the UN Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, and is a co-author of Children: The Invisible Soldiers. Most recently she co-ordinated the development of the ARC (Action for the Rights of Children) Project with UNHCR and the Save the Children Alliance.

Eva Segerstrom has a Master of Social Science (MSc) in social work (Orebro, Sweden). She has worked for many years as a social counsellor in Sweden with refugees from all over the world and internationally for different organisations, mostly with Radda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children). Community work and participation has been her main topic both within training of field-workers as well as university students as a Master Trainer and in her own fieldwork. Her most extensive experiences are with Afghan and Somali refugee communities. Eva Segerstrom is also a member of the Radda Barnen Emergency Standby Team with a preparedness to assist refugees in early emergencies, such as refugees from Burundi and Rwanda. In addition, she has worked in a number of other refugee situations, including the Palestinians in Lebanon, internally displaced in Afghanistan and Guinea-Bissau and non-war emergencies, such as in Nicaragua, after Hurricane Mitch. Besides fieldwork and training of field staff, Eva has written a handbook for training field refugee workers in social and community work, 'Focus on Refugee Children' (1995) as well as other written work on the topic. It has always been important for her to integrate practical experience with theory.

Dr Derek Summerfield was until recently a full time medical doctor (psychiatrist), at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, London, since 1991, an NGO offering direct assistance to asylum seekers and refugees in Britain as well as wider human rights work, lobbying, campaigning. He is also Honorary Senior Lecturer at St George's Hospital Medical School, London, a research associate on the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, and a past consultant to Oxfam. His first experience of war-related issues came in 1980 when he worked as a government medical officer in South Eastern Zimbabwe (his native country), at the end of the war of liberation which finally established that country as independent. Later he documented some of the psychosocial consequences of war amongst internally displaced peasant farmers in Nicaragua and war wounded men both during and after the civil war in that country. He has also had professional links with organisations addressing the violent experiences of Palestinians under Israeli rule and medical ethical issues affecting Israeli doctors serving in interrogation centres. Derek has published regularly in medical and other academic journals.


The Refugee Experience exists in three formats: a paper publication with an accompanying video cassette, a CD ROM version which comprises of a single CD and an Internet version. The following equipment will enable participants to maximise their benefit from the module (although none of these items are essential):

  • VHS video player and television monitor (for the paper version only)
  • over-head projector with transparency film and pens
  • paper and pens
  • whiteboard/flip chart and marker pens
  • several packs of playing cards (for the cross cultural activity)