Raj holds a kitten
NEPAL – October 23 2020

SOS helps child heal from visible and invisible scars

When Raj and his friends play touch and run or flick discs in a game of carrom, he is just like any other confident and outgoing seven-year-old. No one seems to notice the scars on his face and hands.

Raj* is a different boy today than the one who arrived about a year ago at the SOS Children’s Village in Jorpati, Nepal. Then, Raj had anxiety about his appearance. He was hyperactive, seeking attention in positive and negative ways. Other times he would withdraw from others.

“When he joined the SOS family, he was traumatized,” says Pooza Shrestha, a counselor at SOS Children’s Village Jorpati. “He could be reserved and isolated.”

Raj suffered burns to 80% of his face and body after a house fire took his mother’s life and left his father severely injured. He spent more than two years in hospitals in Nepal and India where he underwent a number of surgeries.

He came to the SOS Children’s Village in Jorpati as his father was unable to care for him. It was during counseling sessions where Raj began to share his feelings of hurt and anxiety.

In an SOS Children’s Village, quality care includes supporting the mental well-being of children though psychological care and a safe environment. In his SOS family, Raj lived with his SOS mother, brothers and sisters. He became very close to his SOS mother, holding her hand wherever they went.

“He was assured that he was actively listened to, understood and accepted for the way he is,” says Ms. Shrestha.

To deal with his trauma, Raj had regular counseling along with play therapy, art therapy and music therapy. For his appearance anxiety, cognitive therapy helped him express his thoughts and emotions through arts, games and relaxations. Likewise, his SOS mother and other care staff observed his behavior and the ways he coped with his problems.

Slowly, Raj became stronger emotionally. His anxiety about his appearance diminished over the course of his therapy, thanks to the support and trust he received from his SOS mother, brothers, sisters and staff.

The outbreak of COVID-19 did cause some setbacks for Raj as he began to relive some of his fears, says Rabin Nepali, project director of SOS Children’s Village Jorpati.

“Initially, Raj was scared of COVID-19,” he says. “But later, the regular education sessions, support and care that he received from his SOS mother and counselor helped him to cope with his fear.

“Similarly, we are waiting for the day when his father will be strong enough to care for his only child,” Mr. Nepali adds.

Now, Raj has a different attitude about himself. People tell him he is good communicator and it shows when he tells others how they should feel about their appearance.

“Don’t worry about the beauty of your face,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how you look. Your mother, brothers and sisters will always love you. For this, you need to help and be kind to others.”

*Name changed for privacy reasons.

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