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Brief Mindfulness-SOS for Ukrainians:
Mission, Strategic Plan & Projects Operations

As of April 6, more than 11 million Ukrainians have been forcibly displaced due to the violence, atrocities and tragic injustice of the invasion. Despite the extraordinary collective courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people, a mental health crisis is fast-emerging from the trauma, stress, and tragic injustice of the invasion and refugee crisis.
In close alliance with the Ukrainian refugee community, the Moments of Refuge Project at the University of Haifa has partnered with Global Empowerment Mission, Pandemic of Love, and Together, we have launched the Moments of Refuge for Ukraine. Our mission is to empower forcibly displaced Ukrainians to begin to heal and recover, and thereby to help prevent the destructive long-term consequences of forced displacement for families and communities. We aspire to empower and impact the mental health of internally-displaced Ukrainians as well as Ukrainian refugees throughout E. Europe and around the world.
Since 2010, our research group at the University of Haifa has worked in close alliance with forcibly displaced communities and NGOs that serve them. We have worked to bring the most ambitious, rigorous and compassionate science that we can envision to empower and support refugees to heal from the trauma and injustice of forced displacement. This led to the development of Mindfulness-Based Trauma Recovery for Refugees – a mindfulness-based intervention that is trauma-sensitive and socio-culturally adapted for diverse forcibly displaced people and contexts post-displacement. The intervention model is designed to empower and enable forcibly displaced people to experience moments of refuge and safety in their own minds and bodies in the short-term, and thereby facilitate the process of recovery and healing post-displacement to unfold in the long-term.
We carried out randomized clinical trial research to optimize, test and establish the intervention program’s safety, efficacy, feasibility and scalability. We found strong evidence of the safety, therapeutic efficacy and feasibility of MBTR-R, for even the most vulnerable forcibly displaced people (e.g. survivors of torture, human trafficking, former child soldiers). These findings are exciting not only because of its efficacy and therapeutic impact, but because intervention model is also low-cost, disseminable, and scalable, and thereby well-suited to the diverse and complex realities of forcibly displaced people.
Phase I. Intervention
To deliver our mindfulness-based intervention model to vulnerable forcibly displaced Ukrainians in order to alleviate common trauma- and stress-related mental health outcomes of forced displacement including posttraumatic stress, depression and anxiety. The intervention will be delivered in two modalities: (i) A flexible mobile-health technology (Mindfulness-SOS), developed and tested during the COVID-19 crisis, to ensure broad reach and access of the intervention among the most isolated and vulnerable refugees, as well as implementation flexibility and geographic mobility; (ii) A more intensive, although brief and low-cost, group-based intervention delivery format that provides more intensive instruction and support.
Phase II. Prevention By empowering and enabling Ukrainian refugees to heal and recover post-displacement through the mindfulness-based intervention, we aim to prevent the destructive consequence of forced displacement for individual health (e.g. suicide prevention), for families (e.g. intimate-partner violence prevention), for children (e.g. prevent inter-generational transmission of trauma and stress), and for Ukrainian communities (e.g. prevent fragmentation of community resilience and social capital).
Phase III. Social Impact Multiplier To use our mindfulness-based intervention model in order to augment, and thereby amplify the efficacy and impact, of other policies and programs designed to achieve social justice and mobility among forcibly displaced Ukrainians. Because mental health problems post-displacement are a barrier to benefit from social justice and mobility policies and programs, the social impact of targeting mental health in this way may be exponential.
Helping the Helpers To support these efforts, our coalition is also bringing evidence-based tools (Helping the Helpers) to support and empower field workers and volunteers exposed to direct and vicarious trauma as well as stress of the crisis and work with Ukrainian forcibly displaced people and families. This is important to ensure that they are able to provide the sort of support to forcibly displaced Ukrainians that they need now and are likely to need for many months to come.
We need your urgent help to launch, develop and scale-up the Ukrainian Refugee Recovery Initiative. We are now working to raise an initial $1 million, to support the initial months of the initiative. We hope to identify partners who identify with our mission and evidence-based strategy to transform the lives and communities of Ukrainian refugees around the world. If you like to discuss how you may join us, please contact the director of the Moments of Refuge Project, Professor Amit Bernstein at the University of Haifa:

Moments of Refuge Project 2020-2030

Moments of Refuge Project is a global initiative that envisions using our mindfulness- and compassion-based intervention model to empower diverse forcibly displaced people to begin to heal and recover, and thereby prevent the destructive long-term consequences of forced displacement for families and communities. Moments is grounded in 3 core beliefs. First, we believe that mental health and the right to recovery following forced displacement is a basic human right that we must guarantee. Second, we believe that mental health is inextricably linked to social justice, equality and mobility. Third, we believe that it is our ethical obligation to act and resist injustice with compassionate action grounded in the strongest science and evidence available to us. We have thus worked for over a decade to bring the most ambitious, rigorous and compassionate science that we can envision to empower and support refugees to heal from the trauma and injustice of forced displacement.

Our work to-date has primarily focused on African asylum-seekers who have sought sanctuary in the Middle East (Israel). Over the coming decade, we aspire to systematically grow and scale-up Moments of Refuge through a network of collaborating scientific, implementation, and refugee community partners. Moments partner sites will reach forcibly displaced communities, from multiple origin countries and socio-cultural groups, multiple post-displacement settings (e.g., urban, refugee camp), and regions around the world including Europe (e.g. Italy, Germany), the Middle East (e.g. Jordan, Turkey), Africa (e.g. S. Africa, Uganda), and N. America (e.g. Texas, Boston). We believe strongly that the scientific foundation and approach to Moments of Refuge is critical to ensure its impact. 

Although our team believes that our mindfulness-based intervention model will prove to be a transformative and restorative innovation in refugee global mental health and social justice, our good intentions and even exciting findings to date are not enough. Thus, Moments is designed to allow us to transform the lives of forcibly displaced people, while concurrently rigorously monitoring, evaluating and thereby optimizing the efficacy and safety of our mindfulness-based intervention model as well as its access and reach. We believe that this approach will deliver the greatest possible social impact return on investment.

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