TWI recognized for service to refugees

Staff of The Women’s Initiative and the International Rescue Committee at the award ceremony in July. The IRC cited the impact of the work of TWI therapist Joanna Ajex, MA, second from left, who provides counseling to refugees at the IRC office in Charlottesville each week.

Staff of The Women’s Initiative and the International Rescue Committee at the award ceremony in July. The IRC cited the impact of the work of TWI therapist Joanna Ajex, MA, second from left, who provides counseling to refugees at the IRC office in Charlottesville each week.

The Women’s Initiative has been named the 2019 “Service Partner of the Year” for its work with refugees in the state of Virginia.

The award was given by the Virginia Refugee Resettlement Network “for outstanding contributions in the field of refugee mental health.”

In its nomination of The Women’s Initiative for the award, the Charlottesville office of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) cited the impact of the work of Joanna Ajex, MA, MD (Russia), TWI therapist and education coordinator, who provides individual counseling to refugees at the IRC office every week.

Dr. Ajex and The Women’s Initiative ... help refugees at a crucial moment in their lives.
— International Rescue Committee

“She is adept in working with interpreters and clients from diverse backgrounds,” the Charlottesville IRC staff wrote. “Having her as a resource allows our clients to access mental health services in a timely and efficient manner. Whereas psychiatry providers focus primarily on medication, and other psychological services are often restrictive in their availability, costs, and language capacity, Dr. Ajex and The Women's Initiative circumvent these challenges to help refugees at a crucial moment in their lives.

“These appointments, free of charge for IRC clients, greatly reduce the barriers to care that refugee and immigrant families typically experience. Long waits for appointments, difficulty with scheduling and transportation, unfamiliar locations and limited access to interpretation as well as a general mistrust of mental health care regularly prevent individuals from accessing help. TWI's contribution and commitment have mitigated these barriers significantly.”

The IRC also noted its collaboration with TWI and VCU on a psychoeducational program that increases understanding of the mental health impact of resettlement on refugees. The program, called Trauma-Informed Cross-Cultural Psychoeducation (TICCP), empowers leaders of refugee and immigrant communities to build awareness about stress, trauma and culture. Ajex co-leads the program with Ingrid Ramos, LPC.

“The Women’s Initiative has demonstrated exemplary vision and leadership in the field of mental health for a number of years, and has generously contributed their services to the refugee community through our partnership,” the IRC wrote.