The Coalition for Work with Psychotrauma and Peace was founded informally in 1994 as a non-profit organization by volunteer doctors, social workers, and psychologists involved in working with refugees and asylum seekers in the Netherlands. The CWWPP seeks to strengthen civil society by helping people to overcome the trauma of war and other social and natural disturbances and to become active participants in rebuilding society.

In 1995, the CWWPP became directly involved in giving assistance in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. At that time, there were many volunteers with good will but with little or no medical or psychological training. The organization found that there was – and, as of this writing, still is – an extreme shortage of persons with skills in communication, mental health, non-violent conflict transformation, and human rights. Since that time, the organization has given courses for barefoot therapists and peacebuilders to lay people, physicians, social workers, nurses, people working in non-governmental organizations, and many others.

The CWWPP began to foresee a comprehensive multi-level civilian “barefoot therapist” training program. In the context of the CWWPP’s contacts in similar regions in other parts of the world, we are aware that similar shortages of capacity are virtually universal. Such shortages, obviously, are burdens to social reconstruction and social inclusion.

Summary of relevant work: 

Pragmatic Empowerment Training: ​Pragmatic Empowerment Training (PET) is one of the cornerstones of the work of the CWWPP. Its main aim is to increase capacity in mental health and peacebuilding by educating a wide variety of people, especially those who never have had training, formal or informal, in these areas before. The aims are: to create “barefoot” therapists and peacebuilders who can work on the front line in their communities under the supervision of people with further experience and education; to supervise people already working in the field and to use their experience to increase their knowledge and sensitivity to the issues and the people with whom they are working; to de-stigmatize work with mental health; to encourage people to exchange information and experience locally, regionally, and internationally. We have already trained around 1000 people in PET and are looking to translate our manuals and partner with other organisations to spread our training far and wide, as well as to enhance our offerings.

We give PET online without charge to groups of 4-12 people. When we give PET onsite at a distance of more than 200 km from Vukovar, we ask people to pay transportation and accommodation, but not more. We have given a large number of online courses, and find this highly satisfactory. In general, courses are given for about two hours per week for about a year.

Community-based Training: Community-based Training is considered a way to develop the concepts being taught by connecting them to personal, first-hand experiences and familiar, accessible examples. In this way, community-based learning is an alternative to more traditional forms of learning with advantages in improvement knowledge retention, skill acquisition, and preparation for life because participants can be given more opportunities apply learning in practical, real-life settings.

The CWWPP has provided educational programs in villages with the aim of empowering participants to take proactive roles in their communities. The objective of the Program is to improve the amount and quality of mental health care available in Eastern Slavonia, with a special focus on the marginalized and vulnerable population and is strongly oriented towards their needs. It aims to improve social integration and prevent trauma transmission, with the provision of services for domestic violence, for children and youth, for those contemplating suicide, for the elderly, for torture victims, for former soldiers, and for other groups. We are continuing our long-term concentration on education, notably with the Sensitization/Public Education Program and Pragmatic Empowerment Training (PET).

Counselling and therapy: We provide counselling in person and online to anybody who requests it. We do not charge for this, but accept donations. Our clients are people of all races, religions, ethnic groups, sexual orientation, etc. We work with women, men, families, victims – and perpetrators – of family violence, former soldiers, civilian victims of war and other disasters, be these human made or natural, victims of torture and of concentration camps, youth, people with physical challenges, people with psychological challenges, and anyone else who needs assistance. We are based in Croatia and so largely work with survivors of the wars here, although we also work remotely with people from a variety of regions and are working more and more with refugees in the area.

Peer education: We give education and supervision to people without education in the fields in which we work as well as to professionals and semi-professionals. The only criteria for us working with a person or group is need and a desire and willingness to learn and to adapt. People are able to contact us about training programs, which we tailor-make to their needs.

Sensitization and Removing the Stigma of Mental Health: The Sensitization as a Public Education Program is directed to the general public. One element of the program is the provision of information, with the aim to remove the stigma of issues of mental health. We are attempting to encourage people to seek assistance when and where they need it. We stress that this program is not only directed locally but at the world as a whole. Thus, all materials are produced in English as well as Croatian/ Serbian/Bosnian, and we hope later to translate them into other languages as well. 

The Migrant Project: We are attempting to put together a coalition to tackle the huge problem of mental health issues within and outside of refugee camps in migrants. This is important for people in transit and in receiving regions. We believe, again, that the most effective work is by people themselves, and thus wish to train members of beneficiary groups to assist one another. 


Marina Držića 12 32000 Vukovar

Key partners: 
  • Anonymous US donor
  • King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium)
  • War Trauma Therapy Foundation (Switzerland)
  • Evangelical Church of St. Gallen (Switzerland)
  • InterChange4Peace
  • Dutch Yearly Meeting of Friends, Quakers
Seeking collaboration with: 
Other organizations
Experts by experience/service users
Policy makers
Bosnia and Herzegovina