Refugees from The Democratic Republic of Congo: an overview for torture treatment centers

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This webinar, from October 16, 2013, features Ann Willhoite and Esperance Hope Mugalihya.

This webinar is part of the National Capacity Building (NCB) webinar series. NCB is a project of the Center for Victims of Torture.


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Wednesday, 16 October 2013


According to the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM) some 50,000 Congolese refugees are expected to be resettled in the United States over the next few years. The first of this group of refugees are expected to start arriving at the end of 2013. This webinar, featuring a mental health services provider and a cultural informant, will provide background of the Congolese refugees currently being resettled in the United States - where they come from, who they are, what they have endured, what their expectations are, what mental health and other issues they have and how best we can help them integrate in the communities they now live in.            


  1. To describe the history and culture(s) of Congolese refugees

  2. Better understand the refugee experiences of Congolese prior to coming to the United States, their reasons for migration, and acculturation issues. 

  3. Recognize the impact of a high incidence of sexual trauma and chronic displacement in addition to other forms of torture experienced by Congolese.

  4. Recognize social values, beliefs, and customs of Congolese people.


Ann Marie Willhoite

International Clinical Advisor
The Center for Victims of Torture

Ms. Willhoite has worked for the past two years as International Clinical Advisor for Mental Health in CVT’s International Services programs, where she oversees capacity building of mental health services for torture treatment centers around the world, provides clinical supervision for embedded psychologists, and works on global mental health advocacy in Washington. Previously, Ms. Willhoite served as CVT’s mental health Clinician/Trainer for direct service and training projects in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Dadaab, Kenya. In these assignments, Ms. Willhoite trained and supervised local and refugee psychosocial staff in providing mental health services to survivors of torture, war trauma, gender-based violence and trafficking in persons in post-conflict settings. Ms. Willhoite has worked with Harvard University's Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human rights in Sierra Leone as their Intervention Development Advisor with programs for war-affected youth, Jesuit Refugee Services in Malawi developing a new trauma-focused counseling program for refugees from The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Eritrea, and as a Clinical Consultant for locally-based mental health organizations in Africa and Asia. Ann holds a BA in Psychology from Wartburg College (Waverly, USA) and an MA in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University (Chicago USA).

Espérance Hope Mugalihya

Espérance Hope fled the Congo in 2005 taking refuge in Malawi.  There she became connected with The Jesuit Refugee Service and also met Ann Willhoite her co-presenter on this webinar. 

She currently resides in Brisbane Australia.


More resources for working with Congolese are available here:


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