Religious sector rallies members to help debrief typhoon survivors

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Counsellor Harriet Hormillosa tells volunteers that in helping survivors it is important to empower them.

MANILA, Dec. 3, 2013—With thousands of typhoon evacuees temporarily relocated in different tent cities within Metro Manila, the religious sector is mobilizing its members to assist and debrief survivors as they cope with their pain and loss.

Around 300 members of men and women religious congregations and lay people attended a whole-day lecture on Psychological First Aid, Debriefing, Counselling and Coaching at the St. Joseph College Auditorium on Nov. 30.

The lecture was a joint project of the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) and Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) to train volunteers from the religious sector of post disaster interventions to help those who have been affected by typhoon Yolanda.

Harriet Hormillosa, founder-president of Reintegration, Care and Wholeness Foundation, Inc. (RCW) gave the talk with her team of counsellors.

Noting that many Religious priests and nuns have already been assisting survivors since the day they arrived in Manila, AMRSP volunteer coordinator, Fr. Javey Savines, SDB said the Psychological First Aid training (PFA) is an additional tool that can be utilized in the volunteer work they are doing.

So if you are already a marshall, and you are in contact with the victims of the calamity, you can practice what we have learned today on the individual basis, he told participants.

He urged religious communities to send members to participate actively in the process of helping survivors come to terms with their traumatic experience.

He noted that communities can commit “to lend confreres, sisters or even priests, to be actively part of the church’s helping team for the devastated parishes and dioceses in coordination with CBCP-NASSA and RCW foundation for a period of at least 2 to 3 months.”

“Actually, there are already some congregations that volunteered their confreres to NASSA, and now they have already been sent to devastated areas. They are already there in the devastated areas, like Ormoc, Tacloban, and there are also priests there,” Savines said.

He noted that the devastated areas are in need of volunteer priests to do pastoral ministry because most of the parish priests there are also victims of calamity and cannot fulfill effectively their role as pastors.

“So, there are many ways and levels where we can commit ourselves, whether personally or as a religious community or as a religious congregation,” Savines added.

Thousands of evacuees have fled Tacloban and Ormoc for Manila and other cities since Nov. 16. Those who have no relatives in Manila are staying in a tent city in Pasay City, in public health centers and religious institutions that have adopted them.

“We are really looking for more religious communities to open their doors for this [particular need],” Savines said. “The PFA can serve as our way of responding to our immediate apostolate to evacuation areas or institutions,” he added.

“As a religious community, we also encourage you or invite [you] if we may open our doors during this time of crisis to house evacuees, especially the aged, instead of bringing them to tent cities,” Savines appealed.

Savines said religious institutions or communities that are willing to open their doors to evacuees may just contact NASSA.

He said it is always a privilege to help those in need and that “we must be grateful that we are given this opportunity.”

“So this is an emerging situation, and I think even our Apostolic Nuncio is inviting everybody, for us to respond to this calamity as a church, to make our presence really felt in this calamity…” he added.

What is needed at the moment is the willingness and commitment to help, and of course permission from one’s congregation and superior, Savines said.

Those interested and willing to do 5 hours of volunteer work in Villamor Airbase or in institutions housing evacuees may call up Sr. Susan, SFIC at 09175500692 or AMRSP office at 4485644. Shifts are 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm every day. (CBCPNews)

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