Sectors :: International Disasters
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International Disasters

WHAT WAS THE SITUATION, ISSUE, OR EVENT THAT INITIATED THIS OPPORTUNITY?

Disasters never happen at a "good" or "convenient" time. ORI consultants were deeply involved in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina when the Kashmir region in Northern Pakistan and India was struck by an earthquake of devastating magnitude. Within minutes, 9,000 schools were destroyed, 40,000 children killed (out of about 80,000 deaths), villages erased from the face of the earth, tens of thousands were injured, and millions were left homeless in a mountainous region hard to access.

WHAT DID WE DO?

In order to maximize the reach and impact of our efforts while acknowledging the considerable cultural and language barriers, we designed a training which sought to educate front line personnel as to the psychological effects of such a disaster on children, adults, and communities. Our goal was to train local people to recognize the effects of trauma and provide psychological first aid to their communities.

We collaborated with the Ministry of Social Welfare of the Government of Pakistan, who arranged for professionals and volunteers directly involved in the recovery efforts to assemble in Islamabad for a series of one-day or two-day trainings. Among the attendees were directors of local NGO's, high ranking officers of the Medical Corps of the Pakistan Army, Senior medical staff from the major medical centers in Islamabad as well as professionals (psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, case managers, teachers) and some volunteers.

We found that by creating an open and collaborative atmosphere we were able to avoid all the potential sources of conflict. Many participants had never seen or spoken to Americans but yet they opened up and told their stories in English, or sometimes in Urdu which was translated into English for our benefit.

HOW DID WE ADD AND MEASURE VALUE TO THE CLIENT?

Over the course of 6 days we conducted 4 trainings which were attended by over 120 people. If each one of those came into contact with only 50 people we will have affected 6,000 people both directly and indirectly.

We helped participants in the trainings find ways to adapt the three core principles of post-disaster work with survivors: Safety, Predictability and Control to the culture and unique situation in Pakistan.

In a number of television interviews and meetings with business executives we spoke about the Vicarious Trauma (VT) often experienced by people only indirectly exposed to a traumatic event or a disaster. Many people said that those explanations clarified their own experiences and will help them deal with others who have been affected by the earthquake.

WHO ARE THE ORI EXPERTS?

Guy Sapirstein, Ph.D., Kevin Becker, Ph.D, and Jeff Weir, MA

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