The explosive eruption of La Soufriere volcano has had a devastating impact on the lives and mental state of many persons in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), particularly those who have been displaced from their homes and are unable to continue with their livelihoods.
World Paediatric Project (WPP) has recognised some of the many challenges associated with the traumatic occurrence and offered support to the Ministry of Health by hosting a two day Shelter Managers Workshops at the Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment conference room on September 20 and 22, 2021 involving some 30 participants.
According to a WPP release, the aim of the workshop was to equip shelter managers with the requisite tools to be able to better facilitate the needs of the persons living in the shelters. The workshop focused on mental health and psych-social support including coping with extreme circumstances. Focus was also given to self-care management for the shelter managers.
Harper Lorencki, WPP’s International Teams Program Manager in their United States office, gave brief opening remarks and submitted the proposal for the funding to Americares for the psychosocial support. She said that although the WPP is a paediatric organisation primarily focused on surgical care, in April when the volcano erupted the organisation felt a call to assist and they were in a position to do so thanks to their partners which also cosponsored the workshop.
Americares, a health-focused relief and development organisation, approached WPP to identify areas of need post eruption. Lorencki added that upon further consultation with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, they came to the realisation that there was a large area of need in terms of mental health services due to the ongoing effects of the disaster. She thanked the shelter managers for their work and service to their fellow Vincentians.
Executive Director of WPP Lauren McIntosh, said the organisation decided to branch off temporarily and have a workshop for shelter managers across St. Vincent and the Grenadines as they realised the importance of mental health and well being as well as self-care. She stated that, “over the last few months shelter mangers have extended themselves and gone above and beyond caring for others and now the WPP thought it was appropriate to give back and thank them for their service.” McIntosh further stated that “WPP still provides critical paediatric care to children in St Vincent and the Grenadines and throughout the Eastern Caribbean, but they know that the aftermath of the eruption affects their children as well and as such, they are going to be extending psych-social support to communities here”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Mycle Burke, who is chairman of the shelter management committee, said it was his honour and privilege to speak to the shelter managers.
He said :“They have done so much in so little time for a country that was in need and traumatised by the unfortunate explosion of La Soufriere. A country that has been traumatised by other ills, but we are still standing, we are here demonstrating our resilience on the backs of those who answered the call, who have remained committed to serve these individuals who represent the best in us.”
He added, “We are indeed grateful for their support, for their commitment and their service against all odds” The PS in the Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment Cuthbert Knights, expressed “profound gratitude for this collaborative effort with WPP to host and execute a most important and timely workshop to build capacity of our shelter managers to be better able to respond to and cope with the requirements of managing shelters in the time of disasters.” He said they have done “an excellent job in their response as managing shelters under these conditions [which]are not easy.”
Roselle Solomon, social worker in the Ministry of Health, conducted sessions with participants focused on self-care management and coping mechanisms. Solomon said, “Our shelter mangers are playing a pivotal and integral role in our response to traumatic events which can have an adverse reaction on our population as they have left their homes and families and been with the evacuees.” She further added, “we want to add to their knowledge base and educate shelter managers on mental illness and how they can be able to help prevent and to care and support those who have been adversely affected.”
Emphasising the importance of also giving additional skills on psychological first aid to mangers, Solomon said this would build their capacities to better deal with disasters or other traumatic events whether these events happen to them personally or to others in their care. She said, “we want to honour them by making sure they know how to self-care and how to teach others as it relates to self-care”
At the end of the workshop, participants received tokens of appreciation from WPP for their service above self and commitment as shelter managers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. WPP will continue psychosocial support in the communities across St.Vincent and the Grenadines in the upcoming weeks.