Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Brethren staff take part in national conversations on disaster guidelines.

Leading staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services have been part of two efforts to draft guidelines for disaster response:

Judy Bezon of Children’s Disaster Services has contributed to an interim report from the National Commission on Children and Disasters about the needs of children in disasters.

Roy Winter of Brethren Disaster Ministries has contributed to a document from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) defining how to minister emotionally and spiritually to people in times of disaster.

Winter has been part of the NVOAD Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee since it began shortly after the 9-11 attacks of 2001, and currently is NVOAD board liaison to the committee.

"I think it is an amazing piece of work in that a very broad group--interfaith actually--could develop a consensus," Winter said about the new document titled "Disaster Spiritual Care Points of Consensus." He explained how the document will serve the church’s ministries, saying, "This is intended to give guidance on how we interact with disaster survivors, no matter our role--even if rebuilding homes or caring for children."

Some 49 organizations are part of NVOAD, according to a release from Church World Service. The NVOAD organizations "are the driving force behind disaster recovery in the United States," CWS said. "National VOAD facilitates cooperation among every major nonprofit and faith-based disaster response organization in the US. National VOAD agencies focus on all stages of disaster--preparedness, relief, response, recovery, and mitigation. In 2008, these organizations provided more than $200 million dollars in direct financial assistance and more than 7 million hours in volunteer labor."

This is the first time that minimum standards of care have been set for how to minister emotionally and spiritually in times of disaster, CWS said in the release that focused on the respectful nature of the cooperative effort among faith-based organizations ranging from Catholic to Scientologist, Protestant to Buddhist and Jewish.

The set of standards outlines protections for disaster survivors at a time of physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological challenge. The 10 points of consensus include: basic concepts of disaster spiritual care; types of disaster spiritual care; local community resources; disaster emotional care and its relationship to disaster spiritual care; disaster spiritual care in response and recovery; disaster emotional and spiritual care for the care giver; planning, preparedness, training, and mitigation as spiritual care components; disaster spiritual care in diversity; disaster, trauma, and vulnerability; and ethics and standards of care.

To learn more about NVOAD and to review the Points of Consensus in its entirety go to

Children’s Disaster Services was part of a subcommittee that contributed to a section on shelter needs for children in the interim report from the National Commission on Children and Disasters. CDS is a Church of the Brethren ministry and the oldest organization of its kind in the US, having started caring for children in disaster situations in 1980.

A release quoted Bezon on how children may be neglected in disasters. "Child neglect is generally not intentional," she said. "Parents are left thinking about food, clothing, and shelter and whether they still have a job to provide clothing, food, and shelter." The work of Children’s Disaster Services has been to help care for children while parents are focused on other priorities. "At the same time we’re supporting the children, we’re supporting the parents and the family because if they are living in a shelter they get a break and know that their children are safe with us," Bezon said.

The National Commission’s interim report identifies areas for improvement in disaster assistance for children, references recent disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in which children’s needs were not met, and makes recommendations to improve care. Recommendations include assuring academic continuity following disasters, giving priority for housing assistance to families with school-aged children and especially those whose children have special needs, providing appropriate play and recreation options following disasters, and providing children access to crisis, bereavement, and mental health services.

Source: 10/7/2009 Newsline

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