The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in the Caribbean recently co-hosted psycho-social training for mental health professionals in St. Maarten to assist in building community resilience as the island still recovers from three hurricanes that hit last year. The training became the third major intervention by ADRA on the island, ADRA leaders said.
More than 80 percent of the homes on the island are still damaged and have tarps on their roofs. In addition, rebuilding has been slow and family life is still disrupted, so ADRA was called on to assist with the training, said Alexander Isaacs, ADRA Caribbean director.
“Soon after the devastation of the storms, ADRA responded with basic needs like food, water, hygiene kits, hot meals every day for months, shipment of goods until the end of December,” said Isaacs. ADRA also coordinated a one-day training with Loma Linda University’s International Behavioral Health Trauma Team with psychologists and provided service in several schools on the island.
The training in St. Maarten gathered more than 35 health and mental health professionals from several government and non-government organizations. They were exposed to the neuroscience of resilience and the skill-set necessary to achieve positive coping strategies.
“You see how affected people are still needing to rebuild their lives,” said Isaacs. “Many still are without jobs and their lives continues to be disrupted so ADRA continues to be available to assist in St. Maarten.”
ADRA Caribbean coordinated with the government of St. Maarten, LLU’s International Behavioral Health Trauma Team, and the Trinidad and Tobago Behavioral Health Trauma Team—an LLU trained health trauma team.
St. Maarten’s Minister of Health Emil Lee commended ADRA for their support on the island throughout the months and thanked the Adventist organization for introducing the ADRA model to the community, one that the government plans to implement.
“We believe that through this partnership, families will be strengthened and stabilized since many of them are still living under stress,” said Ruth Douglas, local ADRA coordinator in St. Maarten.
The training involved using a psychologically designed model, the Community Resiliency Model (CRM), which teaches individuals to better handle life’s stresses and traumatic events by using self-care techniques that stop trauma from “hijacking” the nervous system, organizers said.
The training also taught participants that the inevitable benefits gained through using resilience techniques include increased faith and a stronger advocacy for being good citizens.
Vashni Cuvalay, an Adventist pastor who has been helping coordinate with church member volunteers on the islands after the storms, said practicality of the training makes it easy to help children and families who are going through stress after a disaster.
“This will help the church be better able to help the members and families in need,” Cuvalay said.
As a result of the recent training, the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor has reached out to ADRA to schedule additional capacity-building later this year for local professionals who work in the area of psychosocial care, Isaacs said.
The ministry will identify a wider pool of psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses and other care providers to develop the correct skills of self-care, enabling them to better handle the needs of the population they serve.
It’s been trying times for many of the islands in the Caribbean, said Isaacs. ADRA will continue to engage in partnerships and assist St. Maarten as much as possible to help rebuild people’s lives, said Isaacs.
To learn more about the work of ADRA in St. Maarten and the rest of the islands in the North Caribbean Conference, visit northcaribbeanconference.org