Christchurch Trauma Counselling & Disaster Orientation Workshops

The Ministry of Social Development contracted the Family Centre to run workshops in Christchurch from mid-March to early April 2011, for frontline workers responding to families and individulas who were experiencing grief and trauma symptoms as a result of the events of the Christchurch earthquakes. The Centre has an experienced psychosocial team who worked in affected villages in Samoa for 5 months under the oversight of the Samoan Ministry of Health after the devastating 29 September 2009 tsunami.

The members of the Family Centre Psychosocial Unit team are Dr Allister Bush (Child Psychiatist Capital Coast Health), Richard Sawrey (Clinical Psychologist private practice), Taimalieutu Kiwi Tamasese (Pacific Family Therapist) and Charles Waldegrave (Psychologist and Anglican Priest), both at the Family Centre, Wellington.

Workshop participants included helping professionals eg. psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, therapists, clergy, nurses, and community workers, etc, and volunteers and other NGO workers.

Specifically the workshops were for:

  • front line practitioners working with adults, children, families, schools or any other groups who may have been traumatized or are in deep grief;
  • managers, support workers or supervisors of the frontline practitioners who want to understand how best to support them

The objectives of the workshops were:

  • To highlight that some aspects of normal counselling, psychotherapy and psychological de-briefing can unintentionally re-traumatise people and leave them considerably worse off than before the engagement.
  • To demostrate therapeutic responses and helpful question lines that avoid re-traumatisation by identifying strengths in people’s stories of survival, their important points of social and family connections, and their critical people, symbols and places of meaning.
  • To illustrate ways of working with children experiencing grief or trauma individually and in schools that encourage resiliency and centres on strengthening personal resources, learning to control their bodies in stressful situations, understanding feelings and emotions and enhancing relationships.
  • To outline the evidence from international sources and relevance of this approach

By the 5th April 13 workshops had been run and 790 workers had participated in the workshops. Another 5 or 6 workshops are planned over the next two weeks.

The evaluation results indicate that:

  • 83% of participants rated the workshop as either extremely or very useful;
  • 80% rated them either extremely or very informative; and
  • 80% rated them either extremely or very helpful;
  • there were only 2 negative ratings

Samoa Tsunami Disaster Relief

The team led by Taimalie Kiwi and Tafaoimalo Loudeen have carried out some amazing work in Samoa as over 16 months have passed since the tragic event of the tsunami.  The project ran at full steam through Christmas and New Year 2009/10, but has now wound down and Taimalie Kiwi and Tafaoimalo Loudeen returned to New Zealand in March 2010.

The team worked in the southern villages affected by the tsunami.  They have led much of the localised psycho-social work as children, young people, parents and grandparents have responded to the unexpected event that destroyed so many of their homes and villages, and took the lives of their loved ones.  They have sat with extraordinary pain, been inspired by amazing acts of bravery and been awed by the extent of loss and restoration required.  The workers have been careful to empathise with people’s sadness and encourage their resilience in the ongoing process of adaptation after the losses.  It has been relentless work carried out in the spirit of alofa for Samoa and the victim/survivors of the tsunami.

The first phase included visits to 380 families detrimentally affected by the tsunami in each of the villages.  The second phase involved follow up and more intensive work with families who were still struggling in the post-tsunami environment.  These follow up visits also revealed new people who may have been in hospital during the first visit or out of the village for some other reason.  In the second phase 120 families were visited.  The prime focus was on the psycho-social work, but it also inevitably involved help with physical requirements like water and sanitation.

The work of building capacity among younger people in Samoa who could offer psycho-social leadership if a similar crisis occurred again in Samoa has developed.  We think we have secured funding to begin a dedicated second phase course for these workers.  Their contribution has been considerable and we are very proud of their achievements.

Alongside the village work, in the last months there has been a specialised focus on the children and young people affected by the tsunami helping them engage with their peers, share stories, play games and ground themselves in the narratives and rituals at the heart of the fa’a Samoa.  This has required an extraordinary amount of organisation and programme focus.  Over 1,250 children have been participants in these Children’s Camps.  These culminated in a Christmas Party hosted by their Highnesses Afioga Tui Atua Tupua and Filifilia Tamasese (Tupua is Head of Sate in Samoa and a member of our Trust Board at the Family Centre).  Our team worked very hard for this event and their Highnesses contributed 900 presents so every child and young person received something.

As it was considered unsafe for the 5 and 6 year olds to be bussed into Apia without their parents for the big party, our team ran 12 separate parties for these young ones in their villages and provided 250 wrapped presents for those children.  Setting up these parties was a key strategy to help the young ones, who had or were addressing many of their problems as a result of the tsunami, move from victim/survivor status to regular young person status having a fun time and being treated specially at Christmas.  Organising involved 4 visits to each of 12 schools (48 visits in all).  It was a mammoth task that brought joy to many children.

We have been very ably supported by friends of the Family Centre.  People have been extraordinarily generous.  Donations specifically for this project have just passed the $88,000 (NZ) mark.  (For our friends overseas, that is around $62,500 (US).  After some fine advocacy work from the leadership in our Diocese, the Anglican Board of Missions and Christian World Service unexpectedly added substantially to the individual donations of many of you for which we have been very grateful.

Close professional friends and colleagues who have been helping us directly in Samoa include Richard Sawrey, an ex-staff member and clinical psychologist and Allister Bush, another colleague and psychiatrist in charge of Pacific Child and Adolescent Mental Health in our region.  Both of them have returned for a second stint.  Kiwi’s cousin Meoli Keil was in Samoa when the tsunami struck and stayed on and helped.  Fiona Vickers, a New Zealand paramedic, was one of the earliest to join the team.  Debbie Eklund, a public health specialist from the UK spent many weeks with the team and brought with her Dr Chris Jagger and her cousin Anna and her daughter Emma.  Jenny Freeman, Susan Shaw and Jossy Jenessa from Northern California joined the team more recently as has Loudeen’s niece Leitu Parsons.  We are extraordinarily grateful to these people who came and worked at their own expense apart from paying for accommodation and food.  They all made a special contribution.

Thank you, particularly from Taimalie Kiwi and Tafaoimalo Loudeen to all of you who have contributed financially or just encouraged us or prayed or helped in some other way.  Those gifts are gathered with our gifts for this season of giving and link us at this time to Samoa.  The people of Samoa have shown such courage and resilience.  We are proud with you to be associated with them. Alofa atu.

World Bank Global Prize Given to Samoa and New Zealand Project

A partnership project by Afeafe O Vaetoefaga, Samoa  and the Family Centre, to revive indigenous knowledge to build traditional Samoan housing to combat climate change risks, has won one of just 26 international development funding prizes from the World Bank.

“100 ideas to save the planet” was the slogan for the 2009 World Bank Development Marketplace Competition. The “100 ideas” were selected from 1755 proposals from developing nations on how to combat climate change.

Nearly 200 sector specialists and development experts from inside and outside the World Bank volunteered their time to review the proposals and select the most promising as finalists.

The project was developed by Tafaoimalo Loudeen Parsons, Taimalie Kiwi Tamasese and Charles Waldegrave. Afeafe O Vaetoefaga, a non-governmental development organisation based in Nofoalii, Samoa, in partnership with the Family Centre, now have enough funding to put their ‘planet-saving’ idea into action over the next two years.

Tafaoimalo Loudeen and Charles Waldegrave were at the World Bank in Washington DC from 9 – 13 November to present their project to World Bank jury teams and network with other teams from South America, Africa, South-East Asia and Russia. They were one of only two South Pacific entries selected as finalists. Taimalie Kiwi planned to present the project in Washington DC with the team, however because of the Post Tsunami Relief work she is leading in Samoa, she remained there.

On Friday, they won one of the very keenly sought after prizes. The award is a significant achievement for both Afeafe O Vaetoefaga and the Family Centre. It recognises the innovation and quality of development work by these organisations in this project, on an international stage. It was the only South Pacific entry to win a funding prize.

See video of the winning project here:

See all the winners on the World Bank blog site here:

See main website for the Development Marketplace here